Savasana is to Asana what Vacation is to Life

Owning a yoga retreat center on St. John, results in my unintentionally observing people "on vacation". Here are a few common threads of what I've learned about vacationers and some tools from our yoga practice to help improve the enjoyment of our vacations.
What happens to our bodies, minds and our behaviors when we are on vacation?
  1. Personality traits are amplified. Meaning that if you are naturally a routinized person, your need for routine/structure/plans will be even more pronounced out of your natural environment. This can result in excessive or obsessive planning, map reading, and discussion of plans. Conversely, if you are prone to minimal organization and planning in your routines, you may find that it is tough to mobilize and/or that your vacation takes you on all sorts of unexpected adventures.
  2. Bodies go into shock. Shock can be stiffness, muscle soreness, stomach unrest, bug bites, etc. The plane/car rides alone can be enough to do this to our bodies, in addition to a significant increase or decrease in your regular level of activity. Plus it can be tough to maintain our mind/body and exercise practices when we are away from familiar settings and schedules.
  3. "Out of element" challenges are exacerbated. More people that I've observed seem to feel tested and challenged by differences in environments. And they put a lot of pressure on themselves to adapt, try new things, and be easy going. This pressure can be stressful for all involved. do you find yourself feeling like you "should" cram in every activity, you "should" relax, etc.
  4. You are more high-maintenance than you think. I've heard the phrase, "oh, I'm easy on vacation, don't worry about me", from almost every person I've met on day 1 of their vacation. Truthfully, I've only encountered a handful of people whose needs do not impose or encroach their travel companions' experience. This is not bad! This is part of being human. You'll know you are encroaching on other people, if you hear yourself uttering, "can you just....", "can we just..." more than 3 times a day. Usually "just" doing anything results in someone else having to change their plans.
These are my observations after being around families, extended families, stranger, friends, and couples for extended periods of time while they are on vacation.
How can tools from our yoga practice help us enjoy our vacations more? (and perhaps become more fun travel companions)
  1. Just like you don't enjoy every posture in your yoga practice, it's OK to not enjoy every part of our vacation. So take the pressure off and acknowledge that just like in our practice, there will be pleasurable moments, challenging moments, unpleasant moments and humorous moments. And all we can do is breathe through each of these moments. Vacations are not meant to by 100% idyllic - just like what happens on our yoga mat, vacations are a microcosm of our everyday lives.
  2. Balance how much of your "regular" routine comes with you on your vacation. If you don't allow yourself to adapt your 2 hour yoga practice in your perfect yoga space to the cramped hotel room where you have little time to practice, you may end up very disappointed. Allow your expectations to be OPEN, not set on keeping all routines constant. Similarly, DO bring some elements of your home routine with you on vacation - like making time for a little exercise perhaps instead of your regular 1 hour on the stationary bike.
  3. Remember that just like in our yoga practice....transitions in and out of postures are every bit as much of the practice as the asana itself. So too is the transition (i.e. travel) TO and FROM your vacation destination. So be open to what happens during this travel time, and suspend judgment and expectations....when we expect travel to be too smooth or too miserable, we are often faced the blow of life not meeting our expectations. Just let what happens happen, it's ALL part of the journey. Yeah, yeah, it's still annoying when our luggage is lost, but that too is part of life....
  4. Adjust expectations about your problems....our "problems", "stresses", "baggage" are part of us. They are not geographically contained. So if you are expecting your problems to stay at home, you may be setting yourself up for a let down. Let your problems come with you and as the Buddhists might say, "welcome them in for a cup of tea (or a pina colada)" and acknowledge that they are with you. But perhaps practice NOTICING when your problems creep up on you, when you are ruminating, and work on coming back to the present moment.
  5. Allow yourself to be high-maintenance...don't fight it. Just acknowledge it, be aware of it, and practice compassion toward those around you for the impact that it might have. Listen to yourself talk, but don't overly censor yourself because denial and self-recrimination, will only make you uncomfortable and annoy those around you. It's ok, we are ALL high-maintenance sometimes.
  6. Notice your body. Take 10 second breaks, waiting on the jetway at the airport, on the beach, at the top of a mountain, wherever, and just like you would on your mat....notice what you are feeling in your body. No judgment, just notice. It will help you keep your body/mind connection, and help you stay grounded.
  7. Take a vacation at home instead of away. If you find destination vacations stressful for any of the reasons above, FORGIVE YOURSELF, you are human! Vacations can be anywhere, anytime. So take a weekend or a week at home, unplug, buy tasty foods, exercise or not, practice yoga or not, do what is enjoyable and EASY for YOU. It's ok, you don't have to go anywhere to take a reprieve from everyday life. Just like in savasana, vacations are intended to give our minds and our bodies a BREAK, not to cause excess whatever enables this for you is your vacation.
Happy vacations from beautiful St. John.

The lovely Satira (below)...a joy to travel with!


Ritesh said...

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about benefits of yoga exercises, yoga meditation, yoga practice.

PetalsYoga said...

I really value the kind intentions and non-judging tone of this post. I spend a lot of time thinking of how to teach my students not only asana but a new viewpoint or idea. I'll be using many of your points in an upcoming class. Thanks for sharing!


I found you from a post you made on Grounding Thru the Sitbones a while ago. Loved this too as it coincides with my own teaching experiences and ideas.

Florian said...

Thanks for your remarks about practicing yoga at gyms. I've taught yoga in busy, noisy city gyms in Boston and found it a perfect opportunity to integrate teachings of meditation and non-attachment....we have to "let go" of the idea that yoga has to be in a candle lit room, with shiny clean mats and near silence. And in many ways practicing in a less than serene setting is the perfect way to learn to find peace in chaos by tapping into the internal peace rather than needing to be externally surrounded by our image of peace. Eagerly awaiting your full article on the subject!
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