Cover Photo: Captured this shot a few hours after arriving at this super cozy loft in Lyon. Upon arriving, I allowed myself a good long rest. Rest was followed up by a super gentle standing practice, self guided yoga nidra and a lovely late afternoon stroll to explore the neighborhood.
November 17, 2016
So... I can't believe how much it feels like winter... well, a California winter that is. It's been a few weeks since my travel back from Mother India and I can feel the pace and rhythm of life picking up again. It has been a challenge to maintain the daily ayurveda routine, and I notice that practice hast started to slow down the larger the tummy gets. Four more months till countdown to our little one joining this world!
We are past the turning point of autumn and heading into the busy season where some of us may be adding a bit more travel to our lives. Whether it's flying out to spend time with family over the holidays or using the extra time off to see another part of the world, this coupled with the dry, cooler months can take it's toll in the body.
Today, I'd like to share with you tips on how to approach your practice when travel places a disruption to your regular routine. While there are probably a large number of veteran nomads out there who can provide advice on how to best reset your circadian clock, manage nutrition and jet lag, the following is primarily focused on the application of the practice during travel.
This advice is especially helpful for those with an already established daily yoga practice and even more helpful if you practice any of the ashtanga series. The advice I am sharing with you comes directly from my teacher, so first and foremost I want to express my gratitude for her teachings.
The reason why I am sharing these tips, after a year of diligently applying them to my practice, is that I noticed one major difference in my health while traveling. In the past I could always rely on one thing happening after spending hours on a plane and landing in another country. I would ALWAYS fall ill after travel.
Like clockwork, a few days after a long international flight, I would come down with some respiratory illness. This happened when I was in Europe in 2014 and again on my first trip to Mysore in 2015. What changed? The way I approached the practice.
Ashtanga practitioners have a reputation for being disciplined and routine about their practice - and really who can deny just how refreshing it feels to move after long hours on a plane, train, bus, car? There are also even a small crop of airports that offer practice rooms for commuter yogis with long layovers so you don’t even need to wait to arrive to your destination to practice.
While it may be appealing get on your mat as soon as possible and return to your regular routine it may be too much to ask your body to do what it normally does before the strain and stress of travel.
So here goes, and of course if you have any comments or other advice, please feel free to share!
The first principle is the most vital one.
TAKE IT EASY!
The most important piece of advice is to TAKE IT EASY. During travel the body is under stress and there is an increase in Vata in the body. Pushing yourself to do your “normal” practice can aggravate this further. Do a few sun salutes to move the body and to circulate the breath, but even these sun salutes should be approached with moderation. If you feel the need to step back and step forward at this time, honor how your body feels.
When you arrive at your destination, expose yourself to daylight and take a gentle walk out doors. Depending on how long your travel is, you may also want refrain from practicing asanas for at least a day after your arrival. Unroll your mat, sit and breathe. If sitting is challenging, then you may also try and lie flat with your legs up a wall for 5-10 minutes. Incorporate your daily meditation practice or yoga nidra to ground yourself to the new time zone and environment.
Do only standing postures.
When you do practice, you may just want to stick with sun salutes and the standing postures for the first 1-3 days. This is important. You may feel more energized after travel and feel that you can do more. Even if this is the case, apply principle number one and take it easy. This way you are helping the flow of prana and not over expending it. Standing postures are very grounding and they will provide enough therapy for the body without overtaxing it. Your ego may be tempted to do more but respect your body by giving it time to adjust.
Slowly add postures to your practice over the next week.
Again, this is based on your constitution. If you are only practicing primary series you may feel comfortable to do the full series by the end of the week. The longer your over all travel is, the shorter your practice should be on the first day. Add postures as you would when you first began to practice.
For primary series practitioners - you may choose to do half primary for day 2 & 3 post travel and finish the rest of the week with full primary. If you are doing other series other than primary wait until the next week to go back to the other series and only do primary the first week.
This one seems so simple, so common sense, but often the most simple is over looked. Even if you are a die hard coffee lover, let it go while you are on the road, plane or train. Coffee as it is a diuretic, thereby adding to the cause of dehydration especially during a time your body needs fluids most. Also, cut back on the the super, sugary fruit juices and opt for water. Your body will thank you in the long run.
Maintain your other routines.
While I was in India I had an interesting conversation with a friend about this as I also added abhyanga (oil bath) to my daily practice. Also, because I suffer from terrible allergies I do my best to maintain my pre-practice routine of using my tongue scraper, oil pulling and drinking warm lemon water in the morning before practice. My girlfriend asked me a really great question - "do you notice a difference when you skip out on some of these routines?" I pondered on this and the answer is a resounding yes! The one routine I recommend maintaining if you can are daily oil baths. It may be annoying to travel with an oil bath kit however there's nothing quite as soothing and grounding as doing an oil bath especially after travel. I usually calculate how much I use at home on a daily basis and determine how much to take with me for the duration of time that I am away. I also bring my own wash cloth and towel to sit on so I don't have to ruin my Air Bnb host's towels or get oil on hotel towels.
Take your time, you’ll be back to your full practice again either at your destination (depending on the length of your stay) or when you return home. Remember that this practice is sustainable over decades, a few weeks of adapting your practice to your body’s needs will provide it the healing that it needs and ultimately be more balancing for your health. Respect your practice, respect your body.
With so much gratitude to my teacher and the teachers along this lineage - Om shanti, shanti, shanti.