“Yoga is not about tightening your ass. It’s about getting your head out of it,” says Eric Paskel, one of yoga’s more outlandish champions. Luckily for us, it actually does both.
Modern yoga is the result of 5,000 years of experimenting with ways that simple exercises and breathing techniques enhance our physical and mental wellbeing. When I feel particularly discombobulated from crossing time zones, or stiff and achy from too many hours in a car or plane, I find yoga helps me bounce back enough to get on with the journey — and better still, to enjoy it.
Discovering a suitable yoga studio on the road can be challenging. In Mexico I attended a class where they had us get down on all fours and charge around the room imitating animals. It was kind of fun, but I didn’t feel it was doing much for my ass, literally or metaphorically. When I moved to Spain, I attended a class where we lay on mattresses doing a long, slow series of resting poses (child’s pose, corpse pose), and after each one we would simply lie there relaxing for ten minutes. Somehow I felt I needed a bit more! It took me years to find the right teachers near my home in Seville, and nowadays I no longer bother trying to find instructors when I am further afield.
Actually, that’s not quite true; I have found 369,000 instructors. That’s how many hits you get if you type “yoga for travel” on YouTube's search function.
There are videos for just about everything you can imagine (and more): Jet Lag, Yoga on an Airplane, Chair Yoga, Booty Stretch, Beach Yoga, Dream Yoga Astral Travel, and one about the Yoga of Time Travel that I’m absolutely going to check out when I have a minute.
Obviously, you’ll want to be a bit selective.
If you’ve never done yoga or any similar form of exercise, such as Pilates or warm-up stretches, you might want to choose one of YouTube’s beginner yoga videos (there are over a million) and give it a try first, just to see how you like it.
The instructors tend to be slim, incredibly fit, and (in my case, at least) decades younger; try not to hold it against them. And if possible, resist any impulses to compete or overdo it, especially at the beginning; the point is to reduce your aches and pains. Go slow, be gentle with yourself, and see how you feel afterwards.
Some classes and videos involve working with props, but you don’t really need them. My California yoga instructor always carries a lightweight folding mat in her suitcase, but I favor a more minimalist approach to packing. If I’m someplace with carpeting or a reasonably clean floor, I use a towel, usually one I’ve grabbed from the bathroom, although sometimes I carry a small microfiber towel. If the floor is appallingly grubby, I work standing up or sitting on a chair. When a posture calls for a strap, I use a belt or scarf. “The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga,” says 30-year veteran Rodney Yee, “are your body and your mind.”
Two years ago I was feeling occasional twinges in my lower legs, and a doctor told me I was part of the epidemic of sciatica that is sweeping the developed world. The cause? “We are the first generation to age hunched over a computer,” he explained. Yikes! Nowadays I make sure to include plenty of leg stretches in my yoga practice, and often do tennis ball therapy as well. So far I’m keeping the twinges at bay.
How popular is yoga? Last year, the UN named June 21 as International Yoga Day; millions of people in 84 nations gathered to practice en masse in places ranging from public parks to Navy ships. Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, “We need to take yoga to the doorstep of everyone and free the world of misery.” I’m guessing he meant achieving nirvana, but personally, I’ll settle for a little relief from jet lag, sciatica, and the bumps and dings of the road.
I have learned that in harder times, yoga is one of the things that keeps me going. (The others include Rich, Havana Cappuccino, and dark chocolate.) Yoga is a port in the storm, a safe place where I can catch my breath and remember who, what, and where I am. Eric Paskal, a former drug addict who knows a thing or two about hard times, puts it this way: “Yoga is not about standing on your head or hands, it’s about learning how to stay on your feet and being able to stand for yourself.”
Have you ever done yoga? Did it help with road jitters or other issues?
Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I do not accept sponsorships of any kind. All videos and other products I mention in my blog posts are included solely because I believe you might find them interesting and/or useful in planning your own adventures.
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I'm an American writer living in Seville, Spain and traveling the world with my husband, Rich. Right now we're on our Mediterranean Comfort Food Tour, exploring the world's favorite cuisine to discover more about European culture.
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