Yoga & Hiking: Complementary Practices for Health and Wellbeing

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I’ve been spending more time hiking in the last couple of years. It doesn’t hurt that I live in this amazing state that has so many beautiful trails to travel and discover. It’s become an important part of my weekly routine and a great complement to my yoga practice. That’s part of the reason Iris and I want to share some yoga and hiking with all of you this summer. If you join us for one of our Yoga and Hiking events or more, here are 5 benefits you might discover.

Legs up the Sign last Summer on Mt. Katahdin. My first 4K footer turned into a 5K footer. Whoops!

Legs up the Sign last Summer on Mt. Katahdin. My first 4K footer turned into a 5K footer. Whoops!

1. Cardio - At Forever Yoga, we tend to focus on yoga not only as physical movement, but a wholistic practice that includes the mind, body and spirit. That’s not to say you won’t find some physically challenging classes here. However, most yoga classes you’ll find here and at other studios and gyms don’t really qualify as cardiovascular exercise.  The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as "any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature." While it may seem like yoga would fit the bill here, especially the vinyasa style that we mostly teach and practice at Forever Yoga, a typical yoga class just isn’t going to raise your heart rate enough and sustain that elevated rate long enough to really qualify. Hiking on the other hand can do just that and if you’re carrying a pack with any weight in it (did you know one liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds?!) you’re definitely going to be keeping your heart rate up for a longer period of time. Balance this with a yoga practice and you’re on your way to a more well rounded fitness routine.

2. Time to disconnect from devices - Technology rules our lives more than ever these days and it’s influencing our health. It’s messing with our sleep patterns, causing physical issues like “text neck”, and may even be causing mental health issues in some people. While you’ll definitely see me using my cell phone to take pictures and even navigate to some degree, being out of cell phone range for a little while can be an amazing way to refresh our tired minds. While our 75 minute yoga class can be a great small break (provided you actually turn the phone and even the watch off), even a day hike can give us a greater opportunity to experience this relief from the everyday pings.

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3. Mindfulness practice - When we aren’t able to respond to every text message right away we create a space and an opportunity to bring ourselves more to the present moment and practice mindfulness. There’s so much to discover out there if you’re paying attention! I can’t tell you how many times I nearly walked by something small like a red eft or a snail but since I was actually in the moment outside I got to see the finer details. If I’m hiking with other people, we get to talk and interact (even if it’s between gasping breaths) in a way that is seemingly so rare these days. What a great way to take what we’re practicing on our yoga mats for 75 minutes off the mat and into our experiences with others for a longer period of time!

4. Letting go of watching the clock - Your yoga class is going to begin and end at a certain predictable time. 99.9% of the things we do in our daily lives are like this and we need that structure in our lives. However, every now and then, to be able to do something without a definite ending time, especially when it’s something we enjoy, can be *so* liberating. I’ll often go out on a hike and tell my husband if I’m not back by dark, that’s the time to worry. I purposely don’t put too definite an end on this time I’m spending with Mother Nature and myself. There is something really freeing about that. If it’s a great day and the weather is amazing and my body feels good I can go for hours. If the bugs are swarming and I forgot to bring enough food and my feet hurt I can go home. There’s a freedom there we don’t often get in our daily lives. It can help us tune back into a more natural rhythm and relieve stress in a way that’s hard to describe.

5. Change of scenery - We all live with a variety of stressors in our lives. Some of these are welcome and others might be more than we’d ever wish for. Sustaining ourselves physically and mentally over the long haul of life requires times to refresh, get a new perspective and look at the world differently. You’re probably going to have a yoga class that you go to on a regular basis at the same location with mostly the same people, but that class will be different in some way every time and that’s a really good micro break. Similarly, hiking can be a good micro break as well. Even if you walk the same trail every day *something* will be different. Being able to notice that change and recognize it can relax your mind and relieve stress in a way similar to your yoga class

These are just a few of the benefits you might find on one of our hiking and yoga classes this summer. I’m sure you’ll find even more reasons once you’re out there. I hope you’ll join us for one or more of these hikes and experience everything that yoga and hiking combined can offer! Sign up for one or more of these classes over on our Schedule page. We’ll see you on the trail!

When yoga isn't enough...

The quote above is one I think of often as I interact with people wherever I am. We all have our moments when we act less than skillfully. The reasons can be many and varied given the day. But sometimes it's not a matter of being skillful or unskillful. Sometimes it's simply a matter of having a very human experience depending on the challenges we are facing in the moment. Yoga gives us some really wonderful tools for navigating life's challenges.

