Anyone planning on traveling to faraway places, either for work or holiday, will fight to stay vibrant and refreshed, especially with multiple time zone changes. As a yoga teacher and a lover of traveling, I believe that practicing yoga on the road is important. It makes transit to the remote destination so much more fulfilling.
Traveling "light" has always been my mantra. Whether I'm off to ski or heading to an island in the sun, I always pack some essentials: my teas, almonds, ground black pepper and organically-dried fruit like apricots, figs or prunes. (More on them later!) I also make sure to bring fresh fruit for the trip because processed airline food does not help my transition. Water is also extremely important. While flying, you get dehydrated, so keep a big bottle next to you at all times.
When you feel stiff in the body you will most likely feel stiff in the mind, so it's most important to pack a thin yoga mat and two lacrosse balls. Sometimes when I arrive I just lie on the lacrosse balls to open up my stiff back. (When I watch my kids' games I find the balls left on the fields and recycle them.) I place the lacrosse balls along my spine, starting at the sacrum plate, and move them upwards every few minutes. This is the easiest and fastest way to release emotions and open up physically. You can also just find one spot on your back where it's tight and hold the lacrosse ball there for seven minutes while breathing and releasing tension. If the lacrosse balls are too intense, either put a blanket under the balls for more cushioning or use softer tennis balls. You will be surprised how effective the balls are -- you'll never travel without them again.
I also do a few yoga poses to keep my hips and back open. Standing forward bend, downward dog, pigeon, fire-log bridge and plow poses are my favorite to practice on the road. For instance, plow pose, when you lie on your back and bring your feet behind by your shoulders, can reduce backache and help you go to sleep. This more advanced pose should be done only if you are pretty flexible and have no major neck issues. To learn these poses, please watch my YouTube video on How to Practice Yoga While Traveling:
That's not all, however. To combat any stress and stay light, I practice breath of fire, or kabalabhati. Exhaling from your nostrils, you bring your navel in with each exhalation. It's easy once you get the rhythm. I do it from three to 11 minutes anywhere, anytime. Watch my YouTube video on How to do Breath of Fire to learn this breathing exercise:
If I can meditate I usually do it for 10 minutes while everyone is getting ready to go out. I'd rather spend less time getting pretty and more time in quiet. Besides I do believe that beauty comes from within first, so why not give some "inward time" a chance?
Another key strategy is to find a local natural store (fresh green juice keeps me in the loop of health, keeping me local) and, if possible, a yoga studio. Even though my French is weak, when I went to a yoga studio in Paris I fully enjoyed the class and got to share my passion with foreign yogis. These experiences keep me connected, fit and vibrant.
While traveling, I make sure to stay away from carbohydrates and immerse myself in seasonal local food. The excitement of travel is all about the new, exciting and local food. Simplicity rocks. While in Crete, for example, my family and I enjoyed exciting and fresh food. The locals are so proud of their island. Crete is rich with culture, history and geography creating a combination of foods and lifestyle with a unique highly nutritious diet that is wonderfully Mediterranean. A major feature of the Cretan diet is its simplicity. There are no fancy sauces or combinations of strange exotic ingredients. Just lots of local produce (artichokes grow wild!) and, of course, the olive oil is like eating a burst of sunshine with every taste.
We stumbled upon a family-owned, three-table restaurant on the side of the road in between the beach and town, where the woman of the house cooked lunch for us. We indulged in homemade stuffed vine leaves that melted in our mouths, freshly-caught fish and classic Greek salad overflowing with tomatoes and garden vegetables. Because the food was so fresh, we didn't feel heavy from the meal at all, and feeding our family of five only cost 60 euros, or less than $80. Along with my daily practice, I like to find places where the locals eat, staying away from food chains or fancy tourist restaurants. There is a time and place for everything, and overeating in fancy restaurants gets old and heavy. Your body has to adjust to the new place, and heavy food can be exhausting to your body. Less is more on the road.
Still, it's okay to break some of the rules. You can enjoy dairy as long as it's local, such as homemade butter and cheese. I try to find unprocessed gluten-free bread. If the dessert isn't homemade, I'll skip it. Pizza in Paris? Try the local produce of melons, apples and limit yourself to the fresh croissants and rose-infused macaroons in small portions to decrease those carbohydrate bursts into your blood stream.
As for the essentials I mentioned earlier to bring along, here are my must-haves:
• For teas, among my favorites is mate tea. This yummy herbal tea from Argentina has a slightly higher antioxidant capacity than green tea and is almost better then coffee.
• Nuts, such as almonds, are a quick source of protein. An ounce of almonds, or about 20-25 nuts, contain more than 10 percent of your protein requirements.
• The black pepper is a trick I learned from Ayurveda. It keeps my digestive system feeling lighter. On the plane I ask for a glass of hot water, put half a teaspoon of ground black pepper in it, and drink it. Black pepper helps me reduce bloating and stomach irritations... and constipation.
• Lastly, I don't leave my house without my coconut oil and Ayurveda body oils. The body oils assist with the aggravating and stressful feelings of traveling. Feeling ungrounded, unsettled and disoriented are all travel symptoms. The oils help support your physical and emotional state, and are very nurturing and calming. Simply rub the oils on your belly, arms and feet, and put some on your scalp before bed.
These easy tips are the essence, the simplicity, of yoga on the road.
With love and blessings,
For more by Osi Mizrahi, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.