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Every year during late November and December, I tell myself I’m going to continue to meditate and practice yoga throughout my family’s travels. And every year, I disappoint myself.
My morning routine has been a work in progress. When I first started, it took all my willpower to roll out of bed and sit down for just two minutes. I slowly built my way up to three minutes. And then to five. And it has now grown to a 20-minute meditation followed by about 25 minutes of asana.
As a result, I find that travel has become more stressful for me than ever before, not less. Even when I take a short weekend away with my partner and children, I find myself frazzled and disappointed when I’m unable to stick to my normal routine.
How is it possible that the very practice that makes me feel more stable and connected with myself at home hinders my ability to feel present and fulfilled when I’m elsewhere?
Practicing non-attachment to the practice
When we become so reliant on our patterns and routines, even the healthy ones can become unhealthy.
Aparigraha (non-attachment) is the last of the yamas. The yamas, collectively, are the ethical or moral disciplines that are part of the eight limbs of yoga. Non-attachment is a concept that is essential to a yoga and meditation practice and is often defined as not taking more than what you need.
As a student and teacher of yoga, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating my own attachments and observing how they hold me back. I’ve come to realize, as I try to understand how to loosen my grip on them, that my feelings about my practice may be an attachment.
Let me be clear: I believe that I need my meditation practice. And I need to practice and study yoga. However, what I recently came to understand is that the rigidity of my commitment to my practice resulted, at times, in me taking more than what I need—from my family and from the practice.
In recent years, whenever I failed to find time for my morning practice, I’d allow a negative ripple to take over my whole day. This in turn was impacting others. I’d find myself reactive, snappy, and more easily frustrated with my partner and children. When practices become a crutch, our human adaptability suffers.
I know that I am capable of having a good day without meditating. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. In the past several months, I’ve taken time to carefully observe what it is about my morning routine that provides me so much peace. I realize that it’s the moment to nourish myself. It’s the quiet that enables me to hear and see the thoughts in my head before I connect with the rest of the world. It’s my moment to connect with my soul before I go about my day giving pieces of it to others.
Allowing what is to be
I’ve found that adverse ripple effect has been most noticeable when I miss my morning practice during holidays and weekends away from home. As much as I’ve tried, I simply cannot recreate the same practice in new spaces. Often, my partner and kids are right there waking up with me. This means that quiet moments alone are harder to find. Also, I believe there’s an energetic component to the places we live—the comforts of home—that are simply irreplaceable.
For my mother’s birthday, we decided to go on a beautiful fall trip to Pennsylvania. As soon as we checked into our room, I was surrounded by beauty, love, and joy. Yet I felt disappointment creeping in. My partner and I were sharing a room with our two kids and I found myself scanning it for a quiet hideaway where I could perhaps find my morning moment. I even considered practicing in the bathroom. (That wouldn’t have been a first.)
We had barely arrived and I was already disappointed in myself. At that moment, I realized I needed to let go. I definitely still needed to find a moment for myself first thing in the morning. But instead of trying to force my home routine on a new space, I needed to try something new. So I broadened my view of what that moment might look like. And guess what—it worked.
Each morning, I stepped out onto our balconywith a glass of warm water and felt the cool air on my face. I witnessed leaves that were the most vibrant hues of fall I’d ever seen. And then I practiced a few yoga poses to help me feel grounded in the moment.
Yes, it was a different and much shorter practice. But it was enough to fulfill me. And it was something I could maintain while away.
So at the end of this year, as we pack up and hit the road, I’m taking this brief routine with me to help me feel grounded minus the disappointment. These are my go-to postures to create a simple connection with my body and breath—a connection that goes a long way during times of travel.
5-minute yoga and meditation practice for when you’re away from home
1-Minute Standing Meditation
I love taking a standing meditation at multiple points during my day to feel grounded. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart or toes together and heels slightly apart in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
Spread your toes out wide and really feel each point of contact you have with the ground. Evenly distribute the weight in the three corners of your feet as you pull upward through the arches of your feet. Let your tailbone sink toward the earth and soften your shoulders into your back. Allow your arms to rest naturally alongside your body, palms facing whatever direction feels comfortable. Feel your collar bones widen and the top of your head stack right over the centerline of your body. Tip your chin down slightly so you feel your neck lengthen. Soften your jaw and let your tongue fall from the roof of your mouth. Breathe right where you are so that you can be right where you are.
Standing Gentle Backbend
From standing with your feet hip-distance apart or toes together and heels slightly apart in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), place your hands on your lower back with your fingers pointing down. Feel the stability of the ground underneath you as your feet plug into the earth. Engage your glutes slightly and as you breathe in, slide your shoulder blades toward one another and gently lift your chest upward. Keep your neck as a natural extension of the spine, as if you were painting a broad curved stroke on a canvas. Breathe out to notice the opening of the front body. Remain here for 5 cycles of breath or longer. Return to Tadasana.
Standing Balancing Pose
From Tadasana, place your hands on your hips, plant your left foot into the ground, turn your right knee out, and bring the bottom of your foot onto your left ankle, calf, or thigh. Press down through the big toe mound of your left foot and slightly bend your left knee to help with balance. Draw your outer right glute downward and keep your breath and gaze steady. Once you find a sense of stability, you can bring your hands to your heart in Anjali mudra. Soften your shoulders onto your back and notice how your balance feels today. Breathe here for 5-10 cycles. Return your hands to your hips, bring your right knee forward and then down to the mat. Repeat on the other side.
Stand with your feet either hip-distance apart or with your toes together and your heels slightly apart. Breathe in and stretch your arms overhead so that your biceps are in line or slightly in front of your ears, breathe out and bend your knees as if you were sitting back in a chair. Slide your tailbone toward the ground and feel your low belly muscles engage and your low back lengthen. Sink your thigh bones toward your heels. Soften your shoulder blades onto your back and keep your chest broad. Breathe here in Chair Pose for 5-10 cycles. Inhale as you straighten your legs, exhale and release your arms alongside you.
Relaxed Forward Bend
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Breathe in and stretch your arms overhead; breathe out and drape yourself forward over your thighs. Keep your knees bent whatever amount allows you to feel a sense of ease in your back body as you fold forward in a relaxed version of Standing Forward Bend. Shift your weight into the front of your feet and imagine the backs of your legs lengthening upward. Let the base of your skull release toward the earth. Interlace your fingers and place your thumbs in the occiput (the little nook at the base of your skull) and let the weight of your arms apply gentle downward pressure as your elbows fold inward. Take 5-10 breath cycles here. In this fold, your energy is all for you, there is nowhere else it needs to be but with you at this moment.
To come out, take your hands to your hips. Keep your knees slightly bent and breathe in as you straighten yourself halfway up. As you exhale, come the rest of the way up to come back to Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
Final Meditation in Mountain Pose
I recommend closing with this same standing meditation to ground and observe how you feel in your body and mind after taking even just a few moments for yourself.
About our contributor
Neeti Narula is a yoga and meditation teacher in New York City. Her classes are inspired by various schools of yoga. She is known for teaching alignment-based classes infused with thematic dharma and yoga philosophy. Neeti believes that the way you move and breathe on your mat shapes the way you move and breathe in your life. You can practice with her in person at Modo Yoga NYC. To learn more about Neeti, check out her Instagram @neeti.narula.