December 01, 2019 at 12:00AM by CWC
I embarked on a yearlong travel adventure with my husband back in May. While our mutual dominant feeling about this was that of excitement, we certainly harbored bits of nervousness that weren’t of the happiness variety. For example, we were worried about the lack of routine and distance from everyone and so many things we knew. Being a long way from home—away from friends, family, and familiar places—and spending less than a week in each destination makes creating community difficult. And since community is a pillar of having a long and healthy life, I challenged myself to find one that fit my nomadic lifestyle. And I did: yoga.
Early on in my trip, I found that rolling out my mat in different classes in different countries and continents helped me find the creature comforts of community. Travel yoga has led me to experience guided flows in Spanish, Hebrew, Italian, and more. The language barrier can make some parts challenging to follow but, as always, observing and listening for pose cues like Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) and Trikonasana (extended triangle), which are are unchanging in any worldwide practice, helps. And that’s the beauty of it. No matter where you travel, yoga is universal—and it’s also rich with good-for-you features to glean.
Beyond the widely acknowledged physical- and mental-health benefits that yoga can offer, the act of going to a studio and interacting with other people fosters a connection that’s emotionally satisfying, not to mention, health-boosting. Studies show that relationships—both low-stakes acquaintances (aka “weak ties”) and those with close friends—are essential for social and emotional well-being. And, as I quickly learned via the sheer breadth of classes offered in English at international studios, many travel yoga opportunities are geared directly toward expats, transplants, and wanderers like me, looking for this exact community feel.
Such a dynamic is clear and present at Zem Yoga in Rome, where I met a wonderful group of women; we ended up chatting in the locker room, and I came away with some great insider recommendations for navigating the city. And I was so excited after my second travel yoga class at Yoga Silva in Madrid when another woman from the practice told me I could call her if I needed anything or just wanted to hang out. The gesture meant the world to me and highlighted a need of mine to be seen and heard. For example, returning to a studio and having a staff member say “welcome back” (shout out to Yoga Garage in Florence) makes me feel seen, and simple chats with front-desk staff—which might be longest English back-and-forths I’d have with anyone but my husband all week—helps me feel heard (looking at you, Prana Yoga in Tel Aviv).
Sometimes, simply participating in a shared activity with like-minded strangers, whether that’s travel yoga practice or something else mindful, is all that’s necessary for nurturing a sense of community. Research supports that “slow and rhythmic breathing” (what we’re taught to do in yoga) has been linked to promoting the release of oxytocin, which can drive a sense of friendship and bonding to others.
Evidence explaining the the positive impact of coming together in community for any number of reasons and to any number of effects abounds. And now I know, no matter where in the world I find myself, I can roll out my mat and know I’m never alone.
Inspired to start your yoga journey? Here’s the best type for your personality. And if you’ve been traveling quite a bit, you may want to bookmark these stretches that are focused specifically on your aching feet.