Before I travelled I had very little understanding of the discipline that is Yoga. I thought it was simply a form of exercise, not just for women as is the common misconception but nothing more than one style of training to work the body. Needless to say, I was very, very wrong! Lynette has practiced yoga for nearly 10 years and loves it. It’s a big part of her life and her passion and dedication to the discipline is admirable.
Learning about Yoga
There are many different styles of yoga: Vinyasa Flow, Bikram, Hatha and Ashtanga to name a few. Being a personal trainer, I knew of yoga and it’s benefits for the body; however it goes so much deeper than being just another way to workout. Yoga not only increases your strength, flexibility, stamina and endurance but it also has beneficial effects for the mind and soul too. This I didn’t understand until I visited the home of yoga: India.
This is where yoga was originally born with the traditional forms taught by their creators, such as B.K.S Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, and now their successors. So famous and sought after are the establishments made famous by these individuals that bookings are taken months if not years in advance.
We visited the place where Lynette first trained in Ashtanga – Mysore, which is “yoga central”. Year after year people flock here to practice for months at a time. The atmosphere is a busy hive of activity.
I’ve watched Lynette practice, working on primary series, on a daily basis for the past 18 months. She practices Ashtanga yoga, which is a set sequence of movements and poses designed to increase flexibility and strength. The main focus here is the “vinyasa”, a fast paced movement that is done between each pose. Each pose is held for five breaths; you complete a vinyasa then move into the next pose.
Ashtanga classes are done in two ways; led is when everyone is listening to the instructor as they call out each pose and count each breath. The other is Mysore-style, where everyone does the practice at their own pace and the instructor walks round to adjust or assist people to help them progress.
There is a great range of progression one can make within the Ashtanga system. Once you’ve nailed primary series, you can move on to the more advanced levels with different, more complex poses in each: second series all the way up to sixth!
All of the poses (asanas) have traditional names in Sanskrit, an ancient language no longer spoken. The names are long and complicated, until you know the poses and the patterns behind the names. An example would be Trikonasana (triangle pose).
Yoga: More than just Exercise
The physical side of yoga is, however, only half the practice. The mental effects yoga brings are quite profound. Meditation and yoga go hand in hand; both cleanse the mind and body. For a lot of yogis, meditation helps to overcome problems and provides a mental focus.
Yoga gives people something to work on and progress with. When Lynette has completed her practice in the morning, she feels physically and mentally on top of the world! She feels as though she’s accomplished something and the day is off to a good start. For her, not to practice feels unnatural, like not brushing your teeth! It also throws her off balance for the whole day.
Yoga and the Moon
Ashtanga yogis traditionally practice in the morning before breakfast 6 days a week with one day off. Usually, practice doesn’t take place on a moon day due to the increased lunar energy.
The full moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation when the force of prana is greatest. This is an expansive, upward moving force that makes us feel energetic and emotional but not well grounded. During the full moon we tend to be more headstrong.
The new moon energy corresponds to the end of exhalation when the force of apana is greatest. Apana is a contracting, downward moving force that makes us feel calm and grounded but dense and disinclined towards physical exertion.
Yoga and Travelling
Travelling can make having a consistent daily practice difficult, especially on travel days when you move from one place to another. It’s even worse if you have an early bus or train to catch; a practice must be done very early in the morning!
On our travels, Lynette and I have had to overcome many difficulties related to yoga. The first thing we consider when looking at a potential room is: is there sufficient yoga space? Sometimes there isn’t but we’ve no choice but to get on with it and find somewhere else for her to practice.
During our time on the road Lynette has practiced indoors, outdoors, in corridors, on balconies and even in the middle of an empty restaurant. The times have varied too. A standard Ashtanga practice takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes. Sometimes she does it in less time; it can take up to two hours though. She’s practiced as late as 3pm and as early as 2:30am on one particular travel day!
Generally, on our travels we aim for a 5:30am until 7am practice; then we get ready and get on with the day. We adapt depending on location and circumstances. For instance in Australia, where we are right now, she gets up at 4:15am and is on the mat for 4:30am until 6am; then we get ready, have breakfast and we’re out the door to get to work.
Despite the fact that I don’t practice yoga, whatever time Lynette is practicing, I get up too. This is out of solidarity; I also provide what’s become known as Yoga Support Services – helping her to get up, set out the mat and then make tea afterwards. This I do because I’m an early riser; I also like to do my own thing in the morning, such as press-ups and sit-ups. I also join her because I respect her for wanting to continue her practice, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
Perhaps one day I will take up yoga properly; I would like to and it’s never too late to start. Now that I have an insight and a greater understanding of what it means to do yoga, I have huge respect and admiration for anyone who dedicates themself to such a practice, be that in one place or on the road.
To all the yogis out there, I salute you. Om shanti.
Click to find out about Keeping Fit while Travelling!