Anxiety and depression affects everyone in different ways and with that, there are multiple ways to combat it. Yoga and travel can have positive effects on your mental health. One person with vast experience on this is Aimee Lou.
Aimee has clocked up over 400 hours of yoga and meditation training in India and Thailand, has a Diploma in Advanced Holistic Nutrition, as well as being a Reiki level 2 practitioner and completing a yoga trek in Nepal.
If anyone can advise on the impact that yoga and travel can have on anxiety and depression, then it is Aimee.
Here are some reasons why Aimee combined yoga and meditation when on the road while suffering from depression and anxiety…
I used to suffer crippling anxiety and through changing my lifestyle and reprogramming my mind and body, my life has changed completely for the better.
My yoga and travel journey started when I visited an Ashram in Goa, India in 2015.
My holidays and travel always involved sight seeing and spending time in bars and clubs drinking and partying. My journeys would often be a day sightseeing and exploring, a night getting drunk and a hangover day on the beach the next day.
This obviously took its toll on my anxiety, drinking, although at the time is fun, just takes the fun and energy out of the next day.
It often made me feel crippling anxiety the next day…
A racing heart and feeling in the state of ‘fight or flight’.
This isn’t how you want to spend your time. We are all guilty of this in times of our life.
I had started practising yoga regularly and decided that I would check out an Ashram, just to see what it was like. It was one of the best weeks of my life and transformed my life for the better. It inspired me in so many ways… I guess that was the catalyst that lead me to where I am now. Focusing on yoga and meditation whilst travelling the world to be dedicated to deepening my practice.
With a structured day, including early morning meditation, healthy vegetarian ayurvedic food, challenging and relaxing yoga and a calming, positive environment with inspiring people with similar beliefs from all over the world, this was a week I will never forget.
It made me realise so much about life and the way I was living . After this trip, every holiday since has had yoga and meditation intertwined into it. Often opting to visit retreat centres, ashrams and places with good yoga centres near by so I can practice daily whilst abroad.
Here are some of the things I found helped me to heal whilst abroad, helping to deal productively with anxiety and enabling me to bring these skills back home with me, use them where ever I am in the world and pass them on to you.
Are you looking for alternative ways to combat anxiety and depression? Here are 9 reasons why yoga and travel can combat anxiety and depression.
– 9. It’s a Safer Way to Travel –
When you book on to retreats, into ashrams, or plan to stay near a centre where you can dedicate to practice, most places will organise collections for you from the local airport or ferry port (or help you with this). It doesn’t seem so daunting and scary, I found this very beneficial in my first visit to Goa and Rishikesh.
Yogis tend to be some of the most friendly and kind people and if you go to a good place they will really look after you. Teachers or staff members are often available to chat to via social media and whatsapp when you are booking your trip, so that you can have piece of mind.
– 8. It Opens Your Mind & Heart –
“Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhaha – Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mindfield”
Patanjali – Yoga Sutras, 1.2.
When you travel and focus on yoga and meditation, you are experiencing the external world and absorbing other ways of life, cultures and having new experiences whilst focussing on working on the internal also. It allows you to absorb everything and it has a magical effect by changing how we view the world.
You notice more how wonderful the world is and become kinder and more compassionate. You will have your eyes opened to different spiritual practices… like native-american hot rock steam ceremonies, Reiki or some other more ‘out there’ practices (if you’re intrigued, go stay in Sri Thanu on Koh Phangan for a month and all will be revealed!).
I find I notice others pain more and can rationalise why people behave the way they do. When we open up more, and focus internally, we really create space in our hearts and out minds to heal and when we do, we realise so much more about people, life and the world.
A lot of holy men say you can find all the answers to anything by just turning our focus internally.
When we focus on this and have a more still mind, a whole new magical world opens up to us.
– 7. No distractions –
When you travel to practice and dedicate your time to your own well-being you are in a setting where you aren’t distracted by hustle and bustle, alcohol, cigarettes, pubs, bars, clubs, or anything else that isn’t good when delving deeper into practice.
When you practice the tools of meditation day in day out, for an extended period of time, your ability to stay in that zone increases massively. You give your mind the chance to start to rewire thought patterns and neurons, your body learns to sit in stillness for longer and doing this in a group atmosphere means you absorb the positive energy and vibes of others participating.
You are around people on similar journeys, who tend to be more empathetic to your aims and goals and are really supportive. Its good to be around people who are like-minded, open minded and supportive in an environment that facilitates healthy living, well-being and healing. Usually, when travelling to these places, the scenery is beautiful also.
Most leave their wi-fi off and spend their free time chatting on the beach with a coconut, or drinking chai around a campfire.
Or something where distractions don’t come into play. It really helps with the aims of what you’re looking for and opens your eyes to being able to socialise without those things triggering anxiety.
Your mind and body adapt and start to get conditioned so your yoga practice will improve. Practising every day may feel sore at first, but your body soon adapts and you will be amazed at how your body and mind change in such a short period of time.
