Yoga and Travel – Part 6 – Non Comparison

One of the main messages of a yoga practice is the idea of non comparison. Yoga teaches you to look inward, concentrate on your own abilities in the moment and to not compare where you are at to where others are at.

As I have mentioned travel has a way of making everything seem more stark, the highs feel higher and the lows feel lower.

I think it is really easy to fall into the trap of comparison when you are outside of your own life and comfort zone.  When you travel you are experiencing the fringes of another possible life. You see different types of dwellings, clothing, shopping, cars, roads, towns, etc. It is so easy to compare this possible life to the one you have.

You can wind up associating the natural feelings of freedom and adventure that come with being on vacation with these different possible lives. Which can in turn make you feel envious or jealous of the people leading their actual lives in these places. Or on the flip side, you can have a bad experience and associate those negative feelings with the lives of the people living in this new place. Which can lead to feelings of judgment and superiority.

It is okay to have these feelings, but it is important to remember where they are coming from and bring yourself back to that place of non comparison. The steps to bring yourself back are the same as they are in yoga practice. Recognize that you have these feelings, look inward at where you are at, take a deep breath and refocus on allowing yourself to enjoy the experiences from your own place and reality.

Or for example, recognize that you are on vacation and things are naturally going to feel differently. Look at yourself, where you are at and be okay with this. Take a deep breath and refocus on what you are seeing or experiencing without added judgment. It is okay to enjoy things that you don’t have, and it is okay for people to do things that you don’t understand. Everyone is different, and everyone is allowed to be themselves. These different lives that you covet or judge are not yours to have.

Enjoy these experiences for what they are. They are beautiful and magical, crazy and different, wild and scary. Take them all for what they are, don’t let your own biases and judgments get in the way of loving every min of them.

Love every moment, for all the good and the bad. For they will be short lived and soon you will be back home.

 

Questions

  1. Have you ever found yourself judging or being jealousy of the lives you experience while you travel?
  2. Have you found a good way to recognize them for what they are so you can fully enjoy your travel without being clouded by feelings of comparison.

Yoga and Travel Part 4 – Humility

I am a big advocate of doing the things that scare you. I don’t like living with fear, so if there is something that I generally don’t want to do (that isn’t actually harmful to my person) I will make myself try it. So if you are one of those people that are scoffing at yoga, I urge you to try it.

We as a species have a tendency to take ourselves a bit too seriously. Overly concerned about failing or looking silly. But the reality is without trying and failing there is no true growth. Actively being okay with looking silly is one of the hardest but most freeing feelings in the world. Getting out of our comfort zone is hard, but without it, without traveling or trying new things we are just stuck in a rut. That is certainly no way I want to live my life.

Here are some facts about my experiences in yoga class. I fall, a lot. I fall in front of other people just about every class. At first I was embarrassed but I have since learned (because people have told me) that everyone else in the class is afraid to fall. It doesn’t hurt, it is loud and disruptive and it is funny. And funny is good. People appreciate funny, especially when the mood seems tight and everyone is concentrating a little too hard.

I am not the best person in the room, not a single time have I been the best at yoga. I may have been the best in a particular pose but just like in life there is always someone in the room better than you. Don’t be envious of this person or fear them. Learn from them, respect them, and try harder next time.

I thought people would make fun of me. It’s a little out there for the area that I grew up in and I honestly thought it wasn’t something for me. I thought people would mock me for making it a regular part of my week. Turns out most people just thought I was brave, some people probably judged me but I liked it so much I stopped caring what other people thought of it.

I realized I do some really amazing things with my body. I have always struggled with body image issues, as most women have at one point. I am short and curvy and have a large amount of natural muscle. I will never be a super model and I learned that is okay, because I can hold those poses for a long time. The realization of that power feels good. It has helped me feel more comfortable in the body that I was born with.

