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Photo courtesy of Baron Baptiste 

In honor of National Yoga Month, we caught up with one of leading men in the yoga world, a man who has transformed the face of modern yoga in America — Baron Baptiste. A global force on the scene for the past 2 decades, Baptiste is a yoga teacher, trainer, best-selling author and speaker. He was destined to be a yoga pioneer: His parents opened the first yoga studio in San Francisco in 1955, and he started practicing yoga at the ripe age of 12.

Founder of the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute and creator of Baptiste Yoga, he has built his own brand of power yoga — a vigorous style of yoga seeking to transform the mind as well as the body — that’s one of the most popular practices in America. From teaching war veterans to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Baptiste strives to make yoga accessible and empowering to all, without new-agey mysticism.

Find out how the busy but serene yogi became a yoga icon, how he takes his practice on the road and what he’d be doing if he weren’t a yoga teacher. Hint: It’s still just as Zen.

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No matter where you are in September — at home or on the road — you can celebrate National Yoga Month all over the US. Thousands of studios across the country are participating in National Yoga Month and offering a free week of yoga. This is a perfect time for newbies who want to see what all the fuss is about or for Vinyasa veterans to try out a new studio. (See which studios in your area are participating at yogahealthfinder.com.)

We caught up with traveling yogi Kelly Newsome, owner of Higher Ground Yoga, a boutique yoga and wellness practice in Washington, DC. Newsome teaches simple self-care strategy and private yoga so that busy professionals can take their yoga — and wellness practices — with them no matter where they go.

Check out our Q&A with Newsome, who shares her tips for practicing yoga on the road.

 

Traveling Type: How can people take their yoga (beginning or advanced) with them on the road?

Kelly Newsome: My clients travel constantly, especially for work, and their biggest challenge is staying committed to their practice when their schedules change. To combat this, I give them 3 easy ways (“the 3 Cs”) to stay on track:

No. 1, calendar it! Put 5 to 15 minutes of yoga practice in your physical schedule. If possible, practice in the morning before the day kicks in (but a few restorative poses before bed are great, too). You can always add on more time, but you’re more likely to succeed if you shoot for consistency, not duration.

No. 2, create a super-simple sequence. Don’t try to create that amazing Vinyasa flow series you took a couple of weeks ago with your favorite teacher, or worry about having the perfect playlist or even your special yoga clothes. Instead, start with a few rounds of sun salutations to warm up, then add 3 to 5 favorite poses that you simply, slowly open into. Hold them for a few breaths to deepen their effects. Eliminate unnecessary distractions. Just move, and be in your body. Inhale. Exhale.

Finally, carry a travel yoga mat with you. You don’t actually have to have a mat to practice, but it does make postures easier (hotel towels aren’t as easy to use as you might think — I’ve been there). Plus, not only does a simple travel mat keep your feet and hands from slipping, it can also serve as a valuable visual reminder. Roll it out next to your bed when you arrive at your destination, and let it be your cue to start stretching!

Kelly Newsome practicing yoga in Indonesia.

What are the benefits of combining yoga with traveling, in your opinion?

First, yoga is a perfect complement to traveling because it grounds you, whereas travel actually shifts the ground right from under you! In yoga, you practice conscious awareness of your feet on the earth, the relationship of your body to space, the minute details of the physical environment (for instance, with a gaze point or “drishti”). When my clients are traveling, they’re speeding through time (whether on a train, airplane, car, etc.) and their heads spin, but yoga helps keep their senses from skyrocketing.

Second, traveling can be tough on your physical body because so much sitting is involved — my clients always have grumpy hips, back and shoulders. But yoga’s perfect for that. Its history even tells us that poses were specifically designed thousands of years ago to help meditating yogis sit comfortably for longer periods of time! Many postures take care of those common problem areas.

Third, yoga is low maintenance and available worldwide. I always remind my clients that they really only need their bodies (and, if possible, their travel mats). They use our private podcasts while traveling, but you can find classes just about everywhere these days. Even if you don’t have a physical teacher nearby, though, instruction is available online, by podcast, phone apps or magazines and books you can toss in your bag.

Where are your favorite places to practice yoga away from home?

I’ll pull out a mat anywhere! Still, most of the time my mat stays in the comfort of my home, near my sanctuary table and the fireplace (yep, I even turn it on in the summer — it’s like India!). I also love going to classes in my old home where I did all of my training: New York City. My all-time favorite practice was in Indonesia, though. I was volunteering at an ashram, teaching kids yoga, and they had this massive, dark grey stone plank that jutted out into the middle of the ocean. I went out one evening with my mat and my camera, and saluted the sunset for hours.

Why is September’s National Yoga Month a good time for beginner (or advanced) yogis?

September is a month that symbolizes new beginnings. Nearly all of my clients, for instance, have children starting the school year. It’s a time of possibility and fresh, crisp energy!

Kelly Newsome owns Higher Ground Yoga, a boutique wellness practice in Washington, DC,  for busy women. Her business story has been featured in Bloomberg Law, and the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling book, The $100 Startup, and she was voted as one of the top 3 yoga teachers by the Washington City Paper’s “Best of DC 2013.”  Before her wellness work, Kelly was a business attorney and, in between careers, she spent time traveling, eating, consulting, riding elephants and teaching her yoga craft in Cambodia, Indonesia, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. 

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Wanderlust festival in Whistler

Photograph by Ali Kaukas

Need another reason to love September? In addition to Indian summer weather, back to school (shopping) and fall weekend getaways, September is National Yoga Month. Celebrate by visiting one of the thousands of studios and organizations all over the country that are offering free yoga classes and events, many of which are outdoors (so you can enjoy the Indian summer while you’re saluting the sun).

Don’t worry if you aren’t a Vinyasa veteran, these events are open to all levels and are the perfect introduction for newbies to experience all the mind and body benefits of yoga, including bringing people together all over the world. READ MORE

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