Yoga has helped me navigate through some pretty heavy life events and continues to help me as I indefinitely travel the world!
Believe it or not, my relationship with yoga started off on the wrong foot. I took my first class when I was 18. Dealing with transitioning into adulthood, a bad breakup, and all of my friends either away at college or off getting married, I was trying to find my own path. From what I’d see in magazines and on TV, yoga seemed like it would be good for me.
Not knowing anything about Yoga, I signed up for a 90 minute Bikram class. I hated every hot, sweaty, twisted second of it. I wasn’t physically fit, flexible, focused, or accustomed to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. Halfway through the class I nearly passed out, so I left. I thought to myself, never again!
Fast forward to age 23- I’d been living in Vegas for almost 5 years, had recently graduated college and was again trying to find my way in the world. A friend of mine was going through a major lifestyle transition at this time as she prepared for weight loss surgery. In the months leading up to surgery she analyzed her relationship with food and lack of physical activity, and made the changes necessary to ensure a successful outcome.
Her lifestyle change was an eye opener for me. I had the same issues she had, I just happened to be skinny- skinny fat. With this realization I decided to join her in making healthier choices when it came to food and working out…
This meant attending a yoga class with her at the woman’s health center.
The class was completely different than the one I’d taken years before. The room wasn’t heated, the pace was slow and the majority of people in the class were overweight and over 50. Considering, at that time, I didn’t have the upper body strength to hold myself in downward dog, I fit right in.
I progressed slowly but surely and eventually started taking Vinyasa classes in a real yoga studio. Within a year I was doing yoga consistently and have been ever since.
Yoga has made me stronger, more physically fit, and more flexible. But it’s also had a profound impact on my mental and emotional health. It amazes me how lessons learned in yoga directly apply to other aspects of my life. It’s as if by magic, when I work through something on the mat, I work through a correlating issue in my life simultaneously. While at a yoga retreat in Chiang Mai Thailand, I discovered 7 yoga lessons that directly apply to life as a long-term traveler.
1. Get into position slowly, mindfully, and with intention to yield better results.
Yoga Lesson: This means don’t haphazardly move from one position to the next. We need to move slowly, with purpose, and be mindful of our intention.
Travel Lesson: As I’ve said several times throughout this blog, it took me TWO YEARS to prepare to travel long-term. At times I felt like saying screw it, and hitting the road early. But, I took my time, mindful of my intention to obtain long-term freedom. Because I saved money, paid off debt, properly said goodbye to friends and family and prepared to work on the road, I’m in a much better position now.
I have met a number of people who set off to travel long-term hastily. Most of them ended up having to go back home prematurely to deal with things they didn’t sort out before they left.
2. Stay in position longer to settle in deeper.
Yoga Lesson: This lesson usually comes up in a yin or restorative yoga class, where postures are held longer. The longer we hold a posture, the more our muscles loosen up and allow us to settle deeper into it.
Travel Lesson: The longer I stay somewhere, the more I settle in and the deeper my connection to the place becomes. For example, I wasn’t a fan of Bangkok at first. But by staying longer, I settled in, saw beyond the superficial and connected to the city on a deeper level.
3. The more you relax, the more open you become.
Yoga Lesson: Certain yoga postures can be difficult and uncomfortable. The tension causes muscles to tighten as we attempt to protect ourselves from pain. But, if we recognize this and allow our bodies to relax, the more open we become.
Travel Lesson: Traveling, especially solo, can be uncomfortable at times. The tension, stress, and anxiety during these times cause me to close off. But, as soon as I recognize this and relax, I open up. And, I know I’ve said this before, when you open up to the world, the world opens up to you.
4. When you surrender, you find freedom.
Yoga Lesson: When we surrender to what is, accept what our bodies can and can’t do in the moment, and stop trying to be perfect or compete with the person next to us or the person we were yesterday, we find freedom in the practice.
Travel Lesson: This is exactly what happened to me at the yoga retreat. I was searching for freedom by trying to control every aspect of my travels. I was comparing what I was doing to what I could be doing and was always coming up short. Once I surrendered myself to the moment, stopped researching and stopped over analyzing, I found freedom in my new lifestyle.
5. We already know what happens when we give in to discomfort, what happens when we don’t?
Yoga Lesson: This lesson came up during meditation. It’s not easy to sit in complete silence and stillness for long periods of time. As humans we desire comfort. When we’re not comfortable, we make adjustments to get comfortable.
In meditation we want to swat the fly on our arm, wiggle a sleeping leg or scratch an itch. We already know what happens when we give in to discomfort… Distraction. Lost focus. Judgment… What happens when we don’t?… Stillness. Peace. Enlightenment.
Travel Lesson: To get to a life of long-term travel, I had to get to the other side of a lot of discomfort. A lot. Many of the things I did, like walking away from a successful business, purging all of my material possessions, giving away my dog, and saying good bye to loved ones made me very uncomfortable. I could have easily said, nahh, this is too hard and given in to the discomfort. But I didn’t. Had I, I wouldn’t be here, living out my dream.
6. The transitions are what makes it fun and interesting.
Yoga Lesson: This lesson came up during an acro yoga lesson. Successfully transitioning from one position to the next is what makes acro yoga fun and interesting.
Travel Lesson: Traveling is all about the journey. Often times getting somewhere is more fun than the place itself (this is especially true when traveling by motorbike).
It also makes for an interesting journey when I have to transform into a new version of myself before I can reach a particular destination. For example, I am not going to make it to the Ha Giang loop until I get comfortable driving a motorbike solo through mountain roads!
7. You can look like you’re doing yoga but unless you’re activated and present, you’re just pretending.
Yoga Lesson: We can be wearing the hottest of Lulu Lemon yoga wear, standing in warrior two, looking like a yoga model and not really be doing yoga. If our muscles aren’t activated or our minds are elsewhere, we’re not doing yoga, we’re just pretending.
Travel Lesson: There are times that, from carrying an Opsrey bag on my back to getting my passport stamped, I look like I’m traveling… but I’m just pretending. I’m physically in a new country but my mind is elsewhere. This tends to happen most when I’m traveling with friends from home. Physically I might be in Paris or Singapore but the company and conversation from home, keeps me mentally at home. It closes me off from connecting with my new environment and the local people.
This is one of the main reasons I like to travel alone. I am all about taking trips with my friends and family but I’ve learned those trips aren’t as much about traveling as they’re are about spending time with loved ones.