I learned I have limitations. I won’t do headstands, they make me dizzy. Other people do headstands in class, and I do something else. At first it was hard to accept the fact that there was something I didn’t feel comfortable doing, but learning to accept my own limitation for my well being was important. It also helped me learn how to ignore that inner critique, the inner voice that is making up false judgment.

What you will certainly learn by trying out yoga is exactly how human you are. Your body has limitations. There are people in this world that are better and worse at something than you. Your body can learn and evolve and do something hard that it couldn’t do before. You will learn that your physical and emotional states are connected and that by moving your body you can help to process emotions. You will learn that hard work pays off and that sometimes you fall, you just have to learn to roll with it.

This is a long winded way of saying, doing yoga over the years has made me more confidant in myself but also more comfortable with my own short comings. I don’t take myself as seriously anymore, which helps immensely while traveling. I get less upset when things go wrong. All the ups and downs of travel are worth it even if you fall down in the street and embarrassed yourself in front of a bunch of locals (which I have done).

Question:

What was one of the more embarrassing moments in yoga and how did the experience help you in travel.

 

Yoga and Travel Part 3 – Dealing with Physical Discomfort

Last month on Part 2 of the Travel and Yoga Series we covered how yoga teaches us to deal with discomfort and how those lessons in patience can help us through hiccups in traveling. This week I am going to discuss actual physical discomfort we will likely encounter while traveling and what we can do about it.

Yoga teaches you to deal with discomfort, helps you recognize it, be patient with it and remember that it isn’t the worst thing in the world. It also makes you stronger, more flexible, and more in tune with your body. It teaches us the tools to recognize when something doesn’t feel good, where it doesn’t feel good and how to make it better.

A person encounters all forms of physical discomfort when travelling, starting with the long hours of sitting in what ever the chosen mode of transportation might be. You will likely be doing a lot more walking than you are used to, even if it is just strolling around a museum.

Yoga is an incredible whole body work out. Because of my regular practice not only can I walk for miles, and stand in line for long periods of time I also have the tools to know how to properly stretch all the tight parts that result from out of the ordinary movement.

That doesn’t mean that I never hurt when I am on vacation. I hiked the Haleakala Crater once and couldn’t walk down stairs properly for several days. But I hiked a CRATER! In one day. And it was beautiful and hard and I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything in the world. Even the sore legs, which I properly stretched each day after and healed quickly.

 

Yoga and Travel Part 2 – Dealing with Discomfort

Last week on Part 1 of this Yoga and Travel series we talked about the importance of breathing to reduce the occasional stresses of travel. This week I would like to discuss the uncomfortable situations we can get our selves into while out of our comfort zone and how a regular yoga practice can help you learn to deal with them more easily.

If you have ever attempted to take a single yoga class you will know it is uncomfortable. I say attempted because there is no shame in trying and feeling like it wasn’t for you. At least you tried, that is a huge step for many people.

Attempting yoga can be uncomfortable for many reasons. It might be uncomfortable because you see it as a ridiculous hippy-dippy practice that has no real use. It may be uncomfortable because you made it all the way through the class and realized it is REALLY hard. Or it might have been uncomfortable because you realized laying still in a dark room for several minutes (the final position of any class) oddly brings up a lot of emotions you aren’t quite ready to deal with. I do not discount any of these, they are all valid feelings and I have at one point thought them all.

The one I am discussing here is actually gaining the emotional ability to deal with  discomfort. Yoga is hard, it is just a fact. No matter how strong or flexible you are it will in fact always be uncomfortable because your practice and the poses that you can do evolve as you get better. You will always be holding a pose slightly out of your comfort zone for a length of time that feels like you might collapse but then the instructor tells you to move to the next pose. You didn’t collapse, you keep going, despite how hard it was.

The lessons I took from dealing with discomfort in yoga and have applied to travel is the patience with the discomfort that you feel during class. If standing in a one legged extended side warrior pose with my hands over my head for several minutes taught me anything, it was that I can endure a lot.

