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by Neal Pollack
one night a few weeks ago, I found myself staring at the ceiling in a hotel
room in the middle of the Basque countryside. I never thought I’d write
anything close to the previous sentence. But that’s my life at the moment; a
lucky break has turned me into an international business traveler. I was awake
at some horrible hour, hammered with jet lag, rubbing my red eyes, and worried
because I had to get up before dawn for an airport shuttle.
didn’t reach for the TV remote. Well, I did, but I couldn’t figure out how it
worked. I was too tired to read a book. Instead, I turned to the one sure-fire
thing that’s available to me everywhere, in all situations, no mattered how
tired and stressed-out I get: Yoga.
friend who’d recently been studying at the Desikachar Yoga Mandiram in Chennai
had given me a 30-minute practice, illustrated with stick figures on yellow
graph paper, which I could use as my daily yoga bread when needed. I’d put it
in my computer bag, in a manila folder with all my other essential travel
documents. It was time to deploy. There was a soft rug in my hotel room. I
stood in Tadasana, took a deep, full breath, raised my arms, and began.
you need for a good yoga practice is a teacher you can trust, a modicum of
discipline, and a bit of open floor. But when you travel, sometimes you get
into situations where your usual practice doesn’t apply. Whether you’re
rocketing across several time zones looking for adventure and novelty, stuck in
a featureless hotel room during a business trip, trying to find time for
yourself on a family vacation, or visiting relatives for the holidays, a little
yoga may be just the ticket to take the edge off your travel anxiety.
A year earlier, I’d gone to Stockholm to interview some people for a magazine story.
All three nights in Sweden ended before dawn when I’d sat upright, realizing
that sleep would no longer be my portion. Online, I’d found a local Ashtanga shala.
I knew that Ashtanga started early. So I put on my workout clothes, staggered
to the subway, and somehow found my way to the studio for the 6am bell.
I did this twice, running my sleep-deprived body through a
rigorous primary series practice. When it was done, I walked out into the
morning, enjoying the crisp fall air, watching the pretty people going to work
and the healthy-looking kids heading off to school, and devoured my hotel’s
breakfast buffet like I’d never seen food before. I was still severely
jet-lagged, but I felt aware and alive, even exhilarated, and I had yoga to
In Spain, I did my easy little practice,
feeling awfully proud of myself. I figured I’d start at 4am and finish just
before my 4:45 wake-up call. When I was done, I looked at the clock. It was
3:30. I’d gotten the time zone wrong. But at least I’d done some yoga. It
didn’t rejuvenate me a lot, but it did remove the edge. And that was good enough.
Neal Pollack is the author of the memoir Stretch: The Unlikely Making Of A Yoga Dude, as well as several other books. His most recent work is a self-published novel called Jewball. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and son. You can find out more about him at nealpollack.com.