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For many years, my yoga asana practice was mostly confined to New York City gyms and studios, while hiking was reserved for the trails. But after taking a few outdoor yoga classes in cool city locations like Central Park—and surviving a yoga festival in Vermont—I was reminded how yoga asana and breathing practices can be integrated in many places, including on hikes. And in recent years, as Practice Editor at Yoga Journal, these two worlds have connected in delightful ways.
In retrospect, it makes sense that the threads of my active lifestyle would eventually intertwine. My dad has been an enthusiastic hiker since he was a young man, and family hikes with him, my stepmom, and my two younger sisters in Colorado and New Mexico clued me into the beauty and wisdom of the backcountry, even as I lived and worked in an urban environment.
I’d often lead the family in post-hike, yoga-based recovery stretches when we returned home. Within a few years of hiking on family vacations, I found myself escaping the city to hit the trails in upstate New York (and beyond), often with yoga friends. While on hikes, I frequently enjoyed organic stretching breaks. My friends typically joined in, and sometimes we’d even find a quiet place off-trail to meditate. Outdoor yoga practice made me realize just how much nature amplifies my yoga practice. Hiking helped me understand how yogic these experiences are for me. There’s a yoga to hiking: a focus on the breath, a deep presence, and an attunement to one’s body and to nature that I experience as deeply meditative.
These adventures inspired a teaching colleague and I to start hosting yoga and hiking retreats in Telluride, Colorado. Four years after the first Telluride retreat, a job opportunity at Yoga Journal facilitated my enthusiastic relocation to the Centennial State—a place I’d fallen in love on those long-ago family visits—just two months before the pandemic hit. Now, with quick and easy access to an abundance of trails, I turn to YJ’s sibling publication, Backpacker, as my go-to resource to inspire all my outdoor adventures.
As a yoga teacher who often combines yoga and hikes in events and retreats, all I need to do is check out Backpacker‘s Instagram feed, website, or flip through the latest edition of the magazine for motivation, gear info, and everything I need to know to become a smarter, better-informed hiker—and to navigate the outdoors with more grace and respect for nature’s power and beauty.
Living somewhere I can hit the trails almost any day of the week has provided a huge blessing, as has having trail-savvy colleagues and resources I can easily connect with. We’ve even collaborated in the past year, when I got to teach hiking-centric yoga classes for virtual Backpacker events. I love it when worlds collide in the most harmonious ways.
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Bria Tavakoli is Yoga Journal’s Practice Editor.