By Anne Richter Arnold , Take It Outside
For most practitioners of yoga, the setting is a fitness center or at home. But like most any form of exercise, yoga can be easily done outdoors as well. You may find a tranquil hilltop to practice your poses, but what about incorporating yoga in getting there? Combining yoga poses with mindful hiking using yogic principles is what Yoga Hiking is all about. This form of yoga practice is catching on all around the country. Here in the Woodstock area, yoga instructor Amanda Anderson is leading the way, literally, with weekly or biweekly guided Yoga Hikes at various scenic locations that meld the yogic principles with the natural environment for a new and inspirational way to experience this ancient practice.
Amanda Anderson (‘Miss Amanda’) started practicing yoga in 2000 as a way to help cope with depression and found it helped her tremendously. She lived in New Orleans at the time, and after Hurricane Katrina she felt that people in her flooded neighborhood could benefit from yoga as she did. She started teaching friends and neighbors using donated mats and enjoyed the experience so much that she participated in a teacher training program in Italy. The training got her involved in the discipline of meditation and yoga practice of Vinyasa Flow.
Miss Amanda moved to Vermont in 2011 with the idea of writing her memoirs, not necessarily teaching yoga. Like many who come here she stayed because she loves to be outside and enjoys exploring the trails and woods. She read an article about yoga hikes and felt that it was something that would work really well in Woodstock, so she hiked into the Amity Pond area, went out onto the trail and experimented with it. She enjoyed the experience and started doing a few yoga hikes with friends. The concept soon caught on, so she expanded her hikes to the public on her own and through her association with Twin Farms.
Miss Amanda comments: ‘It is such a treasure to be in the woods in Vermont because it is so quiet and still. You can experience nature fully.
In the yoga hikes the aim is to guide the students toward identifying with the various elements, earth, wind, fire and water, through poses and locations on the hike that correspond to the elements. You can talk abstractly in a yoga studio about the natural elements, but outside you can really connect with that yoga philosophy.’
She chooses locations logistically that make for great hikes, but also to provide an experience for the group that incorporates the various natural elements. Along the hike she chooses spots for “yoga breaks,” places to interact with the woods, like doing downward dog on log. Her goal is to inspire new students to keep doing yoga as well as to create a spiritually inspiring experience for those used to practicing in the studio.
Miss Amanda’s two-hour Yoga Hikes are appropriate for beginners with little or no yoga experience as well as those who already practice yoga. The hikes focus on the core and using yogic principles as you move along the hike. Portions of the hike are done in silence to enhance the aspect of mindfulness and to focus the mind on one aspect of the hikes, perhaps the sound of birds in the woods or the wind in the trees.
Yoga is something that can be done not just inside on a mat barefoot, but on a hill in hiking boots. Whether it be a serene body of water or beautiful vista, practicing yoga outside creates a completely different feel than the one inside and adds an additional dimension for practitioners. In your own practice you can incorporate yoga and its principles on hikes, doing poses outside, meditating and having a focal point to train the mind. Most poses can be done in hiking boots outside and in most seasons if dressed appropriately. There are several resources online, like yogajournal. com, and in yoga literature that can help you start on your path. If you’d like to have guidance, both for good hiking locations as well as the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga, a group Yoga Hike is something to try. Whether on your own or with a guide, you’ll see nature and yoga in a completely different way, and maybe want to continue to ‘take it outside.”
For more information on Miss Amanda’s Yoga Hikes go to innerliftyoga. com for a schedule, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 352-4813.