Yoga for Hikers: Hiking Mindfully

Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience.  It isn’t more complicated that that.
~Sylvia Boorstein

Shoulder stretch yoga at the trailheadYour backpack is loaded with water, snacks, and the safety equipment you will need for your hike. You have been practicing yoga as part of your conditioning, and you just did a quick sequence at the trailhead to warm up before you head out. There’s one last question to ask: Are you here?

Being present will not only keep you focused on where you are putting your feet, it also opens a new world on the trail. When you hike mindfully, you will see more, hear more, and be aware of nature. After all, why hike if not to explore the wilderness?

Walking Meditation

For three to five minutes during your hike, walk slowly and deliberately, taking note of everything that is going on while you move.  Listen to the sound of your breath.  Feel the air move around you.  Feel your muscles expanding and contracting as you step.  Notice your weight shift as you lift one foot and then the other.  Feel the ground under your feet.  With practice, you can build up your walking meditation to longer times.

Take It All In

Observe your surroundings very closely.  Try to use as many senses as possible (taste, touch, hearing, smell, sight).  Smell the flowers.  Listen to the bird songs.  Touch the bark of the trees.  Taste the air.  Watch for small animals darting away.  Practice using all your senses for ten to twenty minutes while you hike. Eventually it becomes habit.

Tread Lightly

Help keep the Adirondacks, or wherever you are hiking, beautiful and wild with these tips.

  • Stay on the trail.
  • Walk single file to avoid widening the trail.
  • Be considerate of others.
  • Speak softly or not at all, except in emergencies.
  • If you must hike with music, use ear buds.
  • Keep your pets under control and pack out pet waste.
  • Comply with all signs and respect barriers.
  • Avoid sensitive habitats such as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams.
  • Keep your distance from any wildlife you encounter.
  • If you pack it in, pack it out again.

 

Awake in the Outdoors

Chalis Pond, North Hudson, NY

Chalis Pond, North Hudson, NY

We are finally seeing spring in the Adirondacks. When my son and I went for a hike today the temperature was sneaking past 70 degrees and the sky was bright blue. We followed a short trail into a pond, then sat at the edge and watched tadpoles and baby fish play in the water.

My son is starting to experiment with creative writing, and is often trying to imagine settings for his made-up stories. While we sat by the water, I suggested he try noticing as much as he could about the place where we were, to get an idea of the details that make a setting imaginable for others. So we sat, and we looked, and we listened. We even smelled and felt.

How often do we get lost in our thoughts and overlook all the small details of where we are? How much do we miss? What would life be like if we took the time to stop and notice? What if we were truly awake to every moment?

Sitting by the edge of the pond, we woke up. We watched the water ripple in the breeze. We saw the bigger ripples left by surfacing fish and the V’s left by water bugs skating by. We watched the light dance in the leaves of the trees. We saw birds and clouds above and below, reflections in the water. We took in the frayed edges of tiny leaves just uncurling from their buds.

We heard the songs of birds, some melodious, some chattering. We heard the muffled voices of two fishermen floating in canoes across the pond. We heard the splash when a fish jumped.

We felt the warmth of the sun and the cool of the breeze. I smelled pine and decaying leaves. My son smelled my deodorant. (I suppose that could have been worse.)

I struggle to meditate with my eyes closed, focusing on my breath. My mind wanders. But out there by the pond, open-eyed, I found the calm awareness that I look for on my meditation cushion. My meditation is to become fully awake, in the outdoors.

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