Yoga Outdoors – Not just for the beach!
The early yogis came to understand and connect deeply with the universe through their deep practices often held outdoors. How can we, through our yoga experiences, find deep connection? Try a yoga hike.
First things first, what exactly is a yoga hike? Come along for a glimpse into the movement, connections, and poignant pauses that make up a yoga experience on the trail!
Yoga pants and hiking boots: A mixture of curiosity and anticipation fills the space as Katie introduces herself and the hike ahead. Unlike your studio practice, the yoga hike is a social!
Pause: Katie takes us to a spot only a few hundred yards into our walk where we pause. She gives us some practical instructions: look out for rocks, large sticks, find a level (enough) place. She guides us through a few stretches and balance poses being sure to suggest a nearby tree for support if needed! As she does, she subtly directs the gaze to the sky, to the trees, to the earth underfoot and we become aware of our practice in a new way.
Conversations: We’re now on our way, walking and talking; it’s a beautiful trail with just the right amount of incline to get us warm; she’s chosen a perfect place to take yoga into the woods and the feeling is good. The light is golden and reflects off the bark of the trees newly shed of their leaves.
Eyes open: At this particular location, there are some cliffs overlooking valley below and it’s beautiful! From an overlook we can see the river winding it’s way through a valley. She shares a bit about the geography and ecology of the area. There’s a roost of vultures nearby and we watch them watching us!
Making Connections: Resuming our walk, we fall into a comfortable rhythm. For me, I’m happy with my own thoughts on the trail. Others are clearly enjoying the opportunity to chat get to know one another. The feeling is light now and everyone seems to be settling in to the pace and the surroundings.
Practice Time: We descend for awhile until the landscape levels off and Katie again asks us to find a spot free of (obvious) rocks and sticks. We scatter amidst the trees and dried leaves of late autumn. This is asana in the woods! At first I’m tentative, wondering whether the conditions will be too much for my already challenged balance. Instead, I find it exhilarating to look up in triangle pose at the trees reaching far far byond my fingertips. Despite the odd sensation of damp soil or the leaves that come stuck to my pants with every brush against the earth, the practice is fun, challenging, and satisfying.
Mediations and Movement: From here the hike takes on a different tone.We’re guided to resume our walk in silence. “Bring your awareness to something in nature and walk with a mantra inspired from something you see.” Flexible but often unsteady, I take heart in the trees. I walk breathing in, “I am steady” and breathing out, “I am a tree.” Hiking in step with the mantra, thoughts become less random. Soon it’s only my breath, my feet, and the trees.
Coming to Stillness: Katie has the hike expertly planned. We’re led to a beautiful spot where the trees fall away at the water’s edge. Quietly we transition from our walking meditation and take a seat on one of the large smooth rocks. Katie’s voice is clear but tranquil as she guides us to close our eyes and feel, smell, hear. Eventually, her words trail off as we are invited to go inward for a silent meditation.
Coming Back: When we open our eyes again, it’s to Katie directing our gaze to the water and rocks directly ahead. “Watch how the water and rocks interact.” It’s a perfect transition from inside to outside. Quietly we resume our hike up and out of the valley. As the terrain becomes more challenging and the views more dramatic, the conversation turns lively again. At the top of the steepest climb, we have come full circle.
Cooling sequence: Katie’s full of energy and enthusiasm after the hike. She waits for everyone to gather and catch their breath. We’re reminded to stretch hips and quads with a few poses: Malasana, figure four, a wide legged fold. “Whatever feels right after the walk!”
Reflection: Without sivasana, the yoga hike ends with reflection rather than rest. For me, hiking and yoga are no longer separate. Like a poem, or a dance, the yoga hike has been shaped and guided carefully but as with any yoga experience, in the end it’s entirely yours: beautiful, challenging, and full of possibility.
Check out the amazing opportunities for a yoga get-away this winter with Honor Yoga Retreats!
For more information on retreat options go to Honor Yoga Retreats page.
Tulum, Mexico, January 24-29, 2017 One of the most sought after yoga retreat destinations in the World! Daily yoga and meditation, healthy and delicious meals, yoga inspired eco-tourism amidst the white sand beaches! We’ll even join a Mayan Shaman for a traditional “Temazcal” meditation in a stone igloo sweat lodge!