Yoga Gypsy Travel Musts!

As a person who loves to travel, I am constantly refining what I bring, how I pack and what gear works best for me. And as we all know, it’s easier to travel as lightly as possible. In the last 12 months I have been to Italy, Belize and Thailand. So here are my tips for what to bring when you travel.

Only a Backpack. You don’t need anything bigger. It should be able to hold a weeks worth of clothes, your toiletry kit and any emergency gear you may need. I currently use a 26 Liter Marmot bag. I love this bag because of the way it zips. If you lay this bag down you can zip it all the way open from top to bottom just like a suitcase. My old backpack only opened at the top and I had to dig all the way to the bottom to reach things – no bueno. My Marmot also has 3 external expandable storage compartments and one zipper compartment. Inside there is also a laptop compartment and another zipper compartment.

Although this bag has gone with me to Italy, Belize and Thailand I do wish it was just a little bit bigger. Maybe about 36 Liters. But then, I am a girl and I do have trouble limiting my clothing choices sometimes! It’s a work in progress people!

My Favorite Yoga Mat. I love my Manduka Yoga Mat. I have had this mat for about 4 yeas now and it has no signs of wear at all. It has just the right amount of cushion and rolls up perfectly to fit in the storage straps on the side of my backpack! I know it’s extra weight to bring a yoga mat with you but I find that it’s worth it. I can roll my mat out in my hotel room, in a park or where ever I may be. It’s like bringing a little piece of home with me AND it reminds me to practice.

A Well Stocked Toiletries Bag. When I travel I want to make sure that I have everything I need. Of course, sometimes you will stay with friends and they have soap and shampoo but it’s always a good idea to bring your own just in case. You never know when you or a fellow traveler might need a band-aid, or a bit of lotion. Of course bring the basics: deodorant, shampoo, a razor etc….but remember to keep the bag small because it’s going to take up room in your backpack. Keep makeup to a minimum.

Good Walking Shoes. I really learned my lesson here. when I went to Italy I wanted to have “cute” shoes. So right before I left on my trip I went out and bought a pair of black slip-on walking shoes. They were a famous brand known to all sports lovers so I thought I would good. About two days into the trip the shoes started cutting into my heels and made walking miserable! So my advice is to forget cute shoes – go for COMFORT! Especially if you are going to be touring and walking a lot! No one is going to remember your shoes but you will sure remember if your feet were killing you the whole time!

Versatile Clothing. The more function clothing has the better. I bring pants that can roll up into Capri length. Shirts that can be layered, Swimming shorts that can be worn for hiking etc. Consider fabrics as well. Denim jeans takes forever to dry if you are hand washing your own things. Opt for easy lightweight layers and a fleece jacket for warmth. Pay attention to the customs in the area you will be traveling. Shorts and tank tops are not acceptable in many places of worship so be sure to bring something modest (covering your shoulders and knees). Women may also need to bring a scarf to cover their head.

A Good Attitude. As a women who has travelled alone I find that a good attitude and a smile are great things to bring with you. Most people are friendly and want to help. A smile goes a long way. Learning a bit of the language is helpful also. On my recent trip to Italy I spent the day alone in Florence and wanted to get my hair cut. I went into a salon and was treated with great respect. The hair dresser spoke little English and I spoke very little Italian but I got the best cut and style I’ve ever had. In fact, when our tour leader saw me my hair was the first thing she noticed! She said even Italian women have a hard time getting what they wanted at the salon. I told her I just trusted him to take good care of me. It’s one of my favorite memories of Italy! Be kind, smile and ask for help, ask questions, be brave – you can do it!

That’s it for now. Up next will be a quick tutorial about what I actually pack in my backpack. Until then remember to Live Simply, Breathe Deeply & Travel Lightly!

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This is Italy – those awful shoes!

 

Build a Practice

As a yoga instructor I struggle with maintaining a daily practice. It’s easy to feel like there’s not enough time in the day. Of course, when I do practice I find I feel happier, more connected and balanced and I find that I have more to share with my students.

So, to help myself begin again with a daily practice I started a 21 day Yoga Gypsy Challenge to all of my followers on Instagram and Facebook.  Check it out to see pictures each day of me practicing where ever I may be.

