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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rediscovering yoga on the road

It was late 2009 when I broke up with yoga. Earlier in the year, after my big move to Uganda, I was ecstatic about both practicing and teaching, and I'd found a great community with daily classes. I was madly in love with my practice.

yoga at sipi falls

Then I found a boyfriend. Cooking dinners, drinking wine and snuggling seemed way more enticing than my nightly yoga practice. Falling in love didn't seem like a good enough reason to stop practicing altogether, but before I knew it, it was Christmas vacation, and then a road trip, and then I was on my way to Pakistan. I spent most of 2010 living out of hotels, telling myself that I'd find balance in my life "when the trip was over."

It turns out that the trip is my life, and while I was lucky enough to visit and/or work in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Pakistan, Turkey, Kenya, Mexico and Ecuador, my well-being was taking a serious hit. Stress, coffee and an unpredictable emotional roller coaster were my new practice.

One of my biggest crutches in yoga began as an amazing blessing - I started practicing in a community. My friends and I traded yoga schedules and planned our entire social schedule around our combined practice. I put heavy emphasis on the physical presence of a teacher, and the benefit of the combined breathing of all the students - taking you to a completely different place. Yoga classes were often followed with food, friends and comfort. When I traveled, as much as I loved the journey, my practice felt lonely, and the solitude drove me far away from my mat.

my lonely jade travel mat

When I started packing for yet another trip - a two-monther in Kenya and Uganda - I sighed as I folded up my yoga mat and stuffed it in my suitcase. A nagging little voice in me said "put it back, you know it's just extra weight and you won't even use it." Before I left, I stopped by my friend Dan's place (a yoga teacher) and asked him for some new music. He loaded me up with Beirut, Cinematic Orchestra, and one of his yoga class playlists.

my yoga teacher on the road - yoga downloads

One slow afternoon on the other side of the earth, I convinced the spa receptionist at my fancy hotel to let me use the 'relaxation room' to practice. Looking over the leafy streets of Westlands, I rolled out my mat, took child's pose, and came home.

My rediscovery of yoga has not been what I expected - trumpeting angels rejoicing in my return. My body feels weak. I can't do poses I used to do with ease. My breath often feels strangled and it sometimes takes 10 minutes for me to be able to fully breathe through both nostrils. I sweat buckets doing what used to be simple. But, oddly enough, instead of feeling ashamed or frustrated, I feel liberated. I wake up each day with a new soreness, and feel newly alive.

I'm beginning to realize that somewhere around this globe, maybe somewhere between Turkey and Kenya, I lost my compass. Before this trip, I was walking down 18th Street to meet a friend for enchiladas. The winter day was beautiful, but I felt wildly out of body. Wildly out of touch. I looked around at the streets crusted with ice and snow, and felt displaced.

A million miles away in a town in the dry, hot and dusty Northern Rift Valley, I arrived in my decrepit old room at Sirikwa Hotel, overlooking an eerily green swimming pool - the floor covered in an old dusty green wall-to-wall carpet. I dropped my suitcase on the bed, pulled out my yoga mat, and brought myself home.

1 comment:

Roxanne said...

This post makes me want to roll out a mat, Halle. I also saw this and thought you would find beauty in it:

http://matadornetwork.com/bnt/2011/02/17/photo-essay-inspirational-yoga-around-the-world/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+BraveNewTraveler+(Brave+New+Traveler)