Friday, November 30, 2012

Yoga on the Road

While the glaciers covered much of North America’s midsection and smoothed the land into submission, a tiny sliver of the Middle West managed to escape glaciation. The Driftless Region contains a fascinating rise and fall of the land, in stark contrast with people’s view of a flat and lifeless Midwest.

Tucked into a corner of the Driftless Region was a small experiment in communal living, sustainable agriculture, and yoga. Cress Spring Farm was home for an ever-changing array of characters, and even twenty-plus years later many of the meals, practices, and stories remain memorable.

Uttered casually in the kitchen one morning, I still clearly remember Roger stating broadly, “if you can’t take your practice on the road, it ain’t worth shit.” Since many of us spent a good deal of time traveling, this comment piqued our interest.

I don’t remember if Roger ever elaborated, but I did find affirmation that traveling is one of the best times to maintain, or even deepen, a personal yoga practice. When routines are upended, as they often are when traveling, an opportunity for reinvention arises. If your connection to practice is tenuous, travel presents an opportunity to reinforce your commitment. If your connection to practice is largely aspirational, travel presents an opportunity to jump headlong into a daily routine. If your connection to practice is tenacious, travel presents an opportunity to explore loosening your grip on the familiar structure of your practice.

Between pleasure travel, teaching trips, and meditation retreat, I spend four to six weeks each year on the road. Over the past couple decades, that adds up to almost two years of practicing in hotels, dormitories, guest rooms, and monastery rooftops. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about taking yoga practice on the road.

With regards to the physical practice, I pack very lightly. My bolsters, blocks, cushions, and yoga-straps have never needed their passports, as they always stay behind at home. If I’m confident my accommodations will be carpeted, then I simply pack a yoga rug to place atop the carpeting. When accommodations have harder floors, such as when traveling in South Asia, then I also include a thin travel mat to put beneath the yoga rug.

The blankets on your bed can do double duty as… blankets. And a scrunched-up pillow works surprisingly well as a meditation cushion.

What to practice? Some days I’ll meditate first thing in the morning, and forego the physical practice. On other days yoga asana may be my primary physical activity, and I make a point to budget some time on the mat. As you can probably glean, meditation practice is my primary focus, and even if it’s only a short time on the cushion (or scrunched-up pillow), I’ll set my alarm as early as necessary to spend at least a few minutes each day meditating.

With regards to the physical practice, I generally emphasize the poses that counteract the effects of planes, trains, and automobiles. This often includes Psoas Wake-Up, and some form of a psoas stretch, such as high or low lunge.

Most on-the-road asana sessions also include a handful of Sun Salutations, to get the juices flowing. If there’s more time, I may include some standing poses to further tone the vestibular system.

I rarely have an asana session sans Headstand and Shoulderstand. Since travel often includes lots of sitting, inversions are a wonderful antidote to the lymphatic stagnation that accompanies sitting in one place for a long time.

Many people complain of irregularity when traveling, and I generally include a few twisting poses in a travel-practice to keep this unwelcome travel companion at bay.

This is typically the extent of my practice while traveling. Some days will consist of a short meditation session only – no asana or pranayama practice. Other days I may budget more time for physical practice, and include a short routine (containing Psoas Wake-Up, psoas stretches, Sun Salutations, Headstand and Shoulderstand, twists, and sometimes a few standing poses). In general, I try to keep it simple, roll with things as they unfold, and not get too hung up on a “gotta-do-it” attitude or set structure.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. And best wishes on your practice if the holidays include travel!


18 comments:

David Haugh said...

Great blog. I like how it makes one consider and get in touch with the body and how you are feeling-- what can be done to keep 'things' in balance for healthy travels...

Jessica Mahoney said...
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featheredpipe said...

very nice blog...it will definitely help the people who travel oftentimes..

Mia Mossberg78 said...
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Shoutheasken1961 said...

These is such an awesome post... few twisting poses in a travel-practice ,,wow yeah this is cool.

Yoga for Beginners said...
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India Goa Yoga Retreat said...

In the pics it looks that you are in India. How can you teach yoga on road when this full of traffic?

Mark Stewart said...
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Ehsan Ali said...


I really agree with u Jake this really fantastic

glucoplus17 said...
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Vandana UK said...
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Vandana UK said...

I really like this post and it is very energetic for me to learn a new Circle Walking

I really inspired from this post.

Thanks

Vandana UK said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laughter Yoga said...

Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, thank you.

Anup Rawat said...
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Seamus Lowe said...
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Yoga For Beginners Guide said...

Yoga comes from India, and the poses assume an Indian body, which has different strengths and weaknesses than our own.

Aotea Yoga said...

A Great Content. Thank you very much for sharing value blogs for Yoga.