How Getting Out of My Normal Habitat Helped Me Reconnect With My Regular Yoga Practice

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My yoga mat first became my happy place in college. I initially got into yoga because of the opportunity to improve my strength and flexibility, but I wound up sticking with it for the mental (and spiritual) benefits. As the demands of school and eventually internships and work ramped up over the years, one things remained consistently true: My time on the mat was mine, a critical time to wind down and reconnect with myself.

And then, the pandemic hit. I became so incredibly sick of working out in the same place where I was doing literally everything else (read: at home), and over time, I lost the connection I once had to yoga. Earlier this year, I made the conscious effort to reintegrate yoga into my routine, but it was still mostly a once-or-twice-a-month thing. Then, this summer, I was offered the chance to visit the newest luxury boutique hotel in Barbados, O2 Beach Club & Spa, for a trip designed to highlight the property's relaxing, laidback spirit—and everything changed.

My room had a balcony that overlooked the rolling ocean waves. It housed two comfy loungers, which luckily left just enough room in between for me to unroll my Jade Travel Yoga Mat ($75). Though the itinerary of my four-day press trip was admittedly full, created to showcase the various offerings of O2 (like snorkeling, Bajan cocktail-making, and a catamaran cruise), I still found myself carving out time for my yoga practice. Every morning, I was on that balcony, loosening any tension left over from the night before while readying my mind and spirit for the day ahead.

I took this trip in June. And ever since I got back, I've found myself doing yoga at a more frequent cadence again—at least three times a week. As it turns out, getting out of my normal habitat was the shakeup I needed to recommit to my regular practice.

A photo of the view from my balcony at the O2 Beach Lounge
A photo of the view from my balcony at the O2 Beach Club & Spa

How travel can help you start or restart a wellness practice

The familiarity of everyday life (especially when you work from home, like I do) can make it tough to implement a new wellness habit, even if it's one you've enjoyed in the past, says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy From Fear. "When we’re stuck in a daily grind, it's often difficult to reset our brains in positive ways."

"In a new environment, the mind and body are ripe for reprogramming, given the absence of unconscious daily routines." —Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist

With travel, however, comes the opportunity to restart a wellness practice in an entirely new environment, where "the mind and body are ripe for reprogramming, given the absence of unconscious daily routines," says Dr. Manly.

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And it certainly can't hurt when that new environment is as naturally wellness-supportive as a beachfront hotel room at a luxury Caribbean resort. What's more, the O2 Beach Club & Spa boasts not only direct beach access, but also, three restaurants, three lounges, three pools, and a new spa—all of which comprised an exciting, rejuvenating change of scenery from my native New York City.

"When we get outside of our regular environment, whether for a long vacation or even a short getaway, we have the opportunity to 'push pause' and mindfully reset," says Dr. Manly, of my instinct to return to yoga and restart this former wellness practice with my travel to Barbados.

The specifics of my locale made it especially easy to do so, too. For starters, there was the spacious balcony, seemingly beckoning to me with its calming ocean view. This time of year, the sun also rises earlier and sets earlier in Barbados than it does in New York, which allowed me to wake up with ease and excitement at 5:30 or 6 a.m. each day—leaving plenty of time for a few flows before the day's activities would begin.

In this setting, starting each day with yoga didn't feel like a chore; just the opposite, it was incredibly grounding, putting me in a clear state of mind that then allowed me to get the most out of all the activities on my agenda. As I moved through the asanas each morning, I felt such gratitude for where I was and what my body could do. It's a feeling that's stuck with me in the weeks since I left O2 and has continued to inspire my weekly wellness routine.

Psychologically, that makes sense, according to Dr. Manly. "When we mindfully embrace time away as an opportunity to create even the smallest of wellness-boosting routines, it’s far easier to implement these positive changes when we return home," she says.

How to maintain a travel-inspired wellness habit at home

I wish I could say that I'm still doing yoga every day, but that is honestly not the case. I aspire to move at least five times a week, and sometimes, I want to do something other than yoga, like Pilates or the viral 12-3-30 workout (and I typically can't find the time for multiple workouts a day). That said, I'm happy with the fact that I've re-upped my yoga practice to a few times weekly, and that I'm now keeping up with this habit in a sustainable, joyful way.

Rather than pushing yourself to maintain any new wellness habit at home with the same frequency as you did while traveling, Dr. Manly suggests celebrating the times that you do embrace this new routine. "Change takes time, so it’s important not to shame or blame yourself as you create new habits," she says. "The more you mindfully embrace and enjoy the positive rewards of your newfound routine, the more likely you are to keep engaging in it."

If you want to make it easier on yourself to stick with it, Dr. Manly also suggests finding ways to create positive visual reminders of your trip. "For example, if you're looking to continue a practice of breathing, stretching, or meditating after engaging in this habit while traveling, hanging a framed photo from your trip can help inspire you to tap into that same sense of bliss when you return home," she says.

The idea is for the trip to kickstart a supportive process of implementing a new habit at home—not for your new routine to become burdensome. "It’s important not to judge yourself if the practice you did while traveling isn’t as easy to maintain at home as you’d hoped," says Dr. Manly. "The goal—as with most things in life—is to take baby steps toward accruing and maintaining the habits that make your life balanced and joyful."

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