Along with shopping lists and dinner plans, holiday parties and decorations, this time of year brings travel. From lines at the airport to hours in the car, we travel to visit friends and family or return to our homes. It can also mean that with travel and holiday parties, entertaining those same friends and family (or being entertained), maybe you don’t make it to the studio as often for class, even though sometimes the stresses of travel and the holidays can be a great reminder of why you love going to yoga class.
But one of the great things about having a yoga practice is that it can go beyond the studio. You can access your practice wherever you may be, and not just the asana, the physical practice. The breathwork, the pranayama, can also be a welcome practice this time of year. Think of this time of year as another way to establish or to further your own personal practice.
First of all, get moving again. Whether it’s hours on a plane or in a car, whenever I’m standing up and walking again, there is definitely a stiffness in my muscles, primarily my legs, but also sometimes my back. And it may not even be that I was uncomfortable for those hours, but just that I wasn’t moving. I do have a travel yoga mat that I’ve taken with me on road trips, or when I have space in my suitcase such as when I travel to Montana and I’m not bringing a lot of extra stuff, but I can make do without.
And the first time I practice either on the travel mat or a even just the hotel rug, I won’t always go through a long practice, and to be honest…maybe not even 20 minutes or so. I will cycle through a couple of Sun Salutations, and that may be all. But sometimes it’s just enough. The forward folds and downward dogs allow me to stretch tight hamstrings and ease my calves, and lengthen my back muscles, warming up after a few cycles and just not feeling so tight.
Whether it’s family, end-of-year work or personal deadlines, crowds at the stores or even planning a big holiday meal, we may all seem to need a reminder to take a moment and breathe from time to time.
When I get to class in the evenings, I take the few moments on my mat before the start to just breathe. I consciously slow down my breathing to transition from the demands of the day to being there on my mat where I have no demands for the next hour. I can feel the tension slowly unwind as the slow breaths do the work. Psychology Today describes in further detail what is happening by slowing down the breath, but because I have felt that tension leaving me before class, it’s something I’ve taken with me off my mat. During tense times, highly charged times, I can step away and count my breathing.
One additional idea is that if you are visiting friends and family with a practice – or they come to visit you – taking a class together can be a fun way to spend time together during the holidays. You also get to see your family in a different way, seeing them at the studio and practicing something he or she loves. And it can be great to talk about a class afterwards, after having shared the experience together.
Some studios also have new guest perks – a month or a week of classes kind of a thing – or maybe even a guest pass for members. The Mat lists out their class pricing so you can see options ahead of time.
And one additional benefit? By taking class when you travel, you do have the benefit of movement and breath while connecting to those you are visiting.