3 Key Ways Travel Can Inspire Your Yoga Practice

By Amy Ahlblad

Editor's Note: This blog post was written by Sheila Miller of Yogapedia.

I was 16 the first time I took a big trip without my family or any of my friends. Everyone else knew one another, and as the new kid in an existing social structure, I had the opportunity to see the consequences of my choices clearly.

Going through our daily lives, it can be difficult to detangle our own patterns and habits from the world around us. Doing so is a crucial part of the yogic practice. The yogic sages taught that in order to create lasting transformation in our lives, we must extract ourselves from karmic and behavioral patterns, called samskaras. If karma is not a concept you find helpful, consider that the patterns of belief and interpersonal interaction in your family are probably much older than you are.

That first experience of traveling alone gave my 16-year-old self a chance to determine which sufferings I could directly control, and the three-and-a-half weeks I was away convinced me I had the courage to make difficult changes and face adversity alone. When I returned, I made two big changes. My life has been better ever since.

While that might not sound like yoga at first, one of the most critical aspects of a yoga practice is study of the self. Our physical prowess amounts to mere tricks if it doesn't relieve our suffering and change our behavior when we are in challenging situations.

Read on for more information: Svadhyaya: Spend a Lifetime Getting to Know Yourself & Deepening Your Yoga Practice

Removed from our usual surroundings, we can see ourselves more clearly. The process of using our powers of reason, analysis, and observation to learn about ourselves connects to every other part of the yoga practice. In the remainder of this article, I'll offer three ways travel can further inspire your yoga practice.

New Beginnings

Any disruption to our schedules can be an opportunity to form new, positive habits or abandon negative ones. Whether you'd like to eat oatmeal every day or begin setting aside 10 minutes daily for pranayama, a shift in your schedule and priorities gives a window in which to make it happen.

In addition to being free from many of our usual time constraints, we are less subject to the patterns and habits that govern us when we are outside of our usual environment. Before your next trip, you might choose a habit or activity that would bring you joy and plant the seeds of that life each day during your journey.

During an extended trip to Costa Rica, I finally started using my Neti Pot daily. Those fantastical sounding claims about it improving your sleep (among many other benefits)? They proved true for me.

Going Deeper

Yoga can be the purpose for travel, too. Setting time aside for dedicated practice, such as going to a retreat, can help you break through plateaus and elevate the baseline satisfaction you experience with your practice.

There are so many yoga and meditation retreats that it can be hard to choose. I recommend finding a teacher from whom you'd like to learn, a technique or practice you'd like to spend time with, or a place to which you feel a connection.

A retreat enables you to gather a store of resources to call upon when you return to daily life and to meet yourself very intimately. I did my first week-long, silent meditation retreat 20 years ago, and I still learn lessons from it to this day.

Letting Go

Even while traveling, we aren't free of our habits, patterns, and conditioning. A journey puts us outside of our comfort zone; it's up to us what we do while we're there.

One of Patanjali’s sutras on yoga that I have found especially helpful to work with while traveling is this one, Heyam duhkham anaagatam (Yoga Sutra II.16), which may be translated as "future suffering can be avoided." This means that if it hasn't happened yet, then we still have room to intervene.

Travel allows us to feel and to experience our own reactions to thoughts and circumstances. The clutter in our minds and hearts of needing to pay the bills, be at work and so on, quiets, and we have an opening through which to see what we would like to change.

Realizing we wish to change something in our lives can be frightening. Still, this is one of the most potent ways in which travel can fuel our practice of yoga. Simultaneously, being out of our usual environment affords us affirmation that we'll be alright. Through change, comings and goings, fear, and comfort, we'll be alright.

For tips on how to keep your sadhana while traveling: Yoga for Your Travels

OM To-Go

The main idea is this: Seeing the world and the lives of others helps us to better see ourselves and the impact of our actions more clearly. No matter where you go or whether you can bring your yoga mat, you can still bring your practice. Happy travels!


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