By Sandra Lamari @ www.youryogatherapy.com.au
I came to hiking long after I started practicing yoga in 2009, but I have noticed of late that if I am not keeping up with my regular yoga practice my hiking suffers, my body takes longer to recover and then my mind suffers.
But isn’t yoga all about burning incense and sticking your leg behind your head?
Perhaps in the west it is seen more that way, but it also has components of living your life in a certain way, breath work, meditation and calming the fluctuations of the mind, as well as those poses we all know about.
Let’s start with the poses. Certain yoga poses and the way they are done can really target common areas of tightness and pain for hikers, feet, legs, hips and back, helping to stretch and relax those regions – letting you step up over high boulders and fallen trees with ease.
Holding certain postures can also build strength and stability in the legs, back and core to help keep and maintain good balance, perfect for hiking over tricky terrain.
To improve cardiovascular and lung fitness, including vo2max, certain yoga breath techniques have been found to be effective. Including them into your yoga practice is an added boost to your fitness levels helping your endurance for the longer treks.
Finally, meditation – which is not thinking about nothing as so many people believe, it is the practice of concentrating your mind to a single focus. Studies time and time again have proven that meditation has a positive effect on people’s mental health and stress management, increasing serotonin and dopamine, our feel-good hormones and reducing cortisol, our stress hormone.
The same way getting out in nature also effects the hormones in our body and we know how good we all feel coming back from a hike in the bush.
Are you asking yourself “where am I going to find the time for yoga now?” You don’t need to pack yourself up and head off to 5, hour long classes per week. You can still get a great effect staying at home doing your own 20 minute practice including postures, breathwork and meditation 3 times a week – of course if you wanted to do it more even better.
However, joining in with a group yoga class even once a week, creates strong social connections – just like hiking with a group can – reinforcing the brains relational circuitry enhancing wellbeing.