The Travelers Yoga Kit

Sadhana is your set of spiritual practices and disciplines that create oneness within yourself. For a lot of people, Sadhana is a daily routine that includes the same mediation, breathing, and yoga exercises. For me, I have come to embrace sadhana in a different way. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said “change is the only constant in life” and I have opened my heart and mind to full acceptance of this in my yoga practice. As my body changes, my practice will change. Sometimes our daily routine outside of our sadhana will change and I think it is good to be prepared for this.

I recently traveled to Italy, Spain, and Demark with my husband for our honeymoon. We were away for 3 weeks! As a yoga practitioner with a couple of old injuries that create problematic spots in my body, I had my concerns. For example, what if I have a sciatic nerve flare up, I stay at the hotel resting and I miss out on all the incredible adventures? Experiencing pain in the body is frustrating and can be a real drag at home so I could only imagine how it could negatively affect my experience overseas in a city that is different from my own. Just the idea of this inspired me to think of a solution for the potential problem at hand. My husband put a lot of time and effort into planning the honeymoon of our dreams and so I became determined to create a plan for self-care, a sadhana that would invite stability into my daily routine during a time of constant change and unknown possibilities. I would be ready for anything so that I could enjoy this trip with as little or no physical discomfort.

I sat down one day to do a little self-analysis. I made a list of all the worst-case scenarios I have already encountered and what techniques I used at home for relief. I then decided to put together a Yoga Emergency Kit for my trip. This kit includes all of my favorite travel-friendly yoga tools.

The following list is what I’d like to think of as the essential list:

  1. Two small rubber massage balls – Pictured are Yoga Tune Up balls which are easy to pack because they come with their own storage sack. Personally, I like something softer; so I buy inflatable balls at the 99 Cents Store. I included a travel size air pump so that I could deflate the balls for efficient packing; then inflate them when I want to use them at our hotel room. These are for self-massaging on any part of the body. I use the balls to massage my upper back by starting from the base of my neck and going down to the bottom of my rib cage. This gets in-between the shoulder blades to relax stiffness in my neck. I also massage my S.I. joint, which is located at the back of the pelvis, and my outer hips. Massaging this area really helps me keep my sciatica symptoms at a minimum. This self-massage is done while lying down on my back on the floor of our hotel room and positioning the balls between the floor and targeted areas on my back.
  2. One 8-foot yoga strap – This is a classic yoga prop that many are familiar with when taking public yoga classes. I use the strap to safely release hamstrings and lower back by doing Supta Padagustasana A, B and C. I also use the strap the Iyengar way for Downward Facing Dog pose by looping the strap around the handles of a door.
  3. Essential oils – Lemon, Orange, Peppermint, and Lavender. Lemon and Orange are great for digestion (constipation, upset stomach). In my experience, when the gut is unhappy, the rest of the body suffers. I found that many of my aches and pains surface when I am not properly digesting and eliminating. Peppermint is used to soothe sore feet and muscles. I apply a couple drops straight onto the soles of my feet for instant relief. For sore muscles, I mix one drop with a small amount of coconut oil and then rub my shoulders and low back. The cool sensation is so relaxing. One drop under the tongue freshens your breath and also aids in digestion. One drop in a handkerchief clears your nasal passages if you have a stuffy nose. The oil lasts a very long time when you apply it to cloth or a tissue, so you can keep this handkerchief on you all day long for instant sinus relief. Lavender helps you to rest and relax so that you can get a good night sleep. Rub a drop between the palms, breathe deeply and notice how it shifts your energetic state. Bonus use – It also subsides the itch you get from mosquito bites!
  4. Meditation App for your electronic device. Having guided meditations or a meditation timer at your fingertips really helps to make meditation easy and accessible.
  5. Earplugs – These are wonderful for pranayama and meditation practice while on the go. I found that if I have earplugs in and I am meditating on the sound of my breath, the external distractions are reduced so I am able to better concentrate on the soothing sound of air passing through my body. This technique is inspired by the Shanmuki mudra, which is done by using the fingertips to close off the senses (ears, eyes, lips, nose). I find earplugs are more relaxing because I can let my arms relax by my sides.
  6. Journal/sketch pad – Creating art is therapy. The more you can relax your brain through creative exercises, the happier and more relaxed your nervous system will be. Making a conscious effort towards relaxing the nervous system has helped me to reduce inflammation in my body.
  7. Mala beads – This ancient counting tool has helped people to meditate for thousands of years. I use mine for chanting and counting my prayers. Like journaling and sketching, using the mala counting system helps to relax my mind and body.

I had great success with this homemade emergency yoga kit! Feel free to use my list and add some items of your own! It is empowering to be able to apply the health and wellness techniques I have learned over the years while being outside of my comfort zone. I appreciate my yoga and meditation practice so much more now that I have put my knowledge to the test. As I become more conscious of how and what I invite into my life, I can make better choices that honor the constant ebbs and flow of nature and of life. Instead of resisting change, I find that I can flow with it by fully trusting in my own powers of self-healing.

“Man is made or unmade by himself. In the armory of thought, he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.” – William James

3 tips for creating daily meditation

I have noticed that more and more people are looking to develop a regular (dare I say, daily?) meditation practice! It makes me happy to see that many of my friends and family are catching on to something that has been around for many years. Meditation! When I started meditating, I struggled with creating consistency in my practice. I notice that others are experiencing the same struggle early on in their practice so I thought I would share what has helped me in my journey.

