Yoga Prep for Long-Distance Travel
As a yoga teacher I travel a lot either to study with my teacher, teach weekend workshops, or go away on retreats. I like going on retreats because I am able to focus entirely on my practice without the distractions and/or work demands of my normal schedule. It is an opportunity for going deeper, for reflection, and to soak myself in the inquiry.
I will often do a vigorous asana practice that includes plenty of twists and backbends, before going on a long trip like the one I am about to go on. The backbends are especially helpful whenever I will be sitting on a plane for a long period of time. I find that if I do a practice of these poses before I travel, I am less fatigued and my body does not feel as stiff when I arrive at my destination.
When I travel long distances I always make sure to carry a belt or two in my purse or carry-on and sometimes a super light travel mat. If I have a layover or a long delay in the airport, I lie down and do the Supta Padangusthasana cycle (leg stretches and hip openers) with traction belts and then some simple forward bends and twists like Janu Sirsasana, Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, Ardha Matsyadrasana, and Supta Padmasana (reclining lotus). These poses ensure that I can lay low and practice without attracting too much attention. I find that these poses are incredibly relaxing and refreshing. I use these poses as a way to keep my body and mind quiet amid the chaos in the airport.
Once I am on the plane and if on a long flight, I will go back around the galley and do various shoulder openers, standing leg stretches like supported Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (standing hand to big toe pose), Utkatasana (standing squats) and standing quad and groin stretches. If I am stuck in my seat, I will do seated leg stretches with ankle circles, some simple shoulder stretches and Padmasana (lotus) or other seated postures. For the flight I also like to bring a variety of reading materials, lots of liquid (for the plane), some light snacks and an itty-bitty book light (the airplane reading light for my eyes is awful). I'll be able to put my full travel asana repertoire into play during my journey to Australia and New Zealand for the retreat I'm leading in February! It's one of the longest trips I've ever taken and I'm super excited about it.
I do get tired of carrying props when I travel, but I always bring a mat, some belts, and a foam block or two. The mat and belts are essential. A foam block or two is also great because when I am traveling I really like to use them for supported chest and groin openers. Most of the time I can use hotel blankets and towels as additional yoga props, although I sometimes travel with my own light-weight yoga blanket.
When I pack for my trips I always bring practice clothes, and comfortable lightweight pj's. Over the years I have learned to bring less and less. It depends where I am going, but most of the time I will take 1 pair of pants, a dress or a skirt, a couple of tops, a vest, and lightweight jacket or sweater and a wrap of some sort. As for shoes, I like clogs for the plane since they are easy to slip on and off. And I might bring tennis shoes or sandals. I like black or deep colors for my clothes because of spills and things, and I will use accessories for color. Pretty boring, I know, but I have learned that you have to lift and carry what you bring along, and it can become a burden. It's not what you wear but how you wear it. Travel light and you will feel lighter!!!