Lauren Imparato, the founder of I.AM.YOU, is known for her groundbreaking yoga classes — her disciples sweat and center to the grooves of a live DJ — as well as her nutrition programs. Her classes drawn thousands around the globe, and she was recently named as one of Athleta’s Top 100 Women in Wellness. She’s also an inspirational entrepreneur, a woman who ditched the trading floors of Wall Street to build her yoga empire — and she’s a friend. I caught up with Lauren over coffee and croissants recently and grilled her on advice for how to mesh a heavy travel load with a healthy lifestyle. Her advice: totally sane and incredibly helpful. Pre-order her first book RETOX to bring her level-headed guidance home on the road with you. - Henley
The kids are napping and I’m stuck in a hotel room. How can I sneak in a workout?
If you have the space, put a yoga video on mute and follow along. There are classes as short as 5 minutes and as long as 60 on the I.Am.You website, so you can adjust your workout to how long nap time will run. If you don’t have access to an internet connection or your laptop, try this: five sun salutes, a chair twist, a forward bend and a shoulder stand. This is a super detoxing, energy reviving routine for when you need to wake up or just need a boost to make it through the afternoon. If you’re hungover and don’t want your kids to know, this will help.
What should I buy in the airport so we can eat healthy and avoid the bad airplane food in-flight?
For kids, go for the hummus pots that you can find in almost any airport kiosk now. That plus a bag of nuts and even raisinettes so they feel like they’re getting the candy but there’s some iron in there. For yourself, just look around. If you try, there’s almost always something healthy, whether it’s a veggie-based sandwich, crudite box or fresh fruit. I’m not a big bar pusher, but the Kind bars and 18 Rabbits brand are good options on the go.
But the best option for everyone is to plan ahead and pack sandwiches. An all veggie sandwich or a slice or two of fresh roasted turkey will stay fresh: use a ratio of ⅔ veggie, ⅓ other. For a fresh salad, go to Sweet Green or another salad spot the night before and order your favorite with the dressing on the side. That way it’s all packaged and you don’t have the extra hassle in the morning.
Packing light is tough for parents already. Do they need to bring a yoga mat, too, to keep up their practice on the road?
No, you don’t need a mat. You can do yoga on the floor, and if you’re staying in a hotel, almost every one has their own yoga mats now that you can borrow. (Editor’s note: both COMO Hotels and Kimpton Hotels, among others, stock hotel rooms with complimentary yoga mats for guests.)
Long haul flight, short-attention span kids: it can test a parent’s sanity. Any suggestions for in-flight wellness?
You’ll look a little weird doing this, but it’s worth it. Lift your arms up, inhale through your nose and exhale strongly, sticking your tongue out (that’s called lion’s breath). Do that three times for energizing. And something as simple as a walk to the bathroom can help. In Tibetan Buddhism, there’s a walking meditation, and it’s scientifically proven that movement with breath affects brain waves in a soothing fashion. Just that walk with a little bit of space can bring you back to center.
You travel constantly for work. What are some of your favorite places?
Madrid, absolutely. It’s a family-friendly city, wide and calm but also chaotic and fun for the adults at night.
You must be a pro at packing by now. What’s in your bag?
A super thin travel yoga mat, two sets of headphones, an iPad but also a paperback book because sometimes those are more enticing and a notebook and pen to jot down ideas. I always bring a bottle of water and a change of clothes in my carry-on because you don’t know what’s going to happen, and a change of clothes can completely change your attitude. I also carry a bottle of perfume in my bag—planes smell—and wear a hoodie so I can tuck myself inside and zone out from the chaos. Plus of course an eye mask and ear plus for overnight flights and a Mophie iPhone charger, which is the size of a business card.
What’s your favorite travel memory from childhood?
I’ll always remember the first time my family went to Madrid. My mom took us to the Plaza Mayor and said, close your eyes, just listen. I could hear that Madrid energy, and I knew instantly that I wanted to become fluent in Spanish and come back to this city.
Most wellness experts don’t embrace food the way you do. What are some of the meals that are worth a flight to reach?
My family also went to Paris when I was a child, and I have these amazing memories of visiting the Musée d'Orsay then eating almond croissants on the Rue Saint-Germain. And then having real Roman pasta for the first time near the Pantheon. Those are the tastes that will always stay with me.
What did you learn from traveling with your own parents, and what would you like to impart to your own family one day?
My parents taught us to soak in every single thing around you, whether it’s how someone’s dressed or how they address you to how the table is set. They always would tell us to look up when we walked down a street to peek into apartments to see the art and how locals lived, and they would make us write down our favorite experience at the end of each day. They taught us how to travel and how to respect all cultures.