Yesterday morning, I took a yoga class in Ljubljana. I woke up feeling a tad sore from cycling the day before in Bled and I knew it’d be a few weeks before I got my stretch on again. I googled “yoga Ljubljana” and came up with a few options. Not only was the best-sounding studio — with its “ashtanga vinyasa style” — nearby, but it was only 5-euro for first-timers and at 10a.m., giving me time for coffee and a banana before.
I arrived dressed in my Lululemon printed-lace top and black crop pants, unsure of what to expect. Would they teach in English? Would they play music? Would they have funny names for poses like “plankasana” like in London?
I’ve taken yoga classes all over the world — from Tulum, Mexico where the teacher taught in a barely-audible whisper giving my best friend Rebecca and I ample reason to immediately launch into can’t-breathe-it-hurts-laughter following class, to Buenos, Aires, also with Bec, where the entire class was taught in Spanish and “respira” (breathe) was the only word we recognized for 90 minutes.
Practicing yoga outside of my element provides me with yet another reason for why I love it so: I am immediately at home and yet also so very far away at the same time. Yoga is perhaps the most global of movements. It has its own language! Not only is sanskrit the same whether spoken in Argentina or Slovenia – but there’s the language of the mind and body, too. And while combined with sanskrit, the word “breathe” may be spoken in the native tongue of whatever country you’re in at the time, you’ll eventually recognize it as it’s the one word used most times throughout.
The breath, you see, is the universal link in all that we do on – and off – the mat.
Go on. Try living without it.
Yesterday’s class was intimate; there were just eight of us. The room was spacious and bright, with modern floral tapestries and a big, yellow circle painted on the front wall. The sun? I wondered. I let it warm me up.
The instructor taught in English and even played music. It was a standard vinyasa flow, and while I wasn’t dripping with sweat, it was challenging enough to loosen me up and stretch me out.
But the best part of the class was the teacher’s use of a certain verb.
As we spread our arms up above our heads, she’d say, “Inhale look up” and then just before we dove back down, she’d say, “exhale and travel down.”
Then, toward the end of class, she used it again: “Feel the energy traveling through your spine.”
I smiled on the inside and out.
How apropos, I thought.
Energy is always traveling through my spine — especially as my spine allows me to travel the world.
So before I go “off the grid” on a boat cruise down Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, where I hope to be more worried about my tan than my WiFi signal, I thought I’d start a list of what travel is to me. While I’m hesitant to post it because I know it’s “unfinished,” I suppose travel itself is also open-ended and so too will this list be.
And maybe when I log back on to add some more, you will have all left a string of comments about what it means to you, too! After all, travel is relative. The bed I may have found comfortable at that St. Germaine hotel in Paris, you may have find too hard; and the rooftop airport lounge that provides great views of Zagreb you recommended may not have be open when I was there (I’m talking to you, Rick Steeves!)
Be specific, or be general. Let the energy travel through you.
…seeing the group of British tourists you shared a pletna boat with on Lake Bled two days later on your train from Ljubljana to Zagreb.
…crawling into your king-size hotel bed at the end of a long day, only to realize in the middle of the night it’s too twins pushed together. And not caring.
…walking through the pouring rain, with all your luggage but without an umbrella, for an early train to somewhere.
…realizing you’ve lost your sunglasses as soon as the rain lets up.
…buying an umbrella and seeing the skies clear 15 minutes later.
…getting lost, giving up, and then finding exactly what you weren’t looking for straight ahead.
…happening on a packed street concert of a popular local band that had been rescheduled twice due to rain – and getting a front row seat.
…leaving your hotel at 9a.m. and not coming back until midnight – or at all that night.
…listening to an album so many times in one place that whenever you physically leave and listen to it again, you’re right back where you first pressed play.
…communicating with locals through hand gestures.
…having anywhere between two and five currencies in your wallet at any given time.
…eating the local cake. Twice. For breakfast.
…being so tired you can still fall asleep after having coffee at 10p.m.
…having an internal alarm clock.
…constantly struggling with the 24-hour one.
…getting a ride from fellow hikers back to your car, which is parked at the beginning of the harder trail you don’t have the energy – or the courage – to repeat.
…entering the Picasso Museum in Paris only to be told it’s closed for renovations and then happening upon the entire roving collection during a 12-hour layover in Zagreb two weeks later.
…falling asleep before take-off.
…staying awake the whole ride just to finish your book and start another.
…flipping through your passport immediately after being stamped to see what it looks like.
…having to buy a bathing suit because you’ve been away so long the seasons have changed for what you packed and where you’re going.
…talking to yourself. A lot.
…talking to strangers. A lot.
…getting proper excited when your hotel room comes with shampoo and conditioner.
…asking for extras.
…thinking you’ve broken the window in your hotel room when really you just don’t know how to open it.
…getting a free ride because you were supposed to “validate” your ticket.
…having way too much time to kill at an airport half the size of your high school football field.
…seeing them shut the lights at the only food and beverage option at said airport.
…arriving in a new town at 1a.m., checking into a hostel shared dorm, arriving at the top of the lift to see a group of fresh-faced 20-something’s staring at you and realizing real quick you won’t be getting much sleep that night.
That last one just happened.