A little over a year ago I returned from three months of travel in Bali and Australia. The time spent outside of my ‘yogasphere’ proved rich and rewarding. I put a few of the nuggets I dredged out of the stream of my consciousness into my pocket to be worked smooth like my great grandmother’s worry stone. While some are still jagged with neglect, repression and hard-wired tendencies, others are showing glimmers of their True Nature. I am simultaneously the mineral and the process revealing it, distinct but not separate, layered with the mud of identification and attachment, yet essentially and irreversibly super shinny and bright. Heat (tapas), the physical and mental discipline exerted in the practice of yoga, is the seat of the alchemical fire that converts base metal into gold.
Sometimes I reel from all the hot pokers I have in the coals; my practice, my community and my family keep me putting one foot in front of the other. I’ve stopped looking for the end of the proverbial path because it’s really all about the here and now. I don’t imagine that I’ll ever stop shedding my skin and, if I do, I can trust one of you will get me with a hot poker of my own design. I am grateful.
This article was to be focused on yoga for climbers. Clearly I digress, but there truly is a connection, albeit tenuous, that led me down the above rabbit hole. Mainly, that one of the gems I took from my time Down Under was the desire to remain connected to the Earth upon my return to Seattle. Oddly enough, my re-entry was marked by a house-sitting job worlds away from the little caravan in a Eucalyptus grove outside of Gympie Australia - an ultra modern condominium on the corner of 5th & Mercer, complete with a view of the Space Needle. I don’t have much Earth in my astrological chart, I am steamy combination of fire and water. I realize now that this is why a sense of place and home has always been so important to me. Even when halfway around the world, I seek comfort in routine and foundation in the familiar. The WOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) experience took this recognition a step further into the literal; a heartfelt longing to feel the place we all call home between my toes and to revel in the majesty of Her greatness. This intention has manifested several opportunities to do so via the support of my community and a willingness to say YES to the universe. Of course, whether it be the Whitewater Rafting & Yoga Trip with Winding Waters Rafting, the Yoga Day Hike with KAF Adventures or the upcoming Cycling & Yoga Tour with Bicycle Adventures, yoga is the common thread running through each meeting with the Mother Nature.
The list of yoga’s benefits have been well know and understood by yogis across the centuries. In the last decade, however, yoga’s merit has captured the attention of the general public giving it a prominence in nearly every Seattle neighborhood. Yoga’s notoriety has also caught the attention of several Olympic athletes such as Olympic Freestyle Skier Emily Cook. As a retired gymnast, and even as a retired waitress, I am acutely aware of the numerous ways that yoga complements, counters and enhances the physical demands of any form repetitive movement. The harmony of yoga with other disciplines, be it computer engineering, gardening or dancing, extend beyond the physical. In mind and spirit, yoga is especially suited for outdoor activities like backpacking, rock climbing, surfing and cycling.
On September 12, 2009 I co-led a Yoga Day Hike with Mick Pearson of KAF Adventures. Our group trekked up Mt Rainier, beyond Comet Falls, to Van Trump Park in silence allowing a natural heightening of the senses to take place. Breath by breath, step by step, we enjoyed the journey and learned of one another through subtle body and energetic language.
Attentive to how our presence affected the natural landscape, the backdrop for our yoga practice was Mt. Rainier, larger than life, piercing the clear blue sky. With Mt. Adams to the North we took our seats and began our yoga practice. Practicing on uneven ground with small eight-legged creatures paying visits to your mat adds another layer to the moving meditation. Our practice focused on countering the heat and strength generated in the legs on the uphill climb with deep outer hip, hip flexor and quadriceps stretches and countered the weight of the backpack with twists, chest and shoulder openers. As always, this class can be modified to suite the needs of individual practitioners.
Reclined Bound Angle Pose - Supta Baddha Konasana
Our practice began on the back in Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) to give the body-mind time to transition and open to the effects of both the hike and the ensuing yoga practice. Our warm up included the old standbys, Lounge Pigeon and Reclined Leg-Stretch Pose (Supta Padangusthasana). We then made our way to all fours for Cat/Cow, Thread the Needle and a chest/shoulder opener I know as Anahata Vishuddasana (referring to the energy centers/areas of the body it stimulates, the heart and throat respectively). After a long pause in Cobra (Bhujangasana) to breathe space into the hip flexors we moved into Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), an excellent pose for simultaneously strengthening and stretching the entire body.
A short standing sequence followed, including Crescent Lunge (Chandrasana), Revolved Crescent Lunge (Parivrtta Chandrasana), Wide Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana) Side Lunge (Skandasana).
At the top of the mat we took Standing Bound Forward Bend (Baddha Uttanasana) then countered the deep forward bend with Upward Facing Plank variation or Half Backbend (Ardha Urdhva Danurasana). We countered the counter with Downward Facing Frog (Ahdo Mukha Bhekasana).
I rarely teach a class that doesn’t include Reclined Pigeon (Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana), an often intense outer hip (rotator) opener. Pigeon morphed into Seated Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirasana) on both sides and, with a jump through to our seat, we glided into Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana). We finished on our backs with a gentle Supine Twist (Jatara Parivartanasana) and took a long rest in Final Relaxation Pose (Savasana).
Final Relaxation Pose - Savasana
The sound of three OMs melding with the hum of the waterfall behind us and natural vibration of our spectacular setting broke our collective silence. Together we journeyed back down the Mountain, full of life and vigor, I myself, keenly aware that we are where we are because of where we’ve been.