Since we all feel the time squeeze I wanted to offer you an easy way to begin a practice.  I have put together 7 poses that you can try each day to build a practice so that you too can get onto your mat.

Day One

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Sukhasana – Easy Pose

Today I just want you to sit. Find a quiet spot, get down on the ground and cross your ankles. Pull your feet in as close as possible.  Sit tall, feel your spine lengthening and turn your palms up towards the sky. Breathe in and out slowly through your nose and feel the stress and worries of the day rolling off of your shoulders. Move your awareness inward, focussing on the way your body feels and listen to the rhythm of your breath.

If you do nothing other than sit here, breathe and let your mind be free – you are practicing yoga.

Day Two

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Uttanasana – Forward Fold

On day two sit in Sukhasana for as long as you like and then add-on Uttanasana.  I use this pose ALL the time! I am one of those people who has to battle constantly with tight hamstrings and folding forward helps with that. The only problem is that every morning my body resets to tight and I have to start all over again! EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Roll down slowly – chin, shoulders, one vertebrae at a time, give the knees a little bend so as not to strain the back. Hold at the bottom for a breath and then roll back up – chin comes up last. Take a breath at the top and do it again! Then on the third fold hold it for a breath or two – pay attention to how low you can reach – be the observer – don’t judge or be negative about your body.

Day Three

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Starfish

On day three sit in Sukhasana for as long as you like, forward fold a while and then add-on Starfish. I love this pose because of how it makes my heart feel! When I stand all spread out like that I can’t help but feel that the universe is shining it’s light right onto my face and chest with love and acceptance. I love to close my eyes and tilt my chin up to the sky feeling all the joy I need flowing into my hands and spirit. It’s a very “Hallelujah” moment.

If you’ve never been to a church service where people raise their hands in praise it is a wonder to behold. I get the same feeling here: Life is good, Living is good, Love is present, I am valued. I have a purpose, I belong, I AM enough! And if you happen to have a day where you are not feeling these things then try this pose.

Take a wide stance, plant your feet firmly, lift your arms and send your palms toward the sky, stretch tall and lift your chin. Reach for all the love, happiness and acceptance you need – It’s right here for you always, every day!

Day Four

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Adho Mukho Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog

You get the idea right? Sukhasana, Uttanasana, Starfish and then add-on Down Dog. Down Dog is such a good stretch. It stretches the entire back body from my heels, up the back of my legs, to my lower back, shoulders and arms. I always spread my fingers wide and try to push the floor forward. I also make sure my feet are all the way at the back of the mat so my heels are off the ground and then I try to push them down. Your feet should be far enough back so that you can drop your hips down into plank (the top of a push up) without readjusting your feet or hands.

Day Five

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Vasisthasana – Side Plank

On day five you will do the previous 4 poses and then add-on Side Plank. From Down Dog you will move forward to plank (top of a push up) you will then roll over to the right stacking your right shoulder over your right hand and stacking your left foot on top of your right. This is a great core work out. Be sure to lift the hips and not allow them to sag down toward the floor. As you feel stronger you can maybe even lift the top leg like I have in the picture above. Hold side plank for a few breaths. You will feel your side waist really working, then go back to plank and down dog….Then do the other side.

Day Six

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Vrksasana – Tree Pose

Today you will add-on tree pose. Balance is one of the things that we all need to work on so give this one a try. Stand on one foot and bring the other foot up. Press it against the calf or higher if you like but avoid the knee. Really pull the tummy in and tuck your bum under as it will help pull the legs together. Hands can be in prayer pose in front of your chest, out to the side or raised like branches. Be sure to do both sides!

Day Seven

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Savasana – Corpse Pose

And on the seventh day you get to rest! Well, do all the other poses in order and then rest.  Do you remember as a kid, lying in the grass staring up at the clouds trying to pick out shapes? This is very much like that. We usually close our eyes though and let the breathing become shallow, arms out to the sides, palms face up, legs spread slightly. Return to the breath, focus inward and let your mind be blank – no worries, no stress – just peace.

So there you go, a very easy plan to build a yoga practice into your life. 7 poses you can build on that will work your entire body in a short amount of time leaving you feeling stronger, more flexible, calmer and happier! I hope you enjoy! Happy practicing!