Before departing for a study abroad semester during my junior year of college, I had one major priority to sort out: where would I do yoga? (If this sounds misguided to you, I would, now, have to agree).
The fact that I was boarding a ship on which to live for the next four months didn’t phase me, nor did traveling to Cuba during the Elian Gonzalez controversy. The inoculations needed for travel to Africa and Asia seemed standard. Ditto a prescription for anti-malaria medication (albeit this was before the psychedelic dreams the medication caused), and not speaking one of the eight foreign languages in the nine countries we would visit seemed like an opportunity. It never occured to me that this opportunity might include getting lost in Vietnam, alone, in 100-degree weather, without a clue how to ask for directions. (Kids, this was before the iPhone).
In a Virginia church, off-campus from where I attended college, my ashtanga teacher offered a solution. ”One of the best things about yoga is that you can do it in a prison cell.” Thankfully, I’ve never had to test this theory, but I enjoy its sentiment. An industry of yoga accouterments has cropped up since; however, the true needs of a yoga practice are minimal: a mat, floor, and enough wingspan for your arms. That is, if we’re talking about the physical practice of yoga asanas, as opposed to, say, meditation (dhyana) or breathwork (pranayama). So, I packed a mat and copy of Beryl Bender Birch’s new book at the time, Power Yoga, and taught myself to practice solo for the next four months, unrolling my mat in all nine countries, including India, yoga’s birthplace.
This early experience of practicing solo ensured that wherever I go, my yoga practice travels, too. However, I have my favorite spots, namely, my parents’ backyard on the Cape, my friend’s converted chicken-coop-turned-yoga-studio on a farm in upstate New York, or the studio at Prana Del Mar, where my retreat took place last week. Take a look, and please share your favorite studio or solo spot to stretch out, breathe, and be yourself….wherever you go.
If you could unroll your mat anywhere in the world, where would it be?