When I travel, it’s not a particular credit card I don’t leave home without – it’s my yoga mat. Whether I line my suitcase with it, sling it over my shoulder on an airplane as my carry-on or leave it on the back seat of my car, it goes where I go, like my own Flat Stanley.
Yoga can help erase a long, cramped car ride or flight from your body’s memory. It also can help relax you after a long day of sightseeing or business meetings, energize you after hours spent digging into a new novel on the beach, mitigate any culinary indulgences and allow for an undisrupted flow of your regular practice. The best thing is that it’s portable – you really only need yourself, some asana-friendly clothing (which also is great for traveling in – no wrinkles!) and a mat. Can’t squeeze even a light travel-size mat into your bag? Worry not. Many studios let students borrow mats for free or a small fee. And if you’re taking your down dog to the beach, a towel will do.
Yoga away from home offers a good reason to find out what the locals are up to and to experience different classes and styles you may not otherwise have access to. If you’re flying solo, taking a class wherever you land can be a great way to meet people. After all, you already have at least one thing in common. Visiting friends or relatives? Hitting the mat together can strengthen the ties that bind (or be a way for you to cut them for an hour or so).
Before I head to a new destination, I ask around or do an Internet search (including checking out the Yoga Network on Tripping.com) for studio recommendations. I’m not always sure what I’ll be in the mood for, but most places offer something for everyone, from beginners to advanced yogis, as well as specialty classes. I’m most likely to be drawn to a style I haven’t tried, and if a space looks or sounds particularly captivating, I’m going to want to unfurl my mat there.
A studio’s location is often crucial at home – if it’s not convenient, you’re probably not going to go. But that’s not always the case when you’re separated from your daily stresses and have the luxury of time. Driving a little farther -- or better yet, taking a long walk or bike ride – allows an opportunity to explore your temporary surroundings.
Although I am loyal to my regular teachers and classes, some of my best yoga memories have been made while I was away. I was introduced to Kundalini yoga -- which incorporates meditation, chanting and breathing techniques -- at Karuna Yoga (now Kelly Wood Yoga) in Los Angeles. At a different class at that studio, I learned a trick for doing wheel pose with my not-so-strong wrists: The instructor had me hold onto his ankles instead of putting my hands flat on the floor, and it made all the difference.
Another time, I walked off a busy street in Los Angeles and into what felt like an exquisite hidden sanctuary, the Raven, where I followed up a relaxing yoga class with an hour-long Thai massage, which incorporates yoga, at the adjoining spa.
The first -- and only -- time I received a foot massage during savasana? That happened at Koru Village in Avon, N.C. In the opposite direction in the Outer Banks is my home away from home there, Outer Banks Yoga (also known as OmBX), which offers classes at various sites – including the beach -- and gave me an opportunity to practice on the paint-splattered floor of a tiny attic-turned-art-studio amid canvases stacked against the walls.
During a jaunt to Rehoboth Beach, Del., I had a chance to try aerial yoga -- in which students practice while in (and on and suspended from) a circus-type hammock – at Kaya Wellness Center. It was love at first fly.
And when I’m back in my home town for the holidays, one of the most stressful times of year, I come in from the snow and the Lake Michigan-chilled air to the warm embrace of YogaOne Studio. The barely-an-inch-between-mats morning class on Christmas Eve has become a tradition, and I look forward to seeing familiar faces of teachers and students year after year. Speaking of snow and yoga, snowga is a thing, but I haven’t officially tried it yet. Too . . . cold.
If atmosphere – and the opposite of snowga -- is what you’re after, it’s hard to beat beach yoga (although the towel-on-uneven-sand surface may leave something to be desired as far as the practice itself goes). At home, the closest I've come to doing yoga near a body of water is the a stone's throw from the Tidal Basin. That had nothing on sunrise sun salutations overlooking the Atlantic in St. Petersburg Beach, Fla. (outside the otherworldy Don CeSar Hotel -- no, I wasn't staying there), with dolphins as a backdrop, seashells as focal points and waves rolling ashore.
Traveling to a remote destination where no yoga classes are available? No problem. Just DIYY. If you find yourself, say, camping on a deserted island off Baja California Sur in Mexico on a kayaking trip, do what I did and slide a standup paddleboard out to sea so you can practice balance poses and headstands (just make sure you go deep enough, in case you fall. Many times.).
Think of how much more relaxed you’ll be when you return home after practicing yoga while away. Just don’t roll out of savasana too close to your flight departure. I did that after attending a class at the beautiful One Yoga studio in my former city of Minneapolis. My friend, who had been practicing alongside me, raced me to the airport and I made it onto the plane just moments before it began pulling away from the gate. At least I remained calm.