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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.

 

Yoga for Hikers: Building Strength Between Hikes

The wilderness is healing, a therapy for the soul.
~Nicholas Kristof

Shoulder stretch yoga at the trailheadIf you are new to hiking, getting back into it, or building up to a long hike or backpacking trip, your body will thank you for practicing these yoga poses on days between hikes. This sequence strengthens your hips, low back, shoulders, knees, calves, ankles and feet. Additionally, take fast-paced, aerobic walks, 20 to 45 minutes each, two to three times each week. With adequate conditioning, you can enjoy longer and more difficult hikes, injury-free, for even better summit views.

Warm up with two or three gentle Sun Salutations before moving into these poses.

Downward-Facing Dog

From hands and knees, move your hands forward and lift your hips, straighten your legs and drop your heels toward the ground. Keep your tailbone lifted while stretching up out of your wrists, elbows and shoulders, letting your chest drop toward ground. Relax your neck and gaze at your knees. Hold for two to five breaths as your spine lengthens.

High Runners Lunge

From hands and knees, step your right foot forward between your hands, directly under your bent knee. Curl your left toes under and lift the left knee, straighten your leg and press through the left heel. Lift onto your fingertips and draw your heart forward and up. Look ahead for a breath. Repeat with your left foot forward.

Warrior I

Standing, step your left foot back. Keep your hips squared and angle your left toes forward. Bend your right knee until it lines up with your ankle. Lift your heart and extend your arms overhead. Hold for two to five breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Warrior II yoga pose on the beach

Warrior II

Standing, step your left foot back and turn your hips and torso to open to the left. Turn your left toes toward the left side. Bend your right knee until the knee is directly over your ankle. Lift your arms to shoulder height in the same line as your legs. Gaze over your right fingers and hold for two to five breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Goddess

Stand in a straddle with your toes angled outward. Bend your knees over your toes and, keeping your torso erect, lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Reach your arms overhead, then bend your elbows and lower them to shoulder height. Draw your shoulder blades together to open your chest. Hold for two to five breaths.

Horse

Stand in a straddle with your toes angled outward. Bend your knees over your toes and, keeping your torso erect, lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to ground. Press your hands into tops of your thighs, fingers forward. Lift your shoulders toward your ears as your hips sink lower. Hold two to five breaths.

Chair

Stand with your feet under your hips. Lift your arms overhead. Bend your knees, reach your tailbone back and lift your heart. Hold two to five breaths.

Tree

Stand on your right leg. Bend your left knee and open the knee to the left side. Bring the bottom of your left foot to your right calf (or into your right thigh, provided you can get your toes higher than your knee). Lift your arms overhead. Gaze at a focal point and balance for at least two breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Airplane

Stand on your right leg. Extend your left leg back, as straight as possible, with your left foot flexed. Lower your torso and lift your left leg until both are parallel to the ground. Extend your arms back slightly away from your sides like wings. Gaze at a focal point on the ground slightly ahead of you and balance for at least two breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Plank

From hands and knees, reach your feet back with your toes on the ground and your legs as straight as possible. Keep your shoulders over your hands and reach through your heels. Engage your core muscles to hold your hips in line with your shoulders and heels. Hold at least two breaths.

Cobra

Cobra yoga pose in the grassLay face-down with your chin on the ground, your elbows bent and your hands under your shoulders. Press the tops of your feet into the ground and lift your chin and the top of your chest as high as is comfortable. Relax your shoulders back and reach through the crown of your head. Hold at least two breaths.

Locust

Lay face-down with your chin on the ground, your elbows bent and your hands on either side of your chest. Lift your feet, your chin, and the top of your chest. Keep your gaze at the ground slightly in front of you. Hold at least two breaths.

Boat

Sit with your legs bent and your feet on the ground. Rest your hands on the ground on either side of your hips. Lengthen your spine, lean back slightly, and lift your feet until your calves are parallel to the ground. Lift your hands and reach toward your feet. Hold at least two breaths.

Table Top

Sit with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Bring your hands to the ground slightly behind your hips, fingers pointing toward the hips. Lift your hips off the ground until your body, you’re your shoulders to your knees, is parallel to the ground. Press your arms straight and drop your head back to gaze up. Press your knees forward to lengthen the front of your body. Hold at least two breaths.