Here are 3 ways to start practicing and creating a routine that will open you up to a daily meditation practice that works for you!

1) I place my body in the position that is most comfortable for me. Sitting in a chair, lying down or sitting on a cushion on the floor are all great options and one is not better than the other. It’s less challenging if you start out feeling supported and comfortable. I took a meditation class once and the teacher said to us “If you are suffering during your meditation (feeling pain in your body) then that is on you. Make any adjustments necessary to feel comfortable. There is no need to cause yourself pain.” Give yourself permission to be in a state of relaxation before you even begin.

2) I pick the same spot each time to meditate. There is something about returning to the same place that really helps to establish the routine. If you think about it, we do this already. We routinely brush our teeth and take a shower at the same place every day in order to take care of our hygiene. The same can work for cleaning the mind. I have a favorite meditation spot in my home, a favorite bench at my local park and I even sit in my car (when not driving) to meditate. Personally, I love nature, so I select places that expose me to the sounds of birds chirping, the warm sun on my skin, the coolness of the wind, earthy smells and a nice view.  All of these sensory satisfactions play into my experience of turning inward.

3) I use a timer and listen to guided meditations. At first, I had more success using guided meditations for daily practice. This is because it offers you something to “do” while meditating. There are so many different types of guided meditations and I am positive you will discover one that interests you! Eventually, I transitioned to the timer. I started with 1 minute of meditation and worked my way up. I like to use a timer because it tracks my progression. I am the type of person who feels accomplished when I see progress. I really like the Insight Timer because it has a feature called “milestones.” Every time you complete a milestone, you get a star. To me, these stars are a treat for the job well done. This has worked really well for me because it serves as motivation to keep up the momentum.

I felt the biggest shift in my meditation practice when I stopped attaching myself to what it was supposed to look like and started opening up my mind to how it works. Meditation, to put simply, is mindfulness. To me, it is slowing down all the rapid thoughts and observing them without judgment. It is a state of awareness where I can be self-reflective and calm. Anything can be a meditation if you look at it from this perspective. You can make gardening a meditation, walking on the beach a meditation, brushing your teeth a meditation, swimming a meditation, yoga a meditation or sitting still a meditation. It’s really entirely up to you!

If you are someone who is looking to create a regular meditation practice, I’d like to encourage you by saying you can do it! I started in February of 2017 and now have a daily meditation practice. It has helped me tremendously in my life. I feel less stressed and genuinely happier! I get better sleep, have wonderful dreams and have been more creative with my time during the day. I look forward to my sessions because I like the feeling of being mentally relaxed and I feel empowered knowing that I can do it all on my own through the simple act of meditation.

I hope these tips help you to design the practice that best suits your style! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! I would love to hear from you.

If you are interested in reading more, please read this short summary I have written on sutras 1.17- 1.23. Patanjali discusses the practice of meditation in these sutras. You can read it here.

Welcome home. Welcome new perspectives.

Travel is awesome. It always leaves me feeling like I have experienced life through the lenses of a child. Everything is new and my curiosity is at its peak. After returning home from a fantastic trip with my husband to Italy, Spain, and Demark, I started thinking about perspective and how one’s own perspective changes how we experience reality. There is an example of the power of perception that I love from the book Nourishing the Teacher by Danny Arguetty. The book asks you to think of the definition of darkness. What is darkness? For most, it is defined as the absence of light. Scientifically speaking it’s quite the opposite; darkness is actually defined as an area or space with low light. So you see, even within the darkness, there is the presence of light, and therefore everything is, in fact, a matter of perspective. It’s how we choose to see things. When I am traveling, I am choosing to see these places through the lenses of someone who has never been before (because I have never been there before). I see how people live their lives, what food they eat, what customs they practice, and I am overjoyed by the experience! It allows me to open up to new ways of thinking and being. But, what if I could choose to see the mundane in the same way? The routine I have back home. What if I could look at the repetitious way I live my life, what food I eat and what customs I practice from the vantage point of someone who has never done it before. What an intriguing idea!

I think this could be a fun experiment on the yoga mat. Every time we come to class, we can expect to practice the sun salutations, standing poses, some form of back bend, inversion, and twist. It’s an absolute joy to do and feel the safety and security of the movements that bring balance and ease to our bodies, but can we explore something new each time whether it’s the first, tenth or one-hundredth time? Perhaps it’s the way we transition in and out of each pose. The choice we make in where we set our gaze. Can we see something different like the way the light reflects or casts shadows on the walls? Can we invite the mind to take the breath to places we have never felt before? We can choose a different place in the room to set up our mat or perhaps grab a prop that we don’t usually go for. There are endless ways to be creative and invite a fresh perspective to your practice. The Dali Lama has a wonderful quote that I think adds a bit of richness to this idea: “A new way of thinking has become the necessary condition for responsible living and acting. If we maintain obsolete values and beliefs, a fragmented consciousness, and self-centered spirit, we will continue to hold on to outdated goals and behaviors.” To me this means, there is always room for growth and it all starts with how we choose to open our minds by inviting in a fresh perspective.