Group sessions of this beneficial combination of postures, breathing, and meditation can be found in neighborhoods and campgrounds near you.
By Linda Schatz, F350584
Whether you’re a full-timer or just a frequent traveler, you should not have to miss out on continuing your yoga exercises just because you are not “home.” I’m a full-timer and I drop in on a yoga class whenever possible. I’m always welcomed with smiles and support.
Maybe you need to stretch at the end of a driving day, or exercise while staying someplace. Either way, yoga always delivers rewards. The combination of muscle work, stretching, and deep breathing leads to strength, suppleness, and relaxation. And these benefits apply to anyone, old or young, female or male.
Being a visiting yoga student can bring all the adventure and fun surprises that motorhome travelers know to expect. For example:
In Palm Springs, California, a class I attended was held in an elegant, softly lit studio run by the Gold’s Gym next door. The instructor served tea at the end of class.
In Portland, Maine, class was on the second floor of a magnificent old building with wood doors that banged softly but persistently every time wind blew up the stairwell.
In Mesa, Arizona, class took place in the too-small reception room of a massage therapy office, requiring one student to put her mat in a treatment room and follow along by looking through the open door.
In San Francisco, California, a workshop was done blindfolded, in order to encourage us to explore our “inner space.”
At the upscale Voyager RV resort in Tucson, Arizona, yoga is offered three times a week. When I was there, the teacher lightheartedly said, “Extend your left arm; no, your other left arm.”
How to find a class. It’s relatively easy to locate a yoga class that welcomes travelers. Start with Yoga Finder’s Web site, www.yogafinder.com, which lists studios and teachers by state and city (and country, if you’re someplace else on the planet). It may not have a complete listing, but many of the larger studios appear there.
Another possibility is www.yogaeverywhere.com. This site also has instructions for some basic poses, with pictures, in case you want to exercise in your motorhome or outside in some natural setting.
Also, check the phone book or business directory for the area in which you are traveling. Sometimes classes are listed under Yoga, Health Clubs, or even Martial Arts. Health clubs often feature yoga, and a one-day guest pass usually entitles you to take classes. Local YMCAs or Jewish Community Center locations may have yoga classes, and your home membership may entitle you to be a guest at no charge.
Library, university, or community bulletin boards at health food stores often have fliers or business cards advertising local yoga classes. Massage therapists, chiropractors, or alternative-medicine practitioners also may be able to link you to yoga sessions.
In many of the larger seniors-only (55+) RV parks, especially those in the South where snowbirds flock for the winter, a resident will volunteer to teach a class or two each week. These homegrown gatherings don’t have the panache of a class taught by a certified instructor, but as long as you don’t hurt yourself, there’s nothing wrong, and probably a lot right, with a do-it-yourself stretching session.
If you’re sight-seeing or shopping in a trendy area of town, check the scene for a nearby yoga studio. I’ve also noticed studios clustered near large natural-food supermarkets, such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats.
What’s it like to go to a yoga class? It is heavenly. Whether it’s a gentle class or one that tests your strength and flexibility, you’ll emerge relaxed, energized, peaceful, and proud.
How much will it cost? What will you pay for a one-time, drop-in class? It could be free if you already belong to the sponsoring organization. It could be free, too, at studios that offer the first class at no charge. Otherwise, fees can range from approximately $10 to $18 per class. Ask about senior discounts, deals on a few weeks’ worth of classes, and so forth.
How long are classes? Typically, a class will last 60 to 90 minutes. Sometimes you’ll find a noon-hour class for working people. Mid-mornings tend to be for retirees and at-home moms. Early mornings and late afternoons attract the working crowd.
Yoga etiquette. A few dos and don’ts will make your class more enjoyable, and better endear you to the others there.
1. Yoga teachers always welcome drop-ins, so you probably won’t have to call in advance unless you need directions or other information. Drop-in policies often are printed on a studio’s Web site.
2. Make absolutely sure you arrive on time, and preferably 10 to 15 minutes early, especially if you’re new to the studio. First-timers usually must sign a liability waiver, pay a fee (if applicable), and sometimes fill out a short health form. You need time to roll out your mat, gather “props” such as blankets and blocks, and settle down so you can have a peaceful experience. Coming in late disturbs everyone.
3. Bring a mat if you have one, a bottle of water, and a towel if you wish. Most studios have extra mats if you don’t have one of your own; some places rent them for $1 or $2.
Tips for your best experience:
Don’t eat for approximately 2 to 3 hours before class; you just won’t be comfortable otherwise. It’s fine to bring a water bottle into class.
Wear loose, comfortable exercise clothing. Bring socks and a light over-shirt or sweatshirt for the relaxation pose, savasana, at the end of class. Take off your shoes at the door; many studios have cubbyholes for shoes and other belongings.
Listen to your body. No yoga teacher worth her or his salt will tell you to stretch farther than you’re comfortable, or put you into pain. Instructors know how to demonstrate different levels of a pose depending on students’ abilities, and they’ll always tell you to adjust the pose so you’re comfortable. As with any new exercise regimen, it is advisable to check with your doctor first.
Remember that traditional yoga postures are named in Sanskrit, the classical language of India. The teacher may or may not call them by their Sanskrit names; if so, the sounds will become familiar after a while. Most teachers, if they do use the Sanskrit name, also add its English translation.
Types of yoga. According to Consumer Reports on Health newsletter, at least 60 styles of yoga are now being taught in the United States. Here are some of the most well-known:
Hatha: includes basic postures, stretching, breathing practices, and often a few minutes of quiet meditation. This is possibly the easiest type for a beginner to try. There are many variations of yoga that fall under this umbrella, such as . . .
“” Iyengar: The precise, demanding method interpreted by the legendary Indian guru B.K.S. Iyengar, who can still bend his body in unbelievable postures at age 88. Poses are held for longer than seems possible, with attention on the exactly correct alignment of all body parts. This can be adapted for beginners, however.
“” Bikram (hot): With a room temperature of 90 to 100 degrees or more, you’ll sweat through an unchanging 90-minute sequence of 26 postures designed to loosen muscles, detoxify, and provide moderate aerobic benefits.
Other forms of Hatha yoga include Ananda, Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Vinyasa (also called “power” yoga or “flow” yoga).
Integral: similar to Hatha, this type focuses on holding the stretches long enough to allow muscles to relax fully. It also emphasizes spiritual and emotional aspects, and may include brief chanting at the beginning or end.
You also may hear of “dance” yoga or just “gentle” yoga. Even prenatal yoga classes are available, as is “Yogalates,” a popular combination of yoga and Pilates.
Many studios teach a combination of styles, either within the same class or in separate classes. And some teachers create their own methods. The ancient teachings of yoga, which is considered to be a philosophy, a science, and an art, always send a worthwhile message to our modern lives.