The benefits of yoga are far reaching and really can be quite sneaky. One upgrade that took me a while to notice was the improvement to my hiking. Hiking has always been hard for me. I tend to be the slowest in the group which often leads to me getting upset and not enjoying the hike. I used to have to take a ton of breaks and couldn’t seem to ever catch my breath. Since committing to a yoga practice and fitness routine not only have I seen improvement to my breath, movement and recovery time, but I’ve also had major gains in my overall hiking mindset.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to hike the Enchantments in the North Cascades located in Washington state. The Enchantments is an 18 mile through-hike, with beautiful lakes in the upper Enchantments in the middle of the hike. Camping passes are limited so it was an awesome gift to receive one because it means you can backpack in and break the hike up into separate days to really enjoy your time in the area. We got a pass for Snow Lakes, which means we were taking the harder route in. That translates to a very long and very steep hike with around 30 pounds of weight on your back for the first day in.
Most of the group that I was hiking with decided to try to hoof it up the mountain quickly. One of my girlfriends has a leg injury so we decided to take it slow. An hour or so into the hike I estimated that it would take us about 6 more hours to get to the campsites. I ended up being correct in my estimation.
The weirdest thing happened on this hike (aka the hardest hike of my life), I didn’t get upset. I never ran out of breath. I didn’t ever feel like I couldn’t make it. Although I still hiked fairly slow, my pace was steady and the biggest change was that even with 30 pounds on my back and a long steep hike, I thoroughly enjoyed myself! I was able to be mindful and present for each step. The group that decided to go fast only beat us to the campsites by roughly 30 minutes, and they were all exhausted physically and mentally. Yoga has taught me to enjoy the current moment, and to also know that I am capable of more than I think I am. The mental aspect of any physically challenging activity is way more pertinent (in my opinion) than the physical part. I love when teachers talk about it being, “yoga practice,” not, “yoga perfect,” and that the joy comes from enjoying the practice. I didn’t hike with the intention of winning or to just get to the campsites, but instead I hiked to just enjoy being outside and that's exactly what happened.