Yoga on the Move: Tips for the Traveling Yogi

Before we set off on this adventure, I had grand ambitions for my yoga and meditation practice.

Despite being a teacher, I’ve always struggled to find consistency in my practice. I would get on kicks where I practiced yoga every day or meditated fairly often and then life would get busy again and my routine would fall to the wayside.

I figured being out in nature, with only a requirement to walk, would provide the perfect opportunity to establish a routine. I hoped to practice everyday, both yoga and meditation.

What I found to be the truth though is that I’m often too tired at the end of the day to complete one extra task. Usually by the time we stumble into camp, I have just enough energy left to complete hiker chores (grabbing water, making dinner, setting up the tent, etc) before falling fast asleep in our double quilt, recovering from a long day of work and preparing for the next.

After weeks of failed attempts to incorporate a yoga routine into my day, I realized I needed to approach things a little differently than I would if I was off trail and in a more stable environment. The tips below helped me establish a more untraditional routine of yoga and meditation, helping me accomplish my goals in a way that acknowledged the constantly evolving environment around me. For the traveling yogis out there, you may find these tips useful in helping stay true to a practice while on the move.

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. – Rumi

I’ve had to learn over the years that it’s okay not to have a full length practice.

It use to become an excuse for me when time was limited. “Well, I don’t really have an hour available for yoga… no use in only doing half of a practice, right?” The voice in my head would say. I’d silently agree, affirming that I would absolutely, without a doubt, practice yoga tomorrow.

With time so limited while on the trail, and spare energy in even shorter supply, I’ve come to accept that it’s perfectly alright to only do one or a couple of poses at a time rather than a fully sequenced practice.

This has really opened up my practice to help me utilize poses that I need. Sometimes while I’m eating lunch or sitting around camp, I’ll take the opportunity to scan my body and find points of tension. With such a focus on individual parts of my body, I’m able to think of somatic stretches or yoga poses that could really benefit that specific area and work towards relief. This has enabled me to stay true to using yoga to train and strengthen the mechanics of my body without feeling the need to dedicate an hour of time and energy to a full fledged practice.

When it comes to meditation, I’ve continued to adopt a moving practice. I wrote about this in a previous blog post about yoga on the trail. While I don’t have the opportunity to meditate after doing yoga, I try to incorporate it into other parts of my day to ensure I’m still reaping the benefits of a full practice.

Decide that no matter what happens, you will do what you set out to do. If you are determined, possible distractions will still be there, but you will continue on your path and remain undisturbed.- Swami Rama

One of my favorite days on trail was our second day in the Sierras, before we made the decision to flip.

I was feeling really strong that day and was in a groove, moving quickly. We had pre-decided to stop at a specific location for lunch, and by the time I got there I hadn’t seen anyone in our crew all morning.

I figured I had at least a half hour to spare before anyone showed up, so I decided to spend that time doing yoga. A half hour soon turned to an hour, and I was relishing in having the time available to have a meaningful practice.

That moment also helped dispel some strong attachments I had to routine. I generally am a firm believer in the power of routine. It can help create new habits or get rid of old ones that no longer serve you, and it’s a good way to ensure you’re keeping up with what you value most.

When it comes to a meditation or yoga routine, I always prefer to practice in the morning. However, out here, practicing in the morning is not always realistic. Some mornings I don’t have the energy, or I can’t get my things out of the tent without waking my partner, or I wake up too late.

With yoga, it’s important to be able to turn inward and focus more wholeheartedly on what your body needs. When you force a routine on yourself during a time of constant change, you may find yourself grasping for motivation that simply doesn’t exist. This can distract and detract from the practice, taking you out of the present moment and reallocating your focus to something else. Allowing yourself to be flexible with when you do yoga helps keep your mind and energy in the present moment and therefore more intentional with your practice. Rather than telling yourself you’ll practice every morning or every night, take chances throughout the day that may be more opportune moments and utilize them to really benefit from the practice of yoga.

Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light. – Yogi Bhajan

If you’re anything like me, than your practice is always enhanced by the use of props. However, especially in the world of backpacking, the availability of props is pretty limited. It’s hard being a traveling yogi, huh?

The beauty of backpacking is that your gear often serves multiple purposes. While I may carry two pairs of socks, the dry pair can serve as gloves on a cold morning. Or that puffy I love to wear around camp? Stuff it into a bandana and I’ve got myself a pillow.

When I came out on trail, I was determined to make my gear not only serve my backpacking needs but also satisfy my love for yoga props. This easily transformed some of my less exciting pieces of gear into some of my favorite things in my pack.

My Z-pad I use as a sitting mat and sleeping pad? That’s my yoga mat.

That pesky bear canister I dreaded carrying through the Sierras? A yoga block, of course!

What about that PCT bandana I got at Casa De Luna? That’s my yoga strap, used to play with the mobility and stability of my pelvis and hip.

There’s all sorts of uses for typical backpacking gear in the realm of on the move yoga props, you’ve just got to be creative. If props are for you, allow this to be a fun aspect of incorporating yoga into your new life in motion.

Gaining the skill to choose our attitude, to choose what we think, and to choose what we do, maybe the grandest adventure we can take as a human being. – Deborah Adele

The hardest part about living a life in constant movement is finding the motivation to do what’s best for your body.

At least, this has been the case for me since getting out on trail.

Sometimes I become so transfixed on my goals for the day that I can too easily abandon the things I value most. Practicing yoga and meditation have become the thing I most quickly put aside, telling myself it would take too much energy that day to make the extra effort.

What I try to tell myself in those moments is what I think we all already know. Stay committed, because ultimately the benefits I’ll receive from putting forth that extra effort far outweighs the perks of veggie out and crashing for the evening.

It’s not always easy to convince yourself to do what you know is best, especially when that extra effort comes into odds with the exhaustion you feel from walking for twelve hours straight. But a strong determination to stay committed to your practice will ultimately help establish a new routine within your mind. One where, instead of giving into the voice that says your tired and tells you no, you have the power to override that decision maker and continue to work towards what you know is best.

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Comments 2

  • Patti : Jul 30th

    It does seem ridiculous to not have time in the morning to meditate, like I do first thing at home, but i find the same thing true. I’m glad you’re finding time when you can. There will be plenty of “time” for routine when you’re done. 😉

  • Phillip : Aug 6th

    Ironically, at times of stress, when we need yoga or meditation the most, that’s when we set it aside. Yet, when we just decide to do it, 30-60m later, we are transformed. You’re building some great life psychological skills out there.


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