When you gift yourself this time in life, it really allows you to focus on yoga, meditation and incorporating this into having a regular practice back home, or where ever you are. It also allows the time to learn more about why we practice yoga, meditate and to learn more about philosophy, especially in India, or Thailand, Nepal etc… the local teachers are often very keen to teach you more about their culture, philosophies, history, which can really aid your practice and its really interesting!
– 6. Visit Places You Normally Wouldn’t –
I visited Rishikesh this year and had such an amazing time, not only did my practice develop greatly, I had some amazing experiences with people I will never forget. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would dare venture to Northern India by myself, but although I pushed myself out my comfort zone, I never felt unsafe and had an amazing time.
By pushing your comfort zone, you are able to challenge perceptions and experience many more cultural experience, such as the Holi Festival (the festival of colour) in Rishkesh. The festival in the foothills of the Himalayas is an unforgettable experience and it is experiences such as these that you get by pushing your comfort zone.
Yoga trekking in Nepal is a great way to combine trekking with travel, yoga and meditation. In addition to yoga and travel, other forms of exercise are a great way to boost your mental health. Additionally, Seeing the Himalayas in all their glory is a very emotional experience. Maybe Goa could be something you’d consider? Yoga retreate´s with beautiful sunsets.
Of course there is the crazy infamous Koh Phangan where yoga and meditation is blended with all weird and wonderful spiritual practices and the best beach parties.
With so many amazing places in the world, there is no limit to where your practice can take you… if you’ll let it. Practising in these places with well learned teachers will teach you new skills and allow you to deepen your practice to take home with you, or where ever you are in the world.
– 5. Dedication to Yoga Practice –
With taking time out, whether it be a week, a month, or a lifetime… it allows you to be dedicated to the practice, without other distractions getting in the way.
When you put your practice 1st you allow yourself the time to put yourself first and focus on your health and well-being. There is a reason we get told to put our own life jacket on, or our own breathing mask on an aeroplane on first… this is because before we can help others, we must help ourselves.
When you put your own health, physical, mental and well-being first you are much more able to help others.
It is really important to have a dedicated practice, the goal of yoga is to still the mind and if not dedicated, dipping in and out doesn’t allow the mind and body to change. It is in repetition that the mind and the body can become conditioned to change. The more you practice, witness and experience this yourself… the more inspiration you get to keep up a regular practice.
You tend to catch more sunrises too…
– 4. Focus on Nutrition –
When you practice you will probably notice a lot of people talk about plant based nutrition… veganism… vegeratianism… fruitarians… breatharians and all these other crazy things… which maybe, aren’t so crazy when you start to practice.
We literally are what we eat, our bodies use vitamins, minerals , proteins, carbohydrates and other compounds from our food to literally re-build our bodies from a cellular level. What we eat is super important for our health, emotional and physical.
When you visit these places, there is a wealth of healthy, nutritious, plant based food and vast diverse sources of information where you can learn about how to incorporate these diets into a more healthy lifestyle. It inspired me to make big changes in my life and I have not met anyone on my travels who hasn’t made changes to their diet from their experiences in yoga…
– 3. Meet Like-Minded People –
Some of the best conversations I have had in life have been sat around the dinner table (or on the floor to eat dinner!), drinking chai around a fire or watching the sunset on a beach in Thailand or Goa.
The beauty when you venture out to these places is that you realise there are a lot of like-minded people going through similar struggles and journeys just like you.
Most when on this journey don’t want to party hard all the time and see the beauty in stepping back, socialising and enjoying parties, sunsets and life with a coconut or a slow-pressed juice, or maybe a cup of green tea.
When I realised, I can still dance and have a good boogie without the need for alcohol, it was liberating.
The beach parties are amazing on Koh Phangan and most are fuelled by coconut water and cacao.
Its brilliant to realise there are many like minded spiritual crazy folk just like you in the world, I often find I make bonds with people very quickly abroad and make friends for life!
– 2. Meet Inspiring Teachers –
The Yoga teachers are some of the most inspiring people that you will come across. They often inspire you to change your own life for the better. I am grateful to every teacher I have had who has taught me and given me the tools to help me heal , to develop my practice so much and given me confidence to make the changes I needed to make in my life to be happy.
You too will have the opportunity to meet inspiring teachers through yoga and travel
– 1. Facilitate Healing & Wellbeing –
Looking after yourself doesn’t become a chore anymore, its actually fun. You will make friends for life, in some of the most beautiful, spiritual and relaxing places in the world whilst learning so many life changing things that will help you all through your life!
So as you can see… the benefits of combining yoga and travel are immense, it allows us to learn new skills, experience different cultures, make new friends from all over the world, deepen our practice and gives us more confidence to venture further in the future, in life, in travel and in mind body and spirit!
With memories and teachings that will last a lifetime and will stay with us where ever we are in the world.
Do you plan to go away to practice? Any retreats or places interest you? Have you been anywhere inspiring that should be on my list? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂
About The author:
Aimee is a Yoga, Meditation and Move It or Lose It! teacher in located in Middlesbrough, England, UK.
To find out more, visit www.amalateesside.com