Yoga and Hiking: Three irresistible destinations in the American West to practice both.

This article I wrote first appeared on Yoga Lifestyles HERE.

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Yoga and hiking flow together like Updog into Downdog in a Vinyasa flow class. At least that’s how I feel. I’ve often wondered if it was just me. After all, yoga is practiced most often indoors on a small rectangular mat. 

Hiking is experienced outside in wide open spaces. You’re very much at the mercy of mother nature. More often than not, there’s no one with you guiding your every move. It’s just you moving at your own rhythm, following your inner teacher. 

Traveling around the globe, I’ve found that many yogis love hiking and vice versa. Additionally, my hiking abilities have grown exponentially since my occasional yoga practice transformed into a daily practice and has become the heart of my physical routine.

How yoga will improve your hiking skills and overall experience

Have you ever witnessed something in your life become noticeably better as a result of your dedicated yoga practice? I’m betting you have. If you enjoy hiking or would like to start, consider the benefits that yoga will offer. You’ll be more balanced on rocky, challenging trails. It will become much easier to control your breath on heavy ascents and at high altitudes. The chances of getting injured reduce greatly due to your solid core. Strong legs and a steadier mind result by incorporating yoga before, during, or after your hike.

The growth of yoga and hiking in the mountains

You might be wondering how you can begin incorporating yoga and hiking into your day. I’ve traveled all over the American west my whole life. Over the past five years, I’ve sought out yoga studios while visiting mountain towns to hike. Start with studio classes. Learning yoga before weaving it into the hiking experience to strengthen your skills and increase your confidence is important. 

3 places to explore out west that put yoga and hiking at the forefront of their culture

1. Sedona Arizona: Located two hours from Phoenix, Sedona is the Southwest desert destination for lovers of yoga and hiking. Sedona Hot Yoga will get you sweating and Sedona Healing Yoga will help with mindfulness and meditation. Sedona locals theorize that “vortexes” are powerful energy centers that can provide transformations so you might decide to do a vortex yoga class. 

As for hiking, you’re within walking distance of trails like Upper and Lower Chimney Rock, Sugarloaf, and the Tea Cup when staying in West Sedona. Bell Rock is a tourist favorite (and rumored to have multiple vortexes). And Bear Mountain is one of the numerous strenuous climbs that will have you sweating like you’re inside a sauna.

Sedona has a serious yoga vibe. Visit the wonderful Amithaba Stupa and Peace Park in West Sedona. When, after lots of effort, Sedona finally couldn’t stop McDonald’s from putting in a location, they forced them to have “green arches.” True story.

2. Pasadena, California: It is the home of the Rose Bowl and a sleepier side to the City of Angels but you will find that while the bumper to bumper traffic disappears the adventure certainly does not.

Yoga is easy to find in Pasadena. The Yoga House provides Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Restorative Yoga classes. Whatever your needs, they can provide a wonderful yoga experience.

Couple yoga with hiking in the foothills of Pasadena with trails like El Prieto, Eaton Canyon, and Echo Mountain. Or, head out to Bridge to Nowhere or summit Mt. Baldy or Mt. Jacinto. These all-day intense hikes will have you begging for a forward fold or a Yin Yoga class after you return from the trail.

3. Springdale, Utah: The gateway to Zion National Park is just getting into the yoga scene but has a charm to it that’s worth the journey.  Newer small studios and community center yoga are the options in this small town. What they lack in variety they make up for in enthusiasm and the fact that one of the best national parks to hike lies just ten minutes away.

I scaled Angels Landing, The Narrows, and Observation Point (all consistently ranked three of the best day hikes in America) during the day and would follow them up with donation-based community center yoga classes each evening.  The meditations were long and while the scene doesn’t have the options Sedona has, that will surely change.

Springdale has gorgeous hiking trails and terrain and a culture of adventurers and seekers that enjoy healthy living; yet haven’t turned yoga into an industry in their town yet.

Why yoga and hiking absolutely go together

I have found striking similarities between the yoga and hiking communities. Both attract kind people who go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Yogis and hikers love to take care of their minds and bodies. They appreciate and are grateful for nature. Overall, they want to leave the world a better place.

You can combine yoga and hiking anywhere you live. Perhaps a few years from now we’ll see a community of official “Yo Hikers” or “HikeGi’s” combining the best that each individual discipline has to offer.  I can only hope so.