25 March 2017

What to Pack on Your Yoga Retreat (or Yoga Teacher Training Program) in India

Before I went to India for the first time for my yoga teacher training, I was a little clueless about what to pack. The bulk my trip I spent at my yoga teacher training and other yoga intensives. My second trip was spent at a prenatal teacher training, and traveling to see friends. And of course, I still didn’t learn, and packed poorly, and oh well. I’ll survive with a heavy poorly packed bag. That’s life, I guess.

Yoga retreats everywhere require slightly different packing lists. Feel free to read this if you’re going somewhere else, knowing that much of what is on here is specific to India.

  • Yoga mat. Most places have mats, but a lot of the time, they’re dirty, falling apart, and/or smell terrible. They’re heavily used. I brought a Jade Travel Mat, and stowed it in a Gaiam bag. The Gaiam bag has two pockets, so I stored mat cleaner and a rag in one pocket, and a strap in the other.
  • Mat cleaner. No one had any but me in my training program, and I was glad to share with my group. You can make your own. Get a small spray bottle and put 10-15 drops of lavender and tea tree oil each. Fill it up ⅔-¾ of the way with water. Top it off with witch hazel. Cap and shake to mix. I brought little bottles of tea tree oil (great also for pimples and bug bites and a good antiseptic) and lavender oil (you can sprinkle it on a dank pillow for a pick-me-up) so you can make more as your trip goes along. I used a very small spray bottle so I used less lavender and tea tree oil and didn’t use the witch hazel when I was on the road.
  • Anything to make your practice special. I like to put my mala beads and a crystal off the corner of my mat to provide focus.
  • Face wipes. I wish I had packed these my first time, when I was sweating like a pig. These would have been nice for times I wasn’t able to wash my face in between practices. You are rushing around a lot, and odn’t always have time for a shower like you’d wish.
  • Sweat towel or bandana. I wish I had packed this. Some training programs provide, but most don’t. If it’s miserably hot like it can be in India, this makes practice easier.
  • Sports bras. Comfy good ones.
  • Yoga tops. Depending on where you are, a sports bra might be all. But bring baggy loose non-revealing short sleeve tops if you are in certain ashrams, and tank tops should work elsewhere. Bring long sleeved shirts for night practice so you don’t become dinner for the mosquitos.
  • Yoga bottoms. Depending on where you are going, shorts might not work. In Goa, shorts were so necessary - it was miserably sweaty grossly hot and short shorts for yoga (I love my Athleta ones) were great. In some ashrams, dress is sattvic….so baggy pants. You can buy the harem-type baggy yoga pants for pretty cheap in India; in some ashrams, even yoga tights are not okay. You will prob sweat a lot and they will be gross.
  • Scarf. It will cover you during savasana, provide coverage if a top you have is a bit revealing, keep you warm, and they’re fashionable in India.
  • A sarong. You can sit on the beach with it, it can work as your top sheet (Many places do not have a top sheet - just a bottom - so if you’re grossed out like I am, a sarong is great), it can be your blanket on a plane, it can be a cover-up. Sarongs are indispensible.
  • A reusable water bottle. While you can’t drink the tap water in India, a lot of places have purified water (for free or for a smaller cost than buying a bottle) that you can fill with your own bottle. You also might buy large botles of water and refill from there.
  • Snacks. Think about things that won’t melt and that will travel well: different bars are great, small, and take up little room in your bag. You can buy things like nuts and dried fruits in many places, but if you’re going to an ashram straight away, you should pack some of these too. Many retreats and yoga centers only have meals at certain times, and you might starve until breakfast, or in between. Also, the food might not be so delicious. Snacks will keep you sane.
  • Melatonin. Helps you sleep at night and helps with jetlag.
  • Sleep mask. Ear plugs. Who is your roommate? Maybe it’s some bugs...just ignore them.
  • A journal to write yoga notes in. For neat sequences, taking notes during lectures, etc.
  • Soap to wash your clothes in. I just use body wash or shampoo, saving on space, but this is critical. A lot of ashrams and yoga centers are in the middle of nowhere. You have to wash your clothes by hand in buckets and hang dry them in the room. Also, it makes more sense to pack only a handful of yoga clothes and wash them repeatedly. With the extra space in your bag, you can buy more mala beads and bangle bracelets.
  • Sunblock and bugspray. You might not need either of these things, but especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’ll appreciate it.
  • Extra soap. You will be showering more than you planned.
  • Any kind of lotions or essential oils that help you relax. Practicing asana for long hours every day is exhausting...Some lavender essential oil mixed with almond oil (carrier agent) will be nice to rub on your wrists before your savasana. Or Tiger Balm for sore muscles can be lovely.
  • Kindle or books to read. While you’re in class nonstop, it might seem, on those rest times, you probably don’t want to be reading yoga texts. Pack something else.
  • Unlocked phone. You can get a SIM card at various phone shops. If you have an Indian friend, they can get you a SIM much faster; otherwise, you might need two passport photos. It depends. But you need an unlocked phone (or you can buy a cheap one).
  • Slip on shoes, ideally flip flops. In India, you can’t enter many meditation halls, restaurants, or shops with shoes on. Flip flops (cheap ones) are best to leave outside in the front. I specify cheap ones because so many people get their shoes stolen...it’s best to not be too attached (aparigraha) to anything, and if you are, leave it at home.
  • An open mind. Not everything in India is as pretty as the pictures. Be prepared for trash, horrid smells, and mind-blowing poverty. But also be ready for kindness and warmth, vibrant colors, diversity, and so much fun.

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