Ever dream of traveling alone, but have trouble pulling the trigger? Taking a solo trip can be daunting—and even feel selfish with the typical a laundry list of responsibilities that monopolize everyday life. But, travel can be the best reset button to push you outside your comfort zone and mix up your routine. Even top yoga teachers, who spend most of the year traveling to lead teacher trainings, retreats, and workshops, need a little solo adventure now and then. So we asked them about the value of traveling alone for yogis. Some of their answers might surprise you. (Plus, pick up travel-perfect pranayama, poses, meditations and tips for a grounded, inspiring experience on the road.)
1. It gives you permission to focus on yourself.
Perhaps most obvious, but also most important: Stepping away from the daily grind, and letting go of those you leave behind creates space for you to nurture and focus exclusively on yourself. “My husband, family and friends are the BEST, but when I’m with them I’m always concerned about their wellbeing and can’t seem to control that tendency,” says Colorado School of Yoga founder and teacher Gina Caputo. “Solo trips are the only time I’m completely liberated from that concern. And if you go somewhere that the wifi is weak or non-existent, even better! It gives me a chance to deeply nourish myself.”
Gina Caputo’s travel tips:
“Invest in a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones, always have a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and avoid alcohol. If you want to sleep, try a CBN (cannabinol) patch instead.”
See also 6 Yoga Poses for a Hangover
2. You’re more open to new friendships.
Not having a buddy to rely on could be scary at first, but traveling alone can motivate you to open your heart to new people you meet. “I generally prefer company on my adventures, but would recommend anyone ride solo for a yoga retreat,” says Kathryn Budig, teacher and author of the new book Aim True: Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance!. “I say this because I have seen shy, nervous students walk away with best friends after a mere week. The retreat setting is a valuable place to connect and create lasting bonds.”
Kathryn Budig’s go-to travel pose:
“Malasana! I love this pose pre- and- post travel as it releases my lower back from sitting in cramped chairs and loosens up my hips from cranky hip flexors.”
3. You get to see who you are, without any support.
Stripping away outside resources creates a great opportunity to move inward. “You get to check in with yourself completely,” says Vinyasa 101: The Fundamentals of Yoga teacher Eddie Modestini. “You start with no friends, no familiar foods, smells, or places. All there is, is you. In this type of environment you get to taste your reality and have the space for tremendous reflection. It provides you the opportunity to assess what is and decide the direction that you need to grow in.”
Eddie Modestini’s favorite poses & pranayama:
“To stay grounded, incorporate gentle pranayama practices throughout your day. Find some place quiet to sit or lie down comfortably, and practice Viloma Pranayama on inhalation. Inhale one third of the way, pause, then another third, pause, and the final third. Complete a slow, smooth and even exhalation out. Relax as much as you can and find comfort in every place in your body. You can pause 3–5 times on the inhalation as long as it’s comfortable. Practice this for 5 minutes per day to hit the reset button.” (Note: To see this pranayama, check out the India Video on our Facebook page, where Eddie’s teacher Arun shares this practice.)
I love Virasana, when I am feeling fatigued in my legs, and Sirsasana to focalize my consciousness. (Hint: Sirsasana should be preceded by Downward Dog and is a great asana to practice in the privacy of your hotel room.)”
4. It scares you.
Yes, you read that right—fear can be a good thing if you harness it. “Traveling alone can be intimidating, or even scary, and that’s exactly why I like to do it,” says teacher and blogger Caitlin Turner, aka @GypsetGoddess. “It provides an amazing space for me to find out how strong and capable I really am. As I successfully problem solve and navigate unexpected situations alone, I realize that there are few things worth really being afraid of and an entire world out there to discover.”
@GypsetGoddess’s packing tip:
If you suffer from travel anxiety or homesickness, bring your pillow with you. “I find that no matter how challenging my day is, how uncomfortable the bed is, or how far away from home I feel, knowing that I at least have my own comfy pillow always seems to help,” she says. “If traveling with your pillow seems too cumbersome, then channel your inner child and bring a stuffed animal or small blanket to cuddle with. If cuddles aren’t your thing, a scented candle from home can make things feel a little more familiar too.”
5. It can solidify personal transformation.
If you’ve just gone through a major life transition, traveling alone can help you digest, process, and translate that experience into a new direction. “I like to take solo trips after times of big personal transformation, or I’ll add a day or two to the end of a training to just be alone, listen to and connect to myself,” says Pillars of Power instructor Leah Cullis. “This space allows me to absorb my experiences, explore my feelings, integrate my learnings, and choose how I want to move forward.”
Leah Cullis’s travel tip:
Take your journal everywhere and write as much as you can. “I journal every morning and night, and as much as I can in between. On solo trips I try to be as quiet as possible and take the time to go inward. I write to anchor my experiences, vision moving forward, express new affirmations and goals, and to simply track what I see and hear along the way.”
6. It’s liberating!
It’s easy to keep ourselves boxed into the mindset that we have (“my” country/language/customs and the “other” is anyone/thing different from us). “In the U.S., we tend to be a little America-centric: we expect everyone to speak our language, to offer the foods we’re used to, to make us feel safe,” says teacher and founder of Embodied Awareness, LLC, Bo Forbes. “This is our survival instinct, but it also limits us. When I’m teaching in the U.K., Europe, or the Middle East, I usually travel solo. It’s dislocating and yet, incredibly freeing on all levels. I surrender a little bit more to the culture, to the way travel can break me open and expose the deepest version of myself. Solo travel helps me feel that sense of interdependence; it chips away at my concepts of “self” and “other,” helping me realize that we are all one.
Bo Forbes’s digestion meditation & tips:
“Travel is taxing to the nervous system. It always hits me in my ‘belly brain’ first. The new routine, different food, and stress of being displaced changes things in the gut microbiome. For me, this means stomach pain, lowered prana, and digestive distress. And since the state of our belly brain also affects mood and immunity, everything can go a little haywire. I check in with my belly every few hours to make sure I’m not tensing up without realizing it. Typically, I’ll do something like this Embodied Belly Meditation. Sometimes I do rhythmic work in my intrinsic core muscles, and follow that up with some strength building. A daily must-do is a Piriformis release using yoga therapy balls. And I’ll finish up with an abdominal massage to release connective tissue, which also stimulates vagal tone and builds stress resilience.”
7. It’s more like yoga than you think.
When you actually go, you’ll probably realize that traveling alone and practicing yoga on your own aren’t so different. “When I fell in love with yoga it wasn’t because I wanted to do tricky poses,” says teacher and blogger Jacqueline Smyth, aka @TravelingMats. “It was because every time I stepped onto my mat, I learned something new about how I showed up in the world. All of the ‘I can’t do this’, or ‘I should be able to do that’s’, the ego, and the judgment surfaced. But what my practice gifted me was the awareness around those limitations that I had set for myself. When I learned to be more aware, I got the choice of showing up as who I wanted to be. Traveling alone does the very same thing. The more you venture into the unknown, the more pieces of yourself you uncover along the way. Layer by layer, you get to fall in love with parts of the world, and more importantly parts of yourself that I guarantee you didn’t even know existed.”
@Travelingmats’ travel meditation:
“My favorite go-to meditation tip is super easy, and always on hand. Three steps: Close your eyes. Silently say to yourself as you breathe in: I am breathing in. And silently say to yourself as you breath out: I am breathing out. Easy right? It turns your breath into a meditation uniting your body and mind.”