Yoga Takes a Hike

Wooded trails and even urban hikes are drawing yogis out of the studio to experience yoga without walls.
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Wooded trails and even urban hikes are drawing yogis out of the studio to experience yoga without walls.

If you're looking for a way to incorporate the great outdoors into your yoga practice there are many options—from yoga on the beach to your own backyard. But if you've never taken your practice outside of the studio walls it can be difficult to imagine.

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Guided yoga hikes offer students the benefits of yoga without the confines of studio walls and lets them explore at the same time. A recent article in the New York Times described it as a yoga fusion that promises the "chance to connect with nature in an urban environment, with stops for yoga along the way." Hiking Yoga, which was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area, began offering hikes in the New York area earlier this year.

It's more than an excuse to get out of the studio. There are a few parallels between hiking and yoga that can enhance both activities.

"Hiking up and down hills vigorously gives you no choice but to engage your breath, no reminders required," says Eric Kipp, founder of Hiking Yoga. "The adrenaline and blood flow opens up your practice--it gives people a chance to see yoga outside the studio culture as well, more permission to do their own thing." Kipp has been teaching Hiking Yoga for three years. He also leads teacher trainings for yoga teachers who want to lead hikes.

Of course, there are challenges that come with practicing in nature, too—finding your footing can be difficult on rocky terrain, while unexpected noises and weather can be distracting. Domonick Wegesin, a yoga teacher who leads hikes in Oakland, California, points out those challenges can be an opportunity for learning. "Yoga is about connecting, and when we connect with the natural world through yoga hiking we get entrained into the ways of nature," he says. "Nature teaches us to go with the flow of our experience, instead of fighting against or avoiding things that come our way."

Have you ever done yoga on a hike? Would you want to?