It seems quite natural during the cresting wave of summer to take ourselves out of the unnatural walls of our indoor environments and into the outdoors, a place where the wild is at play. I believe that includes getting out of the yoga studio! During the warm summer months, we have the unique chance to take our practice into the living, breathing natural world where fresh air and precious stillness are abundant.
Albert Einstein urged us to “look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” The adventure of hiking and yoga is just that, the chance to explore and deepen our yoga practice against the beautiful backdrop of Earth’s endless landscapes. On the trails, nature’s rhythms bleed their way into our own and start to influence the way we move in the world — and the way we move on our yoga mats — which makes hiking and yoga a perfect summer combination.
Planning your yoga hike
Want to plan a yoga hike for yourself, friends and family, or with your yoga class? Here’s how to do it:
Pick a spot
You can plan your excursion one of two ways. The first option is to find a trail that has an area along the trail (or possibly at the peak if you’re climbing a mountain) where you can roll out your yoga mats and practice during the hike. The second option is to find a trail in or near a park or other grassy oasis where you can practice yoga before and/or after the hike. Make sure to select an accessible and easy-to-find meeting spot where people can convene prior to departure.
What to bring:
- Hiking boots or walking shoes, depending on the trail difficulty
- Water bottle
- Yoga mat (preferably a travel yoga mat — they’re light and easy to pack!)
I recommend keeping the props to a minimum. A yoga strap is easy to pack, but bringing blocks probably isn’t practical, especially if you’ll be practicing on uneven ground.
The yoga practice itself should be on the less-intensive side. Hiking is very ‘yang’ — strength building and endurance conditioning — so yoga should serve as the ‘yin’ — calming and soothing. Since it’s hot out, try some cooling yoga poses, such as Moon Salutations, Seated Twists, Shoulder Stand, Bridge Pose and lots of deep stretches.
Depending on your preference and the terrain, you can practice on your mat or directly on the grass. Whichever you choose for the majority of your practice, I suggest at least trying a few poses off your mat to strengthen your connection to the Earth.
The hike provides a unique opportunity to practice Pranayama — breath work. Watch how the inclines and bends on the path change the curves of your breath. Hiking is a form of movement meditation — a body vinyasa and a practice in mindful presence, each breath paired with the movement of your body.
On the trail, the separation between you and the Earth is so thin, with no concrete or pavement to keep the soles of your shoes from touching the ground. I encourage my hikers to notice the sights, sounds and how they feel being outside in the summer air. Focus your concentration on your surroundings rather than on your to-do list or other mental distractions, just appreciating the rocks, branches and your fellow hikers.
Find a yoga hike in your area
The San Francisco–based company Hiking Yoga offers these types of excursions year-round, and they have expanded their bandwidth to reach five other states across the nation. Find more information on their program at hikingyoga.com.
Can’t find anything in your area? Check with your local yoga studios, which often promote individual teachers who put together their own workshops, to see if there are any upcoming hiking and yoga events in your area. Or, find like-minded folks (and maybe a new hiking buddy!) on websites like Meetup.com.
Finally, if you live in Colorado, please join me on my next hiking and yoga adventure Saturday, August 25, 2012. Visit my Facebook community at Nichole Golden Yoga for more details and to sign up.