One of the things I love about blogging is it forces me to sit quietly and reflect on my travels; to aggressively over-analyze my trips, and to recognize changes in myself and my travel style over time. Upon reliving my recent five months in Central America, I’ve come to the undeniable conclusion that this trip was a turning point for yoga and me.
My motto used to be, “if you’re in control, you’re not moving fast enough,” but I think in a lot of ways I just loved that quote because it justified the chaos that was/is my day to day existence. I live life without an anchor, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What has shifted, however, is my shrug-your-shoulders acceptance that being a traveler, being an entrepreneur, and being a career creative means I need to live in mayhem.
Hence, my recent attempts to find more balance. Slowing down my travel itinerary. Delegating work I can hire out to others. Finding space in my days to prioritize my physical and mental fitness. And that’s where yoga comes in.
Finding the Mat
I was drawn to yoga originally because I’m hyper flexible and so I thought I’d kick its butt. Turns out balance and strength are the other two side of the yoga skills triangle, and both are areas I could use work in. So I reluctantly stayed on the mat. Overall, yoga was something I did occasionally, maybe once a week at my peak, in order to stretch out muscles that were tight from my other workouts and to find an hour to slip away into my thoughts. Yet I frequently left frustrated – the class was too long, we moved too slow, the instructor made us do that breathe-y thing with our nostrils, I rolled my two eyes too hard when someone started talking about their third one, I could have used that hour to work, someone forced me (!) to meditate, etc. The list went on.
I arrived in Central America determined to kick start my new zen-ish lifestyle, and yoga suddenly felt right. I was recovering from surgery physically, but more so mentally; trying to find my confidence again with new scars, and yoga along with my other workouts reminded me there was little my body couldn’t do. I was focusing heavily on my writing, and inspiration overflowed whenever I was in flow. I was traveling alone, and yoga introduced me to fantastic people. More than any other region I’ve visited, the gringo trail in Central America is a great place to throw together a self-styled health retreat. With very few exceptions, I attended classes in every destination I visited. From a treehouse in San Juan del Sur to a colonial garden in Granada, from the shadow of a Mayan ruin in San Ignacio to the shores of a Lake Atitlán in San Marcos, Central America is teeming with places to try yoga. In the same way that Muay Thai made me feel more connected to Thailand, practicing yoga made me feel more connected to Central America.
Slowly I realized that my eyeroll reflex had softened, and rather than try to tune them out, I listened curiously when my teachers shared their philosophies. I craved the familiar flow of asanas (the snobby yoga word for postures), awaited the time away from all my screens (even when I run I have my iPhone, listening to music and tracking my mileage), and looked forward to the fresh feeling I had when I walked out of a class. I may have even let out an om or two here or there.
Yoga means different things to different people at different times. In the past, I saw it as a plain and simple workout for my body, and pose inspiration when courting Instagram likes in gorgeous locations. Today, I also see it as a resent button for my mind. I am still somewhat picky when it comes to classes. Anything over an hour makes me wince at sign up. Certain styles still aren’t my thing (I’m looking at you, kundalini) and I do occasionally feel a strong flare up of skepticism towards anything I classify too mystical or dippy. And, like all areas of my life, I still don’t take this one too seriously (I’ve been known to walk into a class with a Diet Coke can in hand and announce I may still be tipsy from the previous evening’s adventures.) But overall, my flexibility has increased tenfold – the flexibility required to keep an open mind.
Now, trying new classes is a part of my travel routine. In the past few months I’ve taken SUP yoga in Bermuda, tried aerial yoga in Martha’s Vineyard, squeezed in a lunchtime class in a loft in Boston, took a live bluegrass-backed class at Bonnaroo, participated in a group Buti Yoga class on the beach in Brooklyn, and hunkered down for some straight up hot yoga in a no-frills strip mall studio in my hometown.
For now, I’m piecing together classes whenever and wherever they fit into my travels. When I return to Koh Tao in the fall, I plan try out a few new studios, keep an eye out for more intensive workshops and perhaps invest in some private classes to try to tackle some personally challenging poses. I’ve also started looking into yoga retreats and, dare I say it, even dreaming about someday attending a teacher training — and trying to think when that would fit into my budget and schedule. This training program in Hawaii caught my eye, as have a few in Bali.
So Tell Me…
Do you practice yoga? Do you look for it when you travel? I want to hear all about it. Tell me what yoga blogs and Instagram accounts you follow. Tell me what yoga YouTube videos you do when you’re stuck in a hotel room. Tell me what yoga books you’ve read. Tell me what amazing retreats you’ve been to, or perhaps even what teacher training you loved. I’ll see you in the comments.
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