Interview with Myself: Outdoor Yoga

I’ve decided to add interviews to the CY blog, because there are just so many fascinating people in my life that I want to share. Needless to say, I include myself in that group. Kidding, kidding. I’d like to think I am fascinating to somebody out there…I’ll keep hoping. Meanwhile – I’ll kick off this new feature with an interview with myself that I did for a writer for the AP. My understanding with the Associated Press is that stories get put out “on the wire” and newspapers (those that are still in business) can pick up what they feel will be of interest to their readers. So, I’m a little bit concerned that what I had to say might not fall into that category. Which is why I am putting it here. The topic was Outdoor Yoga. As you may or may not already know, Big Sky Yoga Retreats offers a combination of yoga and outdoor fitness; here’s some insight into what that’s all about.

What prompted you to leave DC for Montana? Were you missing the outdoors? How is the dynamic at Big Sky Yoga Retreats different from your studio in DC? Do you prefer one over the other?
My husband is from Montana, but I really didn’t envision us moving here so early on. I’d always considered myself a city girl and thrived on that kind of energy; I initially resisted the prospect of such a drastic lifestyle change. But every time we came out west to visit, there was some kind of pull. I had no idea the positive effect that nature was having on me until we moved here and made it a lifestyle. We ski all winter, horseback ride and hike in the summer, and we get to see our daughter grow up having these kind of experiences on a daily basis. It’s energizing. Plus, I get to live someplace where most people only come on vacation. That feels like a huge blessing to me. 
I’ve always enjoyed teaching yoga and received so many unexpected benefits from sharing through my teaching. The studio was wonderful. But the combination of yoga and outdoor activity on retreat, along with a longer period of time with students, has multiplied the joy of teaching at least 10x. The retreat dynamic is very special. Sometimes I have to remind myself of my role as “retreat leader”, because I often feel like I am spending time with friends. Which is how it should be. I love that we get to share this life-changing experience of yoga and nature, and it affects me profoundly as well. So, I’d have to say that while I wouldn’t trade my studio experiences for anything, this is a perfect fit for me now.
Do you find any special connections between yoga and nature?
The connection between yoga and nature has to do with reconnecting oneself to the natural world. Yoga provides the tools to do that, by making you more in tune with your inner self. Yoga puts us in touch with lost parts of our beings that have been stifled by modern living, and makes us more receptive to certain experiences. On our retreats, we tap into the openness created by our yoga practices to really delve into our time outdoors. While we also emphasize the physical connection between yoga and whatever outdoor activity we’re doing – for example, preparing the body for horseback riding with lots of hip openers – it’s the emotional and spiritual openness resulting from yoga that can cause someone to burst into tears (usually happy ones) on the hiking trail or in the saddle. Yoga moves things, getting rid of stuff that isn’t serving us and making room for new inspirations. On our yoga and hiking retreats, you can see this shift when people are faced with the challenges of a hike – altitude, fatigue, not-so-good weather – instead of panicking or resisting, they are in a better place to meet these challenges and move through them with a feeling of accomplishment. 
What are your most popular retreats? 
Our most popular retreats are Cowgirl Yoga, yoga and horseback riding trips for women. We call it the “girl’s dream come true” – a week of yoga and horses. So many women, myself included, had a thing for horses as young girls, and not that many of us ever got to live the dream. There’s a deep connection between women and horses, and the yoga cultivates it in a beautiful way. The actual riding is only a small part of it. We emphasize the horse-human connection, and a lot of this magic takes place out of the saddle. Heart opening yoga poses can often unlock many repressed emotions – so we practice heart openers to clear this out, as horses aren’t good with repressed emotion. It’s horses 101; if you’re faking being happy or unafraid, they will probably give you a hard time. But if you offer them your authentic self, whether it’s mad, sad, or glad, it unlocks the potential of an immediate and powerful horse-human bond. This is an amazing experience that extends way beyond just riding, and can stir potent emotional release. And that’s made possible through yoga. So I can definitely vouch for the connection between yoga and nature, which we have the power to influence and deepen with our practice. We get the chance to say Namaste to horses through our experience with them; the divine in me recognizes the divine in you, indeed.

Namaste and happy Friday!