Traveling for mental health

February 7, 2013

Asia, Personal Growth, Travel

Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” popularized the concept of women leaving behind their daily lives in search of lost passions and meaning. While the idea may be a bit cliche, there is a great deal of value to be gained by traveling for the purposes of mental health and clarity.

Asia is a particularly attractive place to go for those looking to reclaim their health and zen.

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For many, India is the obvious place to go for such purposes. Those seeking spiritual nourishment through yoga can find a plethora of ashrams where they can practice and study under skilled teachers who will help them develop and expand their personal practices.

For many, yoga is a pathway to not only personal enlightenment, spiritual insight and physical health, but a means of sharing their knowledge and passion with the world. There are also teacher courses that are physically demanding but prepare yoga practitioners to go into the world and share with others.

Meditation is known to be a nourishing and healing practice for many who have practiced it, and India offers many opportunities for learning this as well. Of course, there are many different styles of meditation and it is important to discern which will be most beneficial to you.

Vipassana retreats tend to be quite popular among Western travelers, though they can prove more physically and emotionally demanding than beginners especially anticipate. These types of retreats are held in India and other parts of Asia, as well, particularly in Thailand. They typically involve extended periods of silence with no contact or communication with fellow participants or the outside world. Some travelers who have completed a Vipassana retreat have reported having an emotional breakdown in the middle of a course, and struggling with the hours of sitting in a meditative state without being allowed to talk, read or otherwise break their concentration.

Thailand also has a wealth of meditation and yoga retreat opportunities. Agama Yoga on Koh Phangan is a popular school for foreigners seeking to develop their yoga practices surrounded by the natural beauty of the Thai islands. In the northern part of the country is New Life Foundation, a center for people recovering from addiction or simply seeking to make changes in their lives. Volunteers and residents are invited to participate in regular yoga and meditation sessions, and the emphasis here is on mindfulness and awareness.

Planning a journey for the sole purpose of clearing the mind, regaining focus and purpose, and finding one’s center are all worthwhile. Travel can be exhilarating but also exhausting and sometimes it’s worth it simply to schedule time away to allow yourself to be and cultivate your own energies.

Of course, you don’t have to travel around the world to create these opportunities. There are many resources online that will help you start journaling, meditation, yoga and self-care practices right in your own home.

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