There will be situations that just make you want to loose it when you are traveling. But the more you put yourself in uncomfortable situations the more you will learn your extreme capacity to handle it.

Traveling is an amazing experience but no matter what there is going to be a moment where you wonder why you did it. It can be something small like a long line at customers. Maybe you missed your train, maybe the hotel lost your reservations. Or maybe you just find yourself intensely homesick. What ever it may be, you can turn these moments around by remembering that they don’t last forever.

You will probably wind up somewhere trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t understand you while you are actively missing your train. But at least you aren’t doing it while holding plank the whole time. You can do this, and so much more! Don’t ever let a brief moment of discomfort stop you from doing something amazing. Take a deep breath, find that patience and forge ahead.

Question:

What experience did you have where you thought your whole trip was ruined and what did you do to help bring yourself out of the funk and still enjoy it.

Yoga and Travel Part 1 – Breathing

Travel I have noticed tends to bring out our extremes. When a person is pulled out of their comfort zone everything becomes more vibrant. The food tastes so much better, the crowds are more frenetic, the mornings are more beautiful, the highs are higher, the lows are lower. As such we are often left reeling from the joy of all the new and wonderful sights but also the stress of everything being so new. Even the most practiced and adventurous of us are susceptible to these extremes. It is  a vignette of real life. A smaller more concentrated snapshot  of the larger picture, compacted into a moment. Intense and wonderful at the same time.

I started practicing yoga in college because a friend asked me to join, she was scared to go alone and I didn’t want to study. On that first day, I realized how much I needed a practice that helped slow me, ground me, feel everything that I was trying to tamp down so that I could process and move on. I started practicing regularly soon after and have stuck with it ever since.  This week I would like to cover the first breathing technique I learned in that very first class and how it has helped me during the stresses of travel.

I have been told by countless instructors that most people don’t breath correctly. I don’t know this for scientific fact, though I know from my own experience that many people I know, my self included, fall into this category.

Without changing anything, notice briefly how you are breathing. Is your upper chest expanding, are your shoulders moving up and down?  For simplicity I am going to call this chest breathing, though technically since your lungs reside in your chest cavity all breathing is chest breathing.

This type of short tightening breaths causes constriction in your body. If you have every had a panic attack you know that these tiny little breaths can easily escalate.

To ease yourself out of a panic attack you were probably told to take slow measured breaths. Try this now for a moment, take a slow deep breath in, feel how it pushes the stomach muscles out, now slowly push the air out and notice how the muscles in your stomach tighten and pull in. Your shoulders probably didn’t move and your upper chest likely expanded very little in comparison to your lower chest and your belly area.

This slow breathing is allowing more oxygen to enter your body and your brain, it slows your heart rate and helps relax the tension you may be feeling. As the body physically relaxes, hormone production decreases, panic subsides and you are more able to make rational decisions.

Now I am a creature of habit, and I was in my 20’s when I first started practicing yoga, so to say that I  breath like this every second of the day would be a bald faced lie. But I do make a conscious effort to implement this technique when I am feeling anxious, overwhelmed or stressed. It has helped me off the edge when I missed my trains, had to deal with several day accidental layovers, lost travel documents, long customs lines, stressful flights, cranky hotel staff, rude waiters and the list could go on forever.

So while the technique doesn’t actually make all of those annoying hiccups that are bound to occur go away, they certainly help me calm down, reground myself and attack the problem with logic and intention, rather than emotion and panic.

Breathing is incredibly important we sort of die if we don’t do it often enough. Give it a try sometime this week, if something stressful comes up and you feel like you might act out with anger or frustration. Instead take a couple deep breaths, concentrate on your body. Feel how it reacts as you concentrate on taking the deepest slowest breaths you possibly can. Then think through the problem again, and see if you react differently, smarter, nicer.

Question:

What is your favorite breathing technique or calming trick? What sort of situations have you gotten yourself out of more gracefully by taking a step back and re-grounding yourself before reacting.