How to practice yoga on vacation.
So many of us lose whatever rhythm we’ve settled into with our yoga, meditation, and self-care practices when summer travel rolls around.
Here’s what I learned on our most recent family trip about how to shift your practice to meet you wherever you are in the world, including on vacation.
First, leave your yoga mat behind.
You’ll still probably strap two yoga mats to the outside of your checked bag (as if both parents of a toddler will actually get to practice at the same time :))
And those mats will get more contact from the airline baggage handlers than from you.
You might sanctimoniously roll your mat out a handful of early mornings on the deck beside the pool, before the rest of your travel party wakes up.
But as you lift your arms and your gaze toward the sky, you’ll catch your toddler barreling out the door and across the horizon toward you. Greeting the day with a “good morning” so bright, he’s a sun salutation, literally embodied.
And besides, your bare feet much prefer the bare ground of the land you visit. Is there a better way to meet a new place than to feel its earth beneath you?
Next, set your vacation intention.
Create a reference point you can return to when you’re racing through the airport in a foreign country carrying 30 pounds of toddler plus more tote bags than you actually need, while your partner carries the rest of the luggage, including the empty hiking backpack, you were “sure” your kid would love to travel in :)
Repeat your intention like a mantra when you feel overwhelmed by the endless array of “must see" and “must do” options to explore (once, if ever, you can finally cut through the haze of (not) sleeping in a shared family bed).
Your vacation intention doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It certainly doesn’t have to be “do and see EVERYTHING.”
For us, our intention was simple. Be together, as a family. Do not work. Put phone down. Exhale.
Any time the familiar FOMO or default “go go go” state of mind or ubiquitous anxiety pulls you away, you can always come back to your intention. Leave the rest behind.
Then, you can let the yamas + niyamas (a set of 10 ethical and philosophical underpinnings of yoga, found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) be your guide.
A favorite to practice on vacation: santosha or contentment. “Ahhh, this bite of cheese!” “YES, this view from only one hundred feet up the mountain with toddler in tow, instead of the highest peak.”
Practicing contentment enables to be with whatever and whoever it is you’re with, wherever you are. Let it all be simply enough.
As for the yoga poses themselves, seek out unexpected moments, learn to recognize small bits of time and space as full of potential for essential movements.
If it’s somehow perfectly acceptable to drink beer at any time of day in an airport (8am, really?!), it should be just fine for you to practice some warrior poses to open your hips while waiting to board your flight!
Other ideas: post-picnic savasana (an even more “advanced” option is to practice it in a hammock ;) Or an impromptu pile of family acro yoga in the grass (see lead pic!).
As for pranayama, the breathing practices of yoga. Oh yes — don’t forget to breathe! During landing and take-off and no-nap-toddler meltdowns. Breathe in new smells, the rain, the days. Breathe it all in.
The meditation? Simply notice. Notice everything.
The shades of blue and green you’ve never seen and the way the sky meets the mountains meets the lake.
The smell of freshly baked bread at the boulangerie and the taste of it, still warm and crusty and soft and perfectly slathered with melty cheese.
The temperature of Alpine streams, running fast with freshly melted snow.
The sound of the cow bells in the valley below your dinner, gathered with friends and family around fresh, local food, under the soft, rosé-colored last light of a seemingly endless, early summer day.
Your senses are the surest way in to the present moment. And this type of meditation practice will allow you to make a soul imprint of each of these mindful moments that you can take with you and call on for years to come.
Now that’s a souvenir.
(here are some pics from our month-long, family adventure (aka “vacation” but with a toddler in tow) to the French Alps and the mountains of upstate New York, if you’d like to scroll through and see!)