The act of exploring new places is exhilarating, but the trips to and from the destination(s) can be quite a jolt to the body and mind: long flights, seats with poor back support (like nails on a chalkboard to all yogis, I’m sure…), lack of quality sleep, crossing time zones, eating foreign or convenience food, dehydration. It is exhaustive just listing, let alone experiencing it all.
Alongside settling in and acclimating, one will inevitably encounter various twists and turns that may not normally come up in everyday life: a delayed flight or train, getting lost in an unfamiliar area, losing something en route to somewhere. Whether or not we actually practice asana on our trip, these are circumstances in which we have an opportunity to truly practice yoga in its most organic form: life.
On my recent trip to Turkey, for example, I had made plans to eat at what seemed to be a beautiful hillside restaurant overlooking the Bodrum coastline during sunset. Alas, my attachment, or raga, to that plan left me a bit bitter upon realizing I had to let it go for various reasons, but it also offered me the opportunity to practice its opposite: non-attachment, or vairagya. Better to let it go and move on to other delicious options than to grasp at something that was not meant to be this time around.
With multiple spiritual and religious practices in Turkey, it was the perfect place to notice any aversion (dvesa) or ignorance (avidya) that might have unconsciously arisen upon first experiencing these cultural differences, among others. It provided the time and space to put the term Namaste to use: honoring the divine or “oneness” in both ourselves and each other, just as we are.
Self-care is a major and often ignored component of traveling anywhere, which reminds me of satya or being true to ourselves and our bodies instead of pushing it past its limits. I often kid myself when I am in exotic places and indulge just enough to get me to realize that I could have taken a breath, been more mindful of ordering that cappuccino when I know my body rejects caffeine, and probably have avoided stomach pains because of it. Then comes the time to invite non-violence, ahimsa, into the mix by accepting ourselves and our actions without judgement, and moving onward from there.
With the upcoming holidays and potential trips back home to visit family and friends, we can take so much more than the physical practice with us on the road.
Here are a few simple yama yogic principles to consider throughout all holiday and worldly travels:
Ahimsa / Non-Violence: We can probably all go easier on ourselves and others. Sometimes the seemingly rude flight attendant is just tired or having a rough day; similarly we might beat ourselves up for enjoying fresh bread at every meal for five days straight in lieu of practicing asana during your vacation (guilty). Relax, it’s probably not worth stressing over, and it will pass.
Satya / Truthfulness: Speak the truth at all times, whether we are catching up with relatives at a holiday party or meeting a fellow traveler on the road. If we don’t want to share something or don’t feel like talking at all, it is better to be honest about it than lie, because when we are honest with ourselves we can be honest in all of our actions. Not feeling 100%? Don’t feel the need to push the body to have a wild night out if that is not true to what it needs. If we take care of ourselves in this way, we may find it comes more naturally to to take care of others.
Asteya / Non-Stealing: Whether it is objects or words, stealing comes from a feeling of lack and fear. This Yama encourages generosity and overcomes greed, which we can practice especially when spending time with friends and family during this season (i.e. offering to make breakfast or help with the dishes instead of letting holiday hosts do all the work). This does not mean we cannot openly receive love and gifts, but is a reminder to not take what is not freely given, and to give lovingly from our end, too.
Bramacharya / Continence: We can use our energy wisely before, during, and after our travels in order to maximize not only our health and wellbeing, but our and everyone else’s experience around us. By keeping a steady stream of energy each day (get enough rest, eat to nourish the body), we can effectively fuel our lifeforce and control impulses for excess (caffeine jolt, second helping of pie). We will be all the wiser for it, and will in turn experience increased energy instead of letting the holiday or long trips deplete us. This takes courage and will, and encourages balance and moderation, whether we are eating a big holiday meal or stuck in the middle of an unplanned/unpleasant situation.
Aparigraha / Non-Coveting: Find out who we are instead of being jealous of someone else’s personality, body, or possessions, be it our sibling or an exciting new cultural experience (read: stop worrying about why French women are so thin even though they eat bread and cheese and drink wine). When we are greedy and seek outside of our Selves, we cannot see our true Selves. Possess only as much as is necessary, let go of what we do not need. Packing light, anyone?
How do the Yamas pertain to your world travels and holiday trips?
Peace, love, and Happy Holidays from Hyde.