Check out this article I wrote for Sivana Spirit, an online yoga magazine, about how I continue to practice yoga in a third world country.
It was a strange turn of events that led me to an exotic village at the base of Kilimanjaro in one of the most rural pieces of East Africa. One moment I was waking up early to drive in rush hour traffic to my corporate job, and then sprinting off to a high-end yoga studio to teach classes after work. The next moment, I found myself gazing at an endless field of dust and calling a small cement room in the middle of an African primary school my home. I told everyone that I wanted change. Change is what I got.
While I was thankful for the new atmosphere, the new languages, the new types of people I was surrounded with, I quickly found myself missing my daily yoga practice and the peace and consistency it had brought back home. “Maybe you can find a yoga studio out there!” my sister had comforted me. I laugh now at how optimistic she had been. Not only was there no yoga studio near me, the closest store (a gas station that sold warm Fanta sodas and boxes of cookies) was a hearty thirty minute drive, and that was on a good day. It very quickly became apparent that if I wanted to continue my yoga practice, it would be entirely up to me.
You may never find yourself in rural East Africa with yoga on your mind, but you may find yourself snowed in from the studio, on an extended business trip, or in a new town with no access to your familiar practice. Trial and error, frustrated tears and ridiculous circumstances led me to find a few tips and tricks that helped me find yoga when there was nothing there but, well, me.
Come Prepared (And use your resources)
In true yoga teacher style, I rarely go anywhere without a pair of yoga pants. I came to Africa with brand new skintight Lulu Lemon leggings. It took about fifteen seconds before I realized that my stylish booty hugging pants would not be appropriate in this conservative community. This meant hunting down some men’s basketball shorts in the supply closet to wear during my practice.
I also walked off of the plane and into Africa with an ingenious foldable travel yoga mat that could easily fit into my backpack, and a working knowledge of YouTube. While Internet is more of a luxury than a necessity, YouTube provides limitless online yoga classes. And when the Web (or the electricity) doesn’t show up, your yoga mat always will!
Make it a Priority (And create a space)
Routines can be challenging to develop in new environments, but it is this routine that helps one to feel grounded no matter the location. The more regularly you practice in a familiar area. Once again, trial and error may be necessary to find the ideal routine. I found myself attempting to practice my yoga at five in the evening when the day began to cool down, only to find that this is exactly when the villagers made their evening trips to the well. This proved to be a noisy combination of children and donkeys and curious stares from strangers. The alternative? An early morning practice while the sun rose and the village was quiet.
Accept that some days, the Practice won’t Be What You Want
There will be days when you feel like you are the queen of your own yoga kingdom, and other times where squeezing in a five minute sun salutation appears to be impossible. Accept that these days will happen. A hole torn in the fence one night allowed the local goats to roam my yoga space with no regard that 6am was my studio time. You can’t anticipate those setbacks, and its no use fighting them. Instead of growing frustrated, accept the situation, take a few ujjayi breaths, and try again tomorrow.
Use this as a time to Ex
Want to invent your own hip opener flow? Now is your chance. Work on handstands for forty-five minutes? No one is stopping you. Want a playlist that consists solely of Tupac covers? Have at it. Eat snack size Snickers bars while in Svasana? YOU DO YOU. The exciting thing about creating your own yoga class is it can be custom designed to whatever you are feeling in that particular moment or on that day. Use this time to explore your creative side, perfect what matters to you, and skip over what doesn’t feel right and focus on what does.
The beautiful thing about yoga is that it is accessible. Whether you are on the slopes of the Serengeti or a New York City hotel room, yoga can find you there. If only you are willing to look.