Your guide to yoga hiking – Increase your balance on the trail

Paul Pinkerton
CC0 License
CC0 License

The Ying and Yang of Workouts

If you are like many hikers and yoga students, you may wonder, what is Yoga Hiking? Yoga Hiking is simply combining a hike with yoga into one fitness session. You hike on a regular trail and then practice Yoga throughout the hike, or at the end.  Misty Marchione walks (or we should say, bends) us through it.

I first discovered Yoga Hiking a couple of years ago through a friend. I was extremely excited about it from the moment she told me. I thought to myself, was a fabulous idea to combine hiking and yoga!

I love to do both and what a perfect combination. Hiking is excellent cardio and muscle builder while Yoga adds the stretching, deep breathing and meditation aspect.

In my opinion, Yoga and hiking balance each other out; they are the Ying and Yang of workouts- and achieve the perfect balance. You are also out in nature which completes the picture.


What are the benefits of Yoga Hiking?

Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years. Entire books have been written on yoga and so the different types are numerous. I focused on the yoga poses that are standing only; for the most part, a trail will have some type dirt and rocks regardless if you are in the desert or in the rain forests of Brazil.

Unless you want to bring your yoga mat along on the hike, it would not be fun to do sitting poses on this type of terrain.

There are many different yoga stretches for beginners such as this Mountain mountain-posePose. This move is simple, but provides the foundation for many other yoga poses. This move can also be practiced on many different parts of the trail.

Get increased stamina to hike uphill

Breathing is our life source of energy, yet many of us don’t get the full amount we need. Increasing your lung capacity through deep breathing will increase your endurance on the trail.

On average, people use only 10% of their lung capacity; by breathing deeply, you can learn to use 100%. Breathing while doing standing yoga poses, helps to eliminate respiratory tract problems such as wheezing & bronchitis. Deep breathing improves blood circulation throughout the body and prepares the body for exercise.

A few yoga poses that strengthen breathing and therefore stamina include: Low lunge and Pranayama. Here are the steps for deep breathing:

1. Start with your spine straight and stomach in. Place your arms beside you and feet together. Exhale completely.

2. As you inhale, raise your arms from your sides as high as you can to a count of over 6 seconds. At the 6 second mark, your lungs should be full with air, back straight, rib cage open, and looking straight up at the ceiling. Do not bend backwards. Try to synchronize the movement with your breathing.

3. Next, lower your arms to your sides over a count of 6 seconds and exhale completely.

4. Repeat this for a total time of 60 seconds.

This standing deep breathing pose fills your lungs with up to six times more oxygen than a regular breath. Since oxygen is a major source of energy for your body, it is fairly normal to feel dizzy after this yoga move.

Get increased flexibility

With these yoga poses, we want to target the hips, quadriceps and hamstrings. Being flexible helps considerably for those times you need to hike up the steep inclines or climb over rocks and tree stumps.

For example, this Triangle pose will help to lengthen and strengthen your hamstrings.

Credit: Wikipedia


Increase your balance on the trail

Yoga is excellent for working on your balance which will be necessary when crossing creek beds or edging along a steep cliff on a trail. Learning better balance is also beneficial for going downhill.

This is where many hikers fall because they lose their footing. There are a number of different yoga poses that you can do standing. The Tree Pose is a more common one that even most beginners can do.

A modification for this move is to place your foot on your ankle. The more you practice this move, the higher you will be able to move your foot until you can hold the full pose.

Enhance your overall well-being and peace of mind

Get a double dose of stress relief! By being outdoors you can take full advantage of the fresh air and calming nature of the wilderness. The standing Forward Bend stretches the hamstrings, hips, and thighs. If you are tense at all while you are hiking, this will release the tightness in your neck and shoulders. This Yoga pose is one of my all-time favorite poses, on and off the trail.

Where can I go Yoga Hiking?

You can go Yoga Hiking pretty much on any trail that is tailored to your fitness level. The time frames of when you do the Yoga will vary of course depending on the elevations.

The ideal hiking location has inclines for the cardio workout and then at some points move into nice flat areas for the Yoga. It’s even better if the place you hike to has a beautiful vista once you get to the top.

It’s a great reward once you reach the summit to look out and see the beautiful scenery for miles around you.

One location in my area that is perfect for Yoga Hiking is Dreamy Draw. The trail is a nice steady incline, with a nice flat area once you get to the top. Dreamy Draw


Take an Urban Yoga Hike

Okay, so what if you live in the city? What are your options? You can incorporate the Yoga into an Urban Hike! Urban Hiking, according to Wise Geek, is defined as: “a form of hiking which takes place in an urban environment, rather than in nature.”

Perhaps you are new to a city and want to check it out, or maybe you are miles and miles away from the nearest forest. Take the opportunity to find unique places to hike that have buildings with steps or ladders (think bouldering ladies) or parts of town that have rolling hills.

Bisbee, AZ is one place on my bucket list to explore for a genuine Urban Yoga Hike.

A review by Hike Arizona, states, “The great Bisbee 1000 Stair competition is an annual fund raising event in Bisbee. It is also a great way to hike Bisbee, taking in the many of the hills, back roads, and alleys of this eclectic city. The trail affords wonderful views of the area and takes you up close to the personal touches people have done to their property.” This is a 2 hour drive from me, but will be well worth it

What are the social aspects of Yoga Hiking?

What better way to spend a morning or an afternoon than going on a Yoga Hike with your best girlfriends? Yoga Hiking is a great reason to get your friends together and create wonderful memories together.

If you usually hit the mall with your friends, take the initiative and plan a Yoga Hike instead. Do research on the some local trails in your area. Then decide on a date and time that all your friends can go. Plan the route according to their fitness levels and know the locations and which yoga poses you will do.

Now that you know a little more about Yoga Hiking, I hope you take the opportunity to go. I am always open to feedback and learning new things. Please leave a comment below If you have any of your own Yoga Hiking stories to share or have a question.

Happy Yoga Hiking!

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jack-beckett is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival