Are you a Yomad?

Times of India,  Supriya Sharma

Zubin Atré, amongst other avid travelers share their love for yoga wherever they go.

Are you a yomad?

It could be in the midst of a bustling piazza or against a gigantic mountain… home is where yoga nomads can roll out their mats.You know you have company on a vacation when you spot someone with their mat slung over the shoulder, sipping on kombucha and talking about the cosmos,” says blogger Anne in her post ‘Finding Yoga on the Road’. Anne belongs to the burgeoning tribe of yoga tourists, who travel for the love of yoga. When in a new terrain, they will immediately look up the best yoga classes, try out some new-age yoga workshops and only then think about other touristy things to do. “When I visit a new city, the first thing I do is find a yoga studio because I know that no matter where I am in the entire world, I can feel at home the minute I step onto my yoga mat,” says Meredith Meyer, an advertising professional who runs a yoga studio in Chicago.BEING A YOMAD
A yoga nomad (read yomad) is someone who will go in for a yoga quickie right at the airport while waiting for the flight. “Yoga occupies such a big space in our body, that the mind starts to crave for it every day,” says Amrit Nam Kaur, a Delhi-based Kundalini yoga expert. Avid yogis find it hard to miss even a day’s asana lesson while travelling, and so, don’t mind indulging in impromptu workouts besides, of course, sampling that particular place’s yoga vibe.“I am a yogi and love to travel. Sometimes, I travel as a yoga teacher, leading students in retreats and workshops in different parts of the world. At other times, I travel as a tourist, reaching out to different cultures. I have traveled extensively in Europe and to different Asian countries, teaching yoga. Every experience has been unique – from leading a workshop in a 1915 Art Nouveau house in Brussels, to doing partner yoga in the beautiful setting of the Venetian lagoon, to practising sun salutation in Rishikesh at dawn and catching reflections of the first sunbeams on the Ganges,” shares Zubin Atré, founder, Atré Yoga.WORLD ON A MAT

There’s a secret yoga community simmering all over the world that extends beyond the studio and the mat. They couch surf at each other’s pads while visiting the respective countries, make travel plans together, enroll for yoga exchange programmes and blog about their experiences. Just like an artist or musician, travel is an uplifting experience for yoga lovers too. In fact, as Atré puts it, “Travelling is a yogic experience! It makes one exit the comfort zone. When we travel, we get exposed to unfamiliar landscapes, food and colours, traditions and behavioural patterns. Recognising and accepting them makes the journey worth it.”

Yomads travel for yoga. But after a point, they say, it ceases to be about yoga or the exotic locales and more about the people you meet at every step, in every new studio. “You visit a new town without knowing anybody and return home with a host of new friends who have opened up their homes, yoga studios and hearts for you,” says Gernot Kunz from The European Yogi Nomads, a forum that started out as a society to bring yoga teachers together, but soon ballooned into a gathering of jet setting, backpacking yogis travelling together to exotic nations to practise yoga.

For photojournalist Itxaso Zuniga from Spain, it is about advancing his yoga skills. “A Czech yoga teacher told me once, ‘Why focus on only one teacher or one kind of yoga? You better try them all, learn from all and see which one you prefer in different stages of your life’. I stick to this ideology,” he says. Atré agrees, “I have been in the same room with a Russian, a Mexican, a Canadian and an Italian discussing each other’s experiences on how to safely approach a headstand. Home is where you can unroll your yoga mat.”

YOGI SPOTS

Instagram is vibrant with pictures of people from around the world striking elaborate yogic poses on the road, next to sand dunes, in the ocean on top of a paddleboard… anywhere, everywhere! A recent trend has seen yoga travellers heading to Latin America to practise in the breathtaking beaches, mountains, and rainforests. Costa Rica and Mexico, in particular, have become popular destinations for travelling yogis.

Kaur has travelled to Rishikesh, Bangkok, Hong Kong for international yoga conferences and gone for retreats in Puducherry, Kasauli and Goa. She says, “The best spots have been close to the hills. Kasauli is great since one can combine a trek or walk through the forest with yoga and meditation in the woods.” Atré‘s favourite location is the hills of Tuscany. “The landscape is absolutely amazing. It is green all around and the medieval villages and Renaissance houses take you back in time,” he adds.

Another trend these days is to combine yoga with activities like writing retreats, surfing or dancing lessons, spa treatments, and culture or nature tours. Also, vacationers are blending yoga with adventure since daily yoga works well in combination with sports to increase flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. So, the next time you’re planning a surfing-cum-scuba diving vacation to Puducherry or Andamans, throw some yoga in!

YOGA HUBS IN INDIA

World-renowned yoga teachers, organic home-cooked meals, naturopathy sessions, tantric fire rituals… yoga in Goa is a melting pot of varied styles and spiritual leanings. Popular yoga hubs include Palolem, Agonda and Patnem in the south and Arambol and Mandrem in the north.

There possibly can’t be a better place to learn and practise yoga than where it originated! Filled with scores of ashrams and every kind of yoga and meditation centre imaginable, Rishikesh is ‘the hub’.

Drum circles at night and yoga classes at dusk… that’s Gokarna in Karnataka, growing into a yoga hub with a barrage of budgeted yogashalas and retreats on offer.

Dharamkot near Mcleodganj is another mushrooming yoga destination. The Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre there mixes yoga with bhajan singing and jam sessions.

Aspiring yoga teachers can head to Puducherry and enroll in a good teacher’s training course at one of the ashrams.

FINDING YOGA ON THE ROAD

Yogis congregate in the same types of spaces — consider visiting the local coffee shop, smoothie spot, the beach, or a local farmer’s market. Ask your hotel concierge for good studios in the neighbourhood.

If there aren’t any studios, go for virtual classes. Practise in your room, next to your tent, or in a public park. Download lessons on your ipad and get unlimited access to world-class teachers wherever you are in the world.

Some studios may cater more to locals, and often have a free class or free week option. If you are staying in one place for a month or more, you may want to enroll.

If you are looking for classes online, make sure to key in the right words. Does that city/country have a local word for yoga? Do they have your kind of yoga — Tantra, Iyengar, Hatha, Kundalini?

A yoga nomad doesn’t think twice before dusting out his mat at the airport and going in for a yoga quickie. You visit a new town and return home with a host of new friends who have opened up their homes, yoga studios and hearts for you — Gernot Kunz, yoga lover

Avid yogis find it hard to miss even a day’s asana lesson while travelling, and they don’t mind indulging in impromptu workouts in new destinations.

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