How yoga can ease anxiety—and save your vacation
Travel can be an exhilarating—and exhausting—adventure. For those who struggle with anxiety, it can also be overwhelming on a whole other level. Through the course of becoming a more regular yoga practitioner, I have witnessed an improvement in my ability to self-soothe and remain calm during frustrating or painful situations.
Yoga makes me more patient, and this is critical when traveling with family. I also notice the difference when I skip practice too many days in a row. Most recently in Portugal, I was self-aware enough to take note of my worsened responses to relationship stressors with my family while traveling together when I hadn’t taken the time to connect with my higher purpose through a little yoga and meditation time, and took proactive steps to rectify the situation.
Yoga is a powerful tool that can help travelers calm their nervous systems and recalibrate amid facing challenges and stressors that inevitably arise in new locations and situations.
Incorporating yoga into your travel plans can ease anxiety and make for a more peaceful journey.
Here are some things to be mindful of that can help you access the benefits of yoga away from home:
- Start with the breath: When anxiety starts to creep in, turn to the simplest and most accessible yoga technique—deep breathing. Practice breathing exercises during your travels. Inhale deeply, expanding your belly as the air fills up continuing into your chest and throat, then exhale—throat, chest, belly—intentionally breathing out and fully letting go of tension and stress. I like to imagine a water bottle filling up and emptying along with my belly chest and throat, to help me keep the right mind-body connection. This technique promotes relaxation and calms the mind, as it helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes your body after periods of stress or danger (and helps run life-sustaining processes, like digestion, during times when you feel safe and relaxed).
- Be prepared with online resources and apps for backup: The beauty of yoga in the digital age is the abundance of online resources and apps available. Discover yoga classes, guided meditations, and breathing exercises tailored to anxiety relief. Download a yoga app or bookmark websites that offer sequences specifically designed for calming the mind and reducing stress. The studio I call home where I took my YTT training offers online classes, and there are loads of options on the web for any taste out there.
- Practice gentle stretching: Long flights, bus rides, or hours spent in a car can leave our bodies feeling stiff and tense. Incorporate gentle stretching exercises into your travel routine. Focus on areas prone to tension, such as the neck, shoulders, and hips. These simple movements will help release physical tension and promote a sense of relaxation.
- Come back to mindfulness throughout your journey: Mindfulness is a key component of yoga, and it can greatly benefit anxious travelers. Engage your senses fully in the present moment as you explore new places. Observe the sights, sounds, and smells around you. This practice anchors you in the present and helps quiet the chatter in your mind.
- Take in a local studio class: If you’re comfortable with attending group classes, seek out yoga studios or community centers at your travel destination. Participating in a class with locals or fellow travelers can offer a sense of connection and support. When traveling in Lisbon, I attended a class at Ministry of Yoga, and at inLight in Lagos. In Toronto, I visited Yoga Tree and Sweat & Tonic. These presented quite a range of vibes—all good. Check online listings or ask for recommendations from locals to find the perfect yoga space for your practice.
- Tap into the power of mantras and affirmations: Mantras and affirmations can be powerful tools for managing anxiety while traveling. Choose a mantra or affirmation that resonates with you, such as “I am calm and grounded,” or “I am open to new experiences.” Repeat it silently or aloud whenever you feel overwhelmed, reminding yourself of your inner strength and resilience.
- Utilize meditation for quieting the mind: Incorporate short meditation sessions into your daily travel routine. Find a quiet spot, sit comfortably, and focus on your breath or a specific meditation technique. Meditation helps train the mind to allow thoughts to float by without judgment and cultivates a sense of inner calm and clarity.
Yoga can provide solace to those who face anxious feelings while traveling, and fearless globe trekkers alike. By incorporating deep breathing, stretching, mindfulness, and meditation into your days while on-the-go, you are likely to notice an enhanced ability to go with the flow and embrace the unexpected, allowing you to make the most of your travel experiences and keep the peace with your companions.