This past June, my wife and I decided to drive across the continent from Anchorage, Alaska and Long Beach, New York to visit friends and family. It was to be an epic endeavor! Besides the practical side of planning such a journey, we had one great concern.
What about yoga?
Both of us love yoga. I instruct at a local studio, and she has a rich and vibrant practice. The question of how to maintain and expand our practice while traveling?
First, we looked at our trip itinerary and the route before us finding the cities and population centers that probably had a regular yoga presence. Yes, we found studios that offered yoga classes. But, when we started thinking about it, did we really want to be in a different studio every day? What if the classes weren’t really what we were looking for in a practice? Could we really cover the cost of paying for so many drop-in classes on our trip budget? What to do?
Rather than despair, we saw this as an opportunity to expand our personal practice and set an intention to follow through with this desire. Since we would be traveling before, during and after the summer solstice, we decided to use the basic form of the sun salutation as a template for practice on the road. Wherever we found ourselves after a day on the road (campgrounds, hotels, parks, somebody’s home, whatever the context) we would rise and perform at least twelve sun salutations, letting our intuition flow and guide us into other poses and variations. To add a little extrinsic motivation, we created a Facebook event called Thirty days of Sun then invited our friends from around the world to join us in this sun salutation experiment.
Soon enough, the day came for our journey. We set off and the first night stopped in a random town near the border of Alaska and Canada. Early the next morning, we slipped on our Lululemon gear on and went behind the hotel looking for a place to practice. There, we found a random concrete slab that faced east. Perfect! Thus began our Thirty days of Sun. Every day we found a place to perform our poses and before we knew it our experiment had come and gone. We learned so much from this simple ritual that translates into life off the mat. Let me share the three most important lessons.
#1 A power resides within that will carry one through intentions. Through the act of daily commitment and action, an inner drive accepts this and rises up. It takes over and leads one forward. Maybe, it’s one salutation after another but this easily can be any endeavor. The drive becomes more powerful with practice and takes one further each time, eventually to completion then beyond. It teaches that we can follow something through to the end on the mat and in the world of our aspirations.
#2 Yoga is more than calisthenics! For sure, there are physical benefits that come with doing yoga on a regular basis. But through the practice of sun salutations something else emerged beyond the physical. A change comes, shifting the mindset from one of limitation to openness, through the joining of intentional movement with breath. This creates a flow of energy from the head to the toes which saturates the entire being (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). After the last sequence, I stand on my mat in mountain pose completely grounded in the here and now. A perfect platform for whatever it is in life that rests before us.
#3 Daily returning to the same routine over the course of a period of time creates a consistent personalized practice. As with any action performed over a span of days, it starts to become an internalized habit that continues long after the initial need or external mandate. Once there, it becomes part of the daily experience, and a home yoga practice has been established. It may sound rather simplistic but after all as the maxim goes, “life is complicated; yoga is simple.” This can be a yoga practice or any other healthy habit, one wants to cultivate in life.
Perhaps, you will go on such a trip or maybe you just want to mix it up and try something new. Try setting an intention for thirty days, sun salutations, some other yoga routine or really anything for that matter. Why not? See what happens, enjoy the process and cherish the lessons.
David Westlake teaches vinyasa style yoga in Anchorage, Alaska. He is fortunate to be able to do this as his life work and when not on the mat, he can be found sitting planning his next trip or adventure, especially to places that have warm beach. http://dmwestlake.blogspot.com/