But I'm here to tell you it isn't always enough.

You may be quite surprised to have a yoga teacher tell you that, but I speak from personal experience. Sometimes yoga just isn't enough to get you through. Sometimes there is no amount of breathing, meditation, movement, mindfulness, philosophy, prayer or focusing on the divine that is going to help you make your way through the challenges of the moment. Sometimes it is just so dark and you are so far down that you may not even be able to call upon your steady practice to get you out.

I've been there. And not so long ago.

After I moved the studio to Milford I reached a breaking point. I have battled anxiety and depression since I was 15 years old, so anxiety attacks were not unfamiliar. It was somewhat interesting to me that it happened AFTER the move was done, but about a month later I started having anxiety attacks that were so bad I really thought I might need to go to the hospital because there was something wrong with my heart. Many challenges were conspiring to bring that about at the time. Moving the studio, my first year teaching a teacher training, personal relationship challenges, etc. Sure I used my yogic tools, but they kept happening and they were approaching debilitating. It was time for something else.

Therapy.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I'm observing so many things lately in our world. The stigma around life not being neat and perfect (blame social media if you will but this was happening in the world long before social media). The lack of coping mechanisms we are typically brought up with in this society. The shame that often surrounds needing to ask for help, even from those that are closest to us. This is all a recipe for not only unhappiness, but depending on the severity of the issues, danger.

I'm here to tell you that life can really suck sometimes and asking for help is not a shameful act. It's the greatest act of self love and self care you can do. That doesn't mean it's easy. That doesn't mean it isn't hard, but it is so important.

So, I have a therapist. I speak to her nearly every week. She helps me process what's happening in my life at the moment. She helps me process things from my past. She helps me see that I have choices in every moment. She helps me look at the world differently when things are just too overwhelming to bear. She helps me see how my past colors my present and that when I really look at the dark shadows, I can shed light on them and I can be and feel different in the here and now. She listens to me and helps me understand that yes, I have faced more than my fair share of "stuff" and that I'm not crazy to feel the way I feel sometimes. 

And as a bonus, she knows who Krishna Das is.

Therapy doesn't make me a bad yogi. It makes me a smart one. I knew that I couldn't climb my way out of my anxiety on my own. I knew that it was time to face some of the demons that had been swept under the rug for far too long. I knew myself well enough to reach out when I couldn't solve it myself and THAT is something that DID come from my yoga practice. As Sally Kempton speaks about in this interview, I was lucky enough to have a solid enough practice and enough experience with discernment to know that my pain was doing injury, not helping me grow. Rather than staying with it, it was time to make a change.

If you are struggling with the deep hard things of life, definitely do your practice. But also don't be afraid to ask for help beyond the yoga mat. Call a friend or family member and see if they can talk to you. Maybe you don't even talk about what's bothering you at the moment but you just talk. Maybe that person knows a good therapist. Maybe you call a national hotline. But remember that therapy is out there and while it may take more than one try to find a person that resonates with you, the seeking is worth it. You are worth it. 

If you are local and looking for help and don't know where to begin please check out Milford Regional Counseling Services. I don't have personal experience with them but I've heard good things. If you don't have health insurance they may be able to help.

I wish you peace and a guiding light of hope as you find your way through whatever challenges life is serving you at this moment.

Let's talk about poop!

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💩Let's talk about Poop!💩
 
Ok -- you may think I've finally lost it, but yes, I'm going there today. We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about what we put IN to our bodies as yogis, but how much attention do we pay to what is coming OUT?! Probably not much.
 
But the truth is, you should at least pay attention now and then. And not just when things aren't going the way you wish they would! Turning around after you do your thing could actually be life saving.
 
Many of you have heard me talk about the Stuff You Should Know podcast before. I absolutely love Josh and Chuck and how they help me learn all sorts of amazing things on my drives back and forth to the studio. When I heard this episode, I just had to share it with you. They answer all sorts of questions like:
 
"How many times should I poop per day?"
 
"What should my poop look like?"
 
"When should the appearance of my poop indicate I need to call my doctor?"
 
"What is poop actually made of anyway?"
 
"How can I poop better?"
 
And so many more!
 
They do all this in a fun and humorous way while also presenting facts that you really need to know. I highly recommend giving this a listen!
 
But maybe not during your lunch break... ;)
 
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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.