I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment, dear reader, in a post that may seemingly have nothing to do with yoga at first, but which I assure you will come back around at the end.
Mental health is a huge issue in our country right now. Just turn on the nightly news and you will see story after story referencing it directly or indirectly. It’s influenced by our society as a whole, our daily interactions with others and our own personal inner landscape. What I personally observe is that many of us have not been taught coping mechanisms to manage our mental health struggles. Yoga certainly gives us a great toolbox of coping mechanisms. But I’ve written before about how yoga may not be enough to see us through our own personal mental health struggles. Today I want to offer another idea that might help you and also gives you an opportunity to join me in helping others.
That idea is taking a walk in the woods.
It’s only in the last several years that I’ve truly realized how important the outdoors are to me. It’s a love that was instilled at a young age. I grew up playing in the back yard making mud pies and being outside in our rural area. My Dad has been an avid outdoorsmen all his life and brought me up to love it just as much. He had me on cross-country skis as soon as I could walk. We went camping on a fairly regular basis when I was a kid and created some great memories like “steak on a stick” and “what do you mean I have to kneed the peanut butter?!”. We went on hikes from time to time and enjoyed our local state park.
As I grew older and pursued my educational and career dreams the call to more urban areas took me away from the rural life I knew. But as I like to say, “You can take the country girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the country girl”! Now living in Manchester, NH I find myself with the best of both worlds; living in the city but a short drive from everything the country side and especially the amazing White Mountains have to offer.
Yoga is a practice of self knowledge. It’s only through my yoga practice that I have continued to explore what it is I really need in my life to help me with the ups and downs of the day to day. It’s that mindfulness that recently lead me back to camping and also hiking.
And hiking has totally captured me in the last few years. A fascination with the Appalachian Trail years in the making found me starting the ATC 14 state challenge last fall, taking my first hike in my home state of NY with my Dad. I’ve since completed hikes in 7 states including climbing Mount Katahdin on July 9th, 2018 - a feat that took 15 hours and was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. And so, so, SO worth it! I’m working on NH’s 52 With A View list and hope to climb my first 4000 footer in NH before the end of the year.
What has hiking given me? Confidence in my physical and mental abilities. Another form of mediation (when I’m out there, nothing else exists). A deeper understanding that we are all connected. Less back pain. Stress relief. Great memories. Freedom. Clarity. Happiness.
And a coping mechanism. When the swirling of my mind and the news in our country is more than I can handle I go outside and I see that there is still beauty in the world. That the cycles of nature are still running. That there is something still to love and embrace. That there is still something worth fighting for. And that this is not the end of the road. The cycle of rebirth will happen again.
So this month, I decided to put my love of hiking to good use by supporting an amazing charity called Hike for Mental Health. Eighty percent of the hike donations provide grants that enable scientific research and fund programs aimed at alleviating suffering from mental illness. Twenty percent of the hike donations support preservation of wilderness trails. Those are amazing numbers in my mind. Did you know that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. 87% of their life is indoors, then another 6% of their life in automobiles. No wonder we are disconnected and loosing our way as a society! We need to get out there to remember what it means to be part of the natural world so we can care enough to preserve it for the future of all beings.
So I’m challenging myself to walk 100 miles outside and raise $500 in the month of October. As people always say, no donation is too small. If you can’t donate, please share my page with anyone you think might be interested in supporting me. And if you’re local, come walk outside with me this month! I’d love to have company as I do my best to stay motivated towards my goals!
Most of all, I hope you take a little time this month to go outside yourself and enjoy the spectacular fall we get to enjoy here in New England. Take a moment to notice how you feel afterward. I’m willing to bet you’ll notice a transformation not unlike coming to a yoga class.
P.S. Would you be interested in the studio offering more opportunities to combine yoga and the outdoors? Leave me a comment or send me an email and let me know! Thank you!
Disclaimer: Not all yoga poses are suitable for all persons. Please consult with your health care provider and obtain full medical clearance before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. The information provided in this blog is strictly for reference only and is not in any manner a substitute for medical advice or direct guidance of a qualified yoga instructor.