The Yoga of Travel

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italian yoga retreat
The Yoga of Travel
by Sadie Chanlett-Avery
(source: ActiveBodyStillMind.com)

I packed for Italy excited yet burdened with details: last minute sign ups, scheduling, and transportation logistics. I wondered if something would go awry and about the unknown personalities in the group. Every trip is a plunge into the unknown.

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I arrived in Milan a few nights before the group. Even in a jet-lagged daze, I was thrilled to see Alice and crash at her place. After napping, I biked out to her restaurant, Erba Brusca, on the edge of town. Shelves of reused fruit crates stored wine and cookbooks; the garden brimmed with herbs; and the tattooed staff had a familiar, hipster feel. Alice sent me out a glass of Prosecco, fresh burrata with a tomato purée, and a lentil soup with fresh mint, maggioram, and basil. By the time the Barolo and pigeon entrée arrived, my anxiety baggage dropped.

Friends for over 20 years, Alice and I met in our awkward junior high years.  It’s still a bit shocking to see each other as composed adults. We’ve grown up to be a yogi and a chef. Both sound like good cocktail party lines but our daily responsibilities both require sweating, hands-on work, and constantly telling people what to do.

Delighted by her talents,  I looked forward to sharing Alice   the retreaters. When we gathered at the restaurant for the first dinner, she and her partner Danillo hosted us all like old friends. The next morning they led us up into the Alpines to Fobello, a hamlet so small that most Italians haven’t hear of it. At fourteen total, we filled the hotel so we rolled out our yoga mats right in the dining room. Ben of  Sol Yoga Trips helped coordinate a week of risotto lessons, Nebeollo wine tastings, hikes, and yoga classes.

yogafoodretreat The participants brought the crucial ingredients of enthusiasm and agreeability. Yogis and travelers share an appetite to question the routine whether it is how we inhabit our body or our culture. Fumbling through foreign countries or awkward poses, we discover our biases, resilience, and unexpected allies. When we face new stimulus like a  fushia beetroot risotto or a tight ankle, we recognize that we only have control over our response. Our basic options include:

Reject: In a habit of defensiveness, we don’t even try the squid or taste the handstand. Luckily, this crew was game for virtually everything. At the first dinner, my mom ate her first silky poached egg. Dropping resistance becomes easier when the dish or pose arrive skillfully prepared and presented.

Control: When traveling, there’s always a few speed bumps or turbulence. When keys get lost or the schedule changes, there’s an instinct to micromanage. We tighten our shoulders, our perspective narrows, and we could start gripping for control. Yoga teaches us selective tension: how to exert the appropriate effort for the situation. A few belly breaths refresh our physical and emotional flexibility. This crew instinctively knew how to roll with the spontaneity of travel.

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Redirect: Each night a feast arrived: handmade bread, tender gnocchi with mountain thyme butter, creamy chocolate tortes, and endless wine.  After trying all three selections on the cheese plate, I had to push back my plate or hand it off to Dave (who took on the valiant, masculine role of the human compost bin.)

yoga-and-hiking

Soak It Up: Snuggled into the mountains, collaborating with an old friend, sipping Barolo, this trip ended up being so easy. I’ve traveled through clunky, agitating poses and tried to breathe calmly while backpacking through sketchy locales. Challenge and ease are both a worthy reset to our compass points. Although the group varied in age and ability, everyone revealed traveled as a true yogi. They moved with ease so we could all have a great time. Alice and I are already planning for next year.

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