Add a little flexibility to your travel routine.
Relaxation is paramount for a successful trip—even if said trip is jetting off to a busy city on business. But between wedging yourself into cramped coach class, sitting for hours on a train, and the stress that comes with airport security or exploring a new destination, travel can wreak havoc on your peace of mind—not to mention your body. That's where yoga can help.
“Traveling takes a toll on your mind and body,” says Jamie Kent, the founder of Yoga Download—an online yoga studio committed to helping people practice yoga anywhere, at any time, in the world. “We don’t always eat well on the road, we keep weird hours, it’s hard on the immune system, and it can be mentally taxing. Yoga can be a great way to restore balance.”
Yoga Download has advanced and rigorous classes, by even taking a few mindful minutes to breathe deeply can be helpful. “Finding this centering moment everyday will not only calm us down on a business trip, but it will enhance our experiences on vacations: allowing us to recharge and create meaningful memories.”
Savitri Talahatu, the Wellness Director at Bali's Spa Village Resort Tembok and a yoga teacher with more than 30 years of experience expresses a very similar belief. “Travelers practicing yoga and meditation are able to feel at home everywhere they go. When they are relaxed, they will be able to experience the moment more fully.”
To find your inner yogi, relax those cramped muscles, and feel refreshed during any leg of your journey, try one of these expert tricks and trips:
Bring the Right Gear
“I am a light packer,” says Sky Meltzer, the CEO of Manduka yoga accessories, “and always make sure I grab my Manduka eKO Superlite Travel Mat.” This grippy mat weighs in at about two pounds and folds into a neat square, about the size of an iPad.
Designate “Yoga Time”
Make an “important reservation for your own health and happiness,” suggests Kent. Whether it’s for 20 or 120 minutes, whether you’re on a beach or confined to a hotel room, find the class on Yoga Download that’s right for your time and set-up.
Even in the most cramped quarters (we’re looking at you, middle seat) you can still cross your knees, grab onto the opposite armrest, and twist. Breathe deeply, allowing yourself to turn deeper into the pose. And don’t forget to repeat on the other side. A seated spinal twist, or ardha matsyendrasana, will help stretch your spine.
Take a Stroll
Talahatu recommends a series of movements while on a plane to relax, stretch, and improve blood flow. In addition to shoulder raises, hugging your knees to your chest, and stretching your arms over your head—fingers laced and palms up—don’t forget to get up often and go for a walk. “It’s not a yoga pose,” Talahatu says, “but your circulation will be better.”
“Give yourself 10 minutes a day,” recommends Meltzer. “Sit with your eyes closed, focus on your breath, and create an intention for the day.” This will not only help you relax, but it will also help you set goals and plans for the day ahead and your trip at large.
Join the Local Community
No matter where in the world you are, chances are, there’s a yoga studio nearby. Using apps like ClassPass, a monthly membership program designed to connect active travelers with fitness classes in cities across the globe, you can seek out some zen and connect with local yogis.
Look Beyond the Studio
“It’s fun to practice in new places,” says Kent. “See the local park, [check out] the hotel gym, or do yoga in an area unique to the community.” Because Yoga Download classes can be played on your mobile phone, you can get down dog just about anywhere.
“You [can] use a saraong-type scarf as your yoga mat, or a bath towel in your hotel room,” Talahatu suggests. “Rolled up towels are good for block replacements.” When you’re practicing in unusual or unknown places, you’ll want to get creative.
Change Your Perspective
“My go-to-pose is a handstand because it’s an invigorating inversion—it provides a natural energy boost,” says Meltzer. “It’s not only my favorite, but it can be done anywhere.” Or, almost anywhere. We don’t recommend trying this one in the aisle of the cabin when the pilot has turned on the seatbelt sign.
Try the Hotel Classes
Plenty of hotels have jumped on the fit wagon and are offering fitness classes (including yoga, of course) to guests. At the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, for example, you can try aerial yoga, using silk hammocks instead of mats.
Calm Your Nerves
“I prefer poses that are grounding (seated and supine) or inward driven (forward bends),” says Talahatu. “Being on the road, although it’s exciting, can be taxing to the nervous system.”
Keep it Clean
If you’re going to utilize airport terminal benches to help with your asanas make sure to clean up with hand sanitizer after. For borrowed mats—or the hotel room floor—pack a yoga towel. They’re lightweight, and much more pleasant to put your face on.
Incorporate other tenants of yoga throughout your trip. Be conscious about drinking and eating as well as possible (try packing your own food for the flight and skipping sugary cocktails at the hotel bar) and keep an eye on your posture. Make sure you’re not slouching in any of your photos.
Try a Yoga Retreat
Many hotels and resorts now host specialized yoga retreats. “People claim they’ve literally changed their lives,” says Talahatu. “A facilitator will hold you accountable,” she says, “and all of your needs (yoga, meditation, meditation, and meals) have been taken care of—so you’ll be able to focus on your practice, be in the moment, relax, and release.” At the Spa Village Resort Tembok, Bali, a three-night yoga and wellness retreat includes daily Kundalini yoga, meditation, and wellness workshops, three spa treatments, and activities including a fitness circuit, creativity walk, and yoga swing.
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.