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How to practice yoga when traveling for academics: Ultimate guide

Welcome to the ultimate guide on how to practice yoga when traveling for academics. The goal of this blog is for you to understand the relationship between traveling and your health (spoiler: it is not always great). Further, we will discuss why you should maintain (or start) a yoga practice. Lastly, we discuss a number of ways to do yoga while traveling. Here, we will also talk about the fact that you might not have a yoga mat or a yoga teacher around. And, of course, how you can deal with that.

The relation between travel and health

Let’s face it: as researchers and expats we look forward to traveling opportunities. It is ingrained in our lifestyle as we want to network with people or want to visit family. In fact, people have more opportunities to travel than ever before. Now more than ever, we can travel a lot and it is available for many people. This concept is referred to as ‘hypermobility’. (Note: this is not the hypermobility that can occur in your body). It enabled me to fly to Melbourne in 2019 and do a 6-week ‘exchange’ with La Trobe University. Of course, this was a very rich experience.

However, this hypermobility has a dark side and is not always healthy. This is described in a paper, which is a must-read for all who like to travel. The study talks about the effects of traveling on our physiology, psychology, emotions, and our social environment. Logically, the number of effects is dependent on things such as distance, how often you travel, and for how long.

Some of these effects include:

  • Physiological: traveling a lot may cause jetlag and travel stress, stomach issues, and immune system problems.
  • Psychological and emotional: stress may occur before travel – for example when preparing for a trip. Also, during travel whether it be delays, anxiety over health, safety, or security. When we are away from home, we experience feelings of loneliness and a lack of social cohesion. Being in a different environment may also lead to a general feeling of disorientation.
  • Social: traveling for longer times means less time to build a home-based social life. We are not there for important family gatherings and we feel more removed from friends because of our changed world views.

The ‘goal’ of yoga during travel

Traveling does things to your body and your mind.  Yoga generally helps with feeling less stressed and more relaxed. For me, it deals with the everyday stresses during travel. A limber body also just feels better. It appears that incorporating yoga might help in several specific ways while we’re ‘on the road’. Note, there has been no research on the effectiveness of yoga on these travel effects. However, there is plenty of research on the effects of yoga in general. Here are some of the effects yoga might have on the physiological, psychological, and social effects of traveling:

  1. Yoga helps to limber up the body. This counteracts the effects of sitting in airplanes or when working (from home).
  2. Yoga can help you to fall asleep. Especially when you do some soft yoga poses where you can easily focus on the breath. This might be of help when you are experiencing jetlag.
  3. Yoga helps to deal with stress. It might help create a moment of silence in your head while you deal with all the travel.
  4. If you were to attend a yoga class, this helps you to feel part of the (local) community. It is a great place to get to know people and create a local network!

How to practice yoga when traveling for academics

So, here are several ways in which you can practice yoga when traveling for academics. This list is always under construction – let us know in which ways you practice yoga when you are on the road!

  • During the actual travel. Studies show that people don’t just use yoga to overcome jetlag before or after a flight. People also do yoga in the sky! Here are some airplane exercises. There are some simple exercises that you can do from a chair.
  • One of the best times to do yoga is in the morning. My life generally changed for the better when I started my mornings with practice. Before traveling, find your favorite yoga video or yoga playlist. Find a couple of my yoga videos here. When all else fails, just salute the sun. Whatever happens, I’ll do sun salutations in the morning. If I have a mat or not – you’ll find me warming up my body for the day.
  • A full online class. Powerful during the day. Power yoga is great when you want to feel like you have exercised as well. Before sleeping, find yourself a Hatha or yin yoga class. I would do these classes on the floor without a mat. But you could use a towel for the yin class.
  • If you run short on time. At any moment during the day, use the Yogademics work shorts. These are short videos that are easy to follow. You could even do them in your office outfit!
  • Find a studio nearby If you have the time, just go and take a class around. Often times you’ll find interesting introduction offers. It is always nice to see other yoga places and talk with the locals.
  • Do a personal class online. In these classes, the yoga teacher can give you personalized feedback. Always feel free to contact me if you are interested in this service.

In conclusion

I hope this blog helps you find ways to do yoga while traveling as an academic. Unfortunately, I could not find research on this specific subject. However, the evidence I did find clearly shows that yoga has benefits that counter the burden of traveling. So, there it is. Traveling and yoga is a very promising combination. Do you have any other ways that you use yoga in your travels? Let me know in the comments.

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