By Christine Mason.
Last month I suggested that from our knowledge of how the brain works, simply “taking a vacation” does not provide all the benefits of a yoga or meditation break.
Today, I am in New Mexico on my “yoga vacation.” A group of about 1500 gather annually at summer solstice, in the mountains north of Santa Fe. We camp on the ground in a climate that reaches the 90’s during the day and can get down to the 30’s at night, where we need to guard against the dehydration that comes with altitude, a place where we need to learn to breath because of the elevation. We rise between 3 am and 6 am for a full day of our “yoga work.”
Sure, we connect with friends, but we also participate in yoga intensives. I just completed the 3rd day of yoga that went from 9 am to 7:30 pm. Hardly a retreat. Yet, I can tell you that I feel healthier, more alert, less stressed, and more connected with those on a similar path to bring about peace – a group of peace warriors who not only discuss our vision but also intentionally “toughen ourselves” to manage what life throws in our respective paths. Part of the physical challenge with this event is to prepare us for what we face in the larger world.
Hardly a vacation. Yet at the end many of us soak in mineral spas, dine in gourmet restaurants, and spend a couple of days recovering—a reward for undertaking yoga with the harsh physical conditions we lived with for the previous week.
So my message: Yes, you can go on vacations. You will probably be a better educator and more prepared to be of service to others because you have taken time to relax. I love to travel and know that seeing new sights, visiting historic monuments, eating different cuisines, and simply being in vacation mode is wonderful. Certainly, you can return from a vacation less stressed and more prepared to handle your work routine. But, we all know that not all vacations are equally relaxing – consider the packing, unpacking, the schedules, expense, weather, the things that sometimes go wrong. Depending on your state of mind, these events can be considered as minor annoyances or major upsets.
However, not all yoga requires the major challenges that I choose to encounter on an annual basis. You can simply take your yoga mat to a local yoga center, or practice from your mat in a corner of a room. It is a vacation you can take daily without going a mile. From your mat, take a few deep breaths, stretch, and then engage in your own yoga challenge geared to your own skill level: improving a posture, lengthening your spine, and deepening your concentration. Then for the crème de la crème, sit in meditation—a simple 40 minute “daily vacation.” More and more research is supporting the impact of yoga and meditation on brains and bodies: yoga improves the flow of blood to brain, enhances glandular functions, and increases activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
So breathe deeply, smile, and have a great vacation.