I travel a lot. Not as much as the well dressed suits that I constantly share space and time with at the various airports that I pass through, but a lot still. I catch a flight, hang out at 40,000 feet, then when the wheels touch down, I hit the ground running preparing, supporting, collaborating, and teaching. I work 12-14 hour days focused on the work I love, connecting with amazing people, and deepening my own understanding of the transformational power of this practice. Sometimes I am moving around so much, that I feel my life spinning around me without my full attention or investment of time and presence. Taking a break is required for me to come back to myself. I do this every day on my meditation cushion and my yoga mat, but from time to time, I need more than just a brief pause in the middle of the whirlwind of my life, sometimes I need to completely recalibrate and reconnect with that little whisper of truth inside.
Ironically, I return to myself most fully through travel. Not the movement from location to location, teaching and sharing, but the process of leaving behind the familiar and journeying to a new landscape, a different culture. I find that the ability to see my life with greater clarity and perspective often comes as a result of stepping out of the day to day. When I return from my short excursions, I return more full, more balanced, more settled inside. It’s a great paradox that the result of this type of movement is stillness, but it’s true. You can’t force this steadiness, you can’t get to it through the perfect eka pada rajakapotansana, or through the strongest chanturanga dandasana. Steadiness comes with deeper and deeper layers of ease being realized, and for many of us, our Yoga practice is all about effort instead of ease, ultimately pushing us farther and farther away from the essence of what Yoga is meant to be.
If what you are seeking through Yoga is a greater connection with yourself, then it’s worth it to look at your approach. You see, Yoga was never meant to be a workout. The purpose of Yoga prior to becoming mainstream America’s fitness craze was never to change your body. The purpose of Yoga has always been to become embodied. The origin of the word embody expresses the essence of the “soul or spirit contained within form.” When our spirit is fully alive within the container of our bodies, when we are functioning on all levels of mind, heart, spirit, and form, then Yoga becomes what we are instead of what we practice. For me, this total enlivening of the senses and the body, along with the opening of the heart and mind, comes through the experience of what is outside of the normal grind of my day to day life. When I travel, there are new sounds, smells, new ways to look at the world and most especially new ways to see myself. Through this exploration of the world, I become more intimate with my truth.
For me, it can be a week away in deep study with my teachers, or just an adventure somewhere in the world. The opportunity to reconnect doesn’t require a specific formula. I can fly to Colorado to receive deep teachings on Sri Vidya Tantra, or I can spend my nights with doors open to the sound of the Aegean sea and my days in exploration of form and movement. I can watch the sunset in the French countryside with a bottle of Rose and a good friend, or I can explore the crowded streets in South America looking for coconut ice cream. All forms of the exploration bring me home to myself. All of this brings me back to the Yoga that is my natural state of existence, so when I return home to my mat and my cushion, instead of seeking that place inside, I am coming from it. And my practice and my life are all the better for it.
This is my method, and your’s may be completely different, but no matter what, I encourage you to take the time to step out of the grind, and maybe even leave your mat behind for a day or two. Find the experience of Yoga that is the essence of your soul, and let it inform all aspects of your life.