4 Ways Yoga Can Help Travel Anxiety

Sadly, so many people avoid traveling because it can add stress to their lives. Real, scary stress. I totally get this. Oftentimes I’m filled with hot dread before boarding planes and can barely get myself together to book hotels, activities and more. I really, really don’t like flights either. With the world in a bit of disarray too, would-be travelers are putting off vacations and adventures, worried about current state of affairs.

These stresses and fears are valid.

But, it still shouldn’t stop you from seeing the world. While I used to think the trip itself was where I needed to relax, I found it was my whole lifestyle that needed to cultivate calm. Although I might finally get on that plane, I have to have weeks’ worth of mindful, healthy living beforehand (& after) to ensure I got the most out of my experience abroad.

plank pose untion station yoga eileen cotter wright

Trust me, I’m far from perfect. I still drink too much bubbly and forget to relax my shoulders as they creep up to my ears every day. I still wake up with my heart racing and losing my breath over worry. But as I continue on my journey through understanding anxiety, stress and uncertainty, I’ve found more than anything personally, a daily yoga practice has greatly enhanced my life. Of all things, coming from some who has never done anything physical on a regular basis in her life. I wish I started years ago to preserve my mental health instead of playing catch up – no day like today!

Anyways, yoga can be at a studio, at a gym or even through YouTube. It can be a quick 15-minutes when you first wake up, or a dynamic 90-minute workout toward the end of the day.  Anyone of any age or shape can begin their practice too – I could barely hold basic poses the first few weeks, but you do get stronger and more confident as time goes on. Here’s a few other ways yoga has gently helped me through these tough times.

Recognizing Your Breath

I’m so far from Enlighted it’s hilarious, but I’m slowing starting to see the benefits of connection with your breath. We breathe our whole lives, in and out. Most of the time I ignored it. But there’s countless ways to breathe – in deep, through the belly, with your vocal chords, or by making sounds. All of these affect me in significant ways. And once you get the hang of it (I’m not totally there yet) it’s supposed to make yoga even more fluid and beneficial. In turn, when I’m feeling out of control and having a difficult time with anxiety outside of yoga class, these breathing exercises alone can bring focus back to the present.

Surrounding Yourself with Other Wanderlusters

union station yoga studio eileen cotter wrightI am fortunate to have some great friends in the travel and blogging world. But working from home every day in London for long stretches in between travels can get tough on the wandering mind. While getting in shape and getting out of my brain were big factors of me turning to yoga classes, I’m finding the camaraderie to be an added bonus.

I’m also so lucky that a beautiful place is a 3-minute walk down the street. Union Station Yoga is an airy, light and welcoming oasis in the chaos of South London. They offer classic classes every day, ranging from vinyasa flow for beginners to meditative restoring sessions. There’s also a couple of pilates classes and one for pregnant women too. The studio upstairs is surrounded by frosted windows and the basement below is cozy for night-time sessions. I love that I don’t have to bring a thing either, as there are mats, props, water containers and even eye pillows available complimentary to use. The memberships for unlimited classes are on par with nice gyms in the area, but completely worth it if you plan to go several times a week. They also offer intro deals if you want to try out a few classes.

I did my best to hide in the beginning, but after showing up every day I started to open up with some students and teachers. So many of them, especially over the summer, are off to beautiful places like India, Spain, Greece and more to further their yoga practices. I’ve popped in early a few times to have some of their coconut tea on tap and listen to everyone’s amazing adventures. It’s inspiring and has me starting to plan my own yoga retreat hopefully in the near future.

Maybe. I think I have to not want to collapse in downward facing dog first.

union station yga clapham london eileen cotter wright

Keeping in Tip-Top Shape

I am a hot mess. We’ve gone over this. But last year I turned 30 and started noticing I couldn’t sleep a couple hours a night, eat whatever I want and work sedentary all day. I had a little (OK, big) crisis and everything went into shutdown mode seemingly overnight, body and mind. It’s taking a small miracle but I’m finding my jam in yoga to help get back into the groove. I hate running and do love Zumba classes, but both would leave me aching and not willing to take a class the next day. Yoga still often makes me sweat while also incorporates my mind and soul. I can do a power class and have my muscles burn, or ease into a restorative class and let my mind calm down a little from the day. In fact, the day I got off the plane from Slovenia I ran over to Union Station for a restorative class that stretched out my tired body and calmed my nerves. I wish I discovered it months ago, but it’s been a wonderful adage to my every day self-care.

Having Fun Travel Outfits

I never thought I’d be the gal sporting active wear on a regular basis. But now that I’m at yoga practice every day, I’m finding it far easier to just throw on some fun leggings, a top and head out the door. When I travel to new places, I also struggle knowing what to pack and wear. Did I mention I hate shopping too?!

fabletics yoga outfits galatic eileen cotter wright

So I found the perfect solution. Yoga leggings all day every day. Recently I signed up for the VIP membership to Fabletics, which has solved all my problems. Every month they release new styles of tops, bottoms and bras, plus a few fun accessories. You choose a whole outfit for a set price and have it shipped in a couple days. Simply click a quick button if you want to skip a month if things aren’t your style, there’s no obligation.

At first I was wary of the bright colors and bold cuts, because I hoped to invisibly blend in at class and while traveling. I also didn’t know if anything would fit my American derrière in UK sizes! But after trying the pink ombre and galactic colors, I received so many compliments, I might never go back to black leggings again. They match great with simple solid tanks and strappy sports bras too. I could wear these easily while out on a laid-back press trip during the day and at yoga class anywhere in the world. It’s simplified my travel and every day wardrobe, and I don’t have to step foot in a store either.

Trikonasana pose yoga union station fabletics eileen cotter wright

I do want to say: none of this advice or experience above is foolproof. It’s an ongoing journey. There’s many other outlets to try to, including professional help, if things get overwhelming. After several months working on it, I’m far from out of the woods. But having a sense of direction and purpose in your decisions about travel (and life) are crucial. I hope the foundations I’m building now will carry on though for a long time and help me appreciate my ability to see the world even more.

Author: EileenCotterWright

Eileen Cotter Wright is a Boston, MA expat living in London, UK. She is a freelance writer and owner of group travel site PureWander.com. Despite losing her passport the first day she left her home country, she's continued to roam the earth with gusto for about a decade. You can keep up with her hot mess adventures on Twitter @Crooked_Flight.

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4 Comments

  1. I’m so happy for you that you found something that work! During my burn out I got to deal with heavy panic attacks. Some lasted for hours and it was a huge struggle to get my life back. I’m so happy that I can travel again :)

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  2. Great post, yoga has a lot of physical and mental health benefits! I also feel you on the travel stress, about a year ago I almost couldn’t get on a bus to go to NYC from Boston, but breathing helped me to calm down and board and I had an awesome time. It can be hard to step over the line, but usually it is totally worth it! Also love the pink pants!

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  3. Regardless of the amount of times you’ve flown, flight anxiety is still a very common ailment. Whether you don’t comfortable traveling by air or you have a tendency to be anxious, yoga can help you wind down and keep a cool head in any given situation, especially before your flight! You’re right.

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