Bicycles

Lay on your back with your knees bent over your hips and the lower legs parallel to the ground. Interlace your fingers behind your head and open your elbows to the sides. Keeping your feet flexed, press your right foot forward and straighten that leg while lifting your head and shoulders and twisting your torso to bring your right elbow to the left knee. Return to the starting position, then extend your left leg and bring your left elbow to the right knee. Repeat as many times as desired.

Always end your yoga practice with a final relaxation.

While practicing on your own is good, yoga is awesome in a group. Find some hiking friends and head to your nearest yoga studio for a class. In the Adirondack High Peaks region, join me or another talented teacher at True North Yoga.

Yoga for Hikers: Poses for Coming Down after Hiking Down

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
~Kahlil Gibran

Shoulder stretch yoga at the trailheadYou did some asanas at the trailhead to warm up for your hike, you had a great view from the summit, and made your way down. Now pull off your boots and wind down after by gently stretching your hiking muscles. You’ll get the most benefit from these poses if your muscles are still warm, so, if your hike ends at an Adirondack favorite – a table in the Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley, New York – take a walk or do some gentle sun salutations before you start the poses.

Hero with Neck Stretch

Sit on or between your heels withe your knees parted slightly.  Rest your hands on your thighs and extend your spine.  Take two to three deep breaths.  Keeping your spine extended, drop your head forward and lower your chin to your chest.  Draw your shoulder blades down and release your neck muscles.  Take another two to three breaths.

Cat Rolls

Come onto your hands and knees.  Inhale, tip your tailbone up and lift your head.  Move your heart forward and drop your lower back towards the ground.  Exhale and round your back, lifting the middle of your spine while tucking your tailbone under and dropping your head.  Repeat as many times as you desire.

Child Pose with Foot Stretch

From hands and knees, tuck your toes under and press the balls of your feet toward the ground.  Drop your hips onto your heels, resting weight on the heels to stretch the soles of your feet.  Drop your forehead to ground and reach your arms forward.  Hold, breathing, for as long as desired.

Downward-Facing Dog

downward facing dog yoga on rocksFrom hands and knees, move your hands forward and lift your hips. Straighten your legs and drop your heels toward the ground.  Keep your tailbone lifted while you stretch up out of your wrists, elbows and shoulders, and drop your chest towards the ground.  Relax your neck and gaze at your knees.  Hold for two to five breaths as your spine lengthens.

Upward-Facing Dog

Lay on the ground face-down. Curl your toes under and place your hands under your shoulders.  With an inhale, straighten your arms and lift your torso and thighs. Round your shoulders back, draw your heart through your arms, and drop your pelvis towards the ground.  Keep your low back long and reach up through the crown of your head and back through your heels.

Half Forward Folds

Sit with your right leg extended and your left knee bent out to side with the left foot against the right thigh.  Lengthen your spine, tilt the upper pelvis forward and reach your belly towards your knee. Holding right leg for support, lower your chest towards your leg by pulling the thigh bone deep into your pelvis.  Hold for two to five breaths, then repeat on other side.

Forward Fold

Sit with both legs extended in front.  Extend your torso up and over your legs, lengthening your spine, and tilt the upper pelvis forward.  Hold your legs or feet for support and stay for two to five breaths.

Happy Baby

Lay on your back, pull your knees up towards your shoulders and hold the inside of your feet.  Keep your feet directly over your knees and pull your feet and knees downward while lengthening your lower spine.

Supine Pigeon

Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.  Lift your right foot and place the right ankle on the left thigh, just below the left kneecap, and open the right knee to right side. Keep your right foot flexed.  Hold the back of your left thigh with both hands and draw the left knee towards your chest. Keep your right knee angled away from your body.  Hold for two to five breaths.  Repeat on the other side.

yoga supine twist on rocks in river

Supine Twist

Lay on your back with your left leg extended, and your right knee bent and drawn into your chest.  Hold the right knee with your left hand and extend your right arm out to the side.  Guide your right knee to your left, and lift your right hip off ground while keeping your right shoulder down.  Look towards your right hand.  Hold for two to five breaths.  Repeat on the other side.

Relax and Reflect

Lie flat on your back with your arm and leg muscles completely released.  Close your eyes and rest as long as you desire, enjoying the energy flowing through your body and the memories of the day.