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Yoga: The Best Travel Accessory

I used to feel like vacations were wasted if I didn’t return home even more exhausted than when I left. They were a time to escape real life, kick back, throw caution to the wind, especially when it came to dietary choices, partying too hard, and sleeping in late. They were a break from any exercise regimen and yoga practice. I’d return home needing more than a few days to recover, not to mention a few pounds heavier. Unbeknownst to me, the activities I saw as ‘stress relievers’ were actually putting more stress on my body and I definitely wasn’t returning from these sojourns refreshed and bright-eyed. Bad food, alcohol, late nights are not part of the recipe for a healthy, stress-free, relaxed body and mind. After one too many burning-the-candle-at-both-ends vacations I began to see the light.

I started incorporating yoga into my trips away. It happened accidentally with a bit of yoga here and there on the beach. I’ll admit that at first it was just for the yoga photos in an awesome location, but practicing yoga on the soft sand, with the sound of the waves and the sea breeze felt fantastic. Afterward, I’d feel so much calmer, so much more appreciative of my surroundings and my body. So I started getting up earlier and earlier until I was catching the sunrise and lo and behold my sun salutations never felt so good, or authentic.

My last vacation was a yoga/surf retreat in Costa Rica. Even though we were already practicing twice a day I rose even earlier to walk to the beach to watch the sun come up. I’d then spend twenty minutes meditating and appreciating where I was and being in my body. I’d move through a bit of my own practice and enjoy being totally alone. There’s something about practicing in nature, as cheesy as it sounds, that makes me feel deeply connected to universe. The expanse of ocean and sand also has a beautiful way of giving me perspective on how small and insignificant I am, ergo any of my so-called problems are.

I’ve realized over time that vacations shouldn’t be about ‘escaping real life’. Sure, they’re a time to relax and recharge but that doesn’t mean sweeping things under the rug to deal with when you get back. Whether it be stresses with your boss at work, relationship issues, fights with the in-laws, vacations give distance and therefore a perspective that may not have occurred to you in the thick of things. We are all aware that we can’t run away or hide from our shit because it follows us around wherever we go but humans are very skilled at shying away from the uncomfortable in the pursuit of short-term pleasure. The solution to most of our issues lies within ourselves and the choices we make, making vacations a great time to reflect, go inside and face things head on.

I absolutely do not mean that you should dwell on your stressful work situation while you’re vacationing but in fact spend just a few minutes on your mat before you start the day. Use those moments as the only time you reflect on anything you need to and then let go! Find somewhere inspiring, be it by the ocean, on a mountaintop or your hotel balcony above a bustling, foreign city starting it’s day. Enjoy, and find a moment of peace. Move through a few sun salutations and some gentle stretches or if you don’t feel like you are experienced enough to practice to the beat of your own drum there are some fantastic sites where you can download yoga classes and follow them on your iPad or phone. Try www.yogadownload.com, perfect if you don’t want to leave the comfort of your beach bungalow. For ease of execution I never take my regular clunky and heavy yoga mat on vacation. So I invested in a the Manduka travel yoga mat. It’s light and folds up easily into my suitcase making it fantastic for practicing on hotel room floors or with a towel under it on the beach or grass.

Whatever you decide to do you’re sure to find yourself more grounded and ready for an amazing day. You might even have an epiphany or two about something that’s been bothering you back home. Wherever I am I find that if I start with a bit of meditation and yoga it has a trickle down effect. From how I interact with the people I meet, to my food choices and whether or not I say yes to that extra cocktail. I’m so much more centered and grounded that it improves every element of my day. It gets me ready to absorb the magic of whichever paradise I’m in and most importantly I return home happier and healthier than when I left.