Fitness Trend ~ Hiking Yoga

hiking_yoga

Explore the outdoors, and socialize, in this unique practice that encourages contemplation — and conversation.

by Sarah Wassner Flynn

Sun salutations under the sun. Tree poses beneath the outstretched limbs of a leafy oak. What could be more grounding than exploring your practice surrounded by the wonders of nature? With hiking yoga you’ll do just that — and get a little cardio boost to boot.

This particular yoga hybrid was conceptualized four years ago by San Francisco entrepreneur Eric Kipp when it dawned on him that both his jobs — yoga teacher, tour guide specialized in California, Alaska, and Hawaii — offered inquisitive minds the opportunity of discovery. They were, in short, perfectly suited to one another. “The goal is to challenge people to explore and be curious about their own local community,” says Kipp. “And to have them question their relationship to nature on a daily or weekly basis.”

Out of the studio, on a grassy knoll, or in a wooded setting, practitioners get a soulful charge two ways, immersed as they are in asana and landscapes. Unlike traditional yoga, a mostly solitary and silent effort, hiking yoga is decidedly social. Conversation is encouraged among yoga hikers. “I want people to have a great time with new friends and old. And to laugh and see their surroundings with fresh eyes,” says Kipp. “When you enjoy your body and nature, the rest will take care of itself.”

But that doesn’t mean you won’t work up a sweat. A typical class entails a 90-minute brisk walk that includes three or four stops at yoga “stations.” The type of practice depends on the teacher — Kipp trains all teachers — and classes are open to all fitness levels and backgrounds. “Hiking yoga is good for the yoga queen who wants to mix a little cardio into her workout, and runners and cyclists who really could use the lengthening and stretching,” says says Kipp.

Classes are currently offered in 13 cities (go to hikingyoga.com to find one near you), and specific sites include Manhattan’s Central Park, eastern waterfront Embarcadero in hilly San Francisco, and the Dreamy Draw Trail in Phoenix. Teachers will provide the mats; students are encouraged to wear sturdy shoes, comfy clothes, and bring plenty of water.

If there are no classes offered where you live, why not explore your own version of this outdoor trend? Venture out on your own, or with some friends, to a local park, or set up your mat on a mountain trail. With so many studies showing that fresh air boosts your mood and energy, why not take your om outside? We think Eric Kipp would approve.

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