YOGA TO POWER DOWN AND POWER UP ON TRAIL
Words and Video from Kat Englishman @KathEnglishman
When you’re taking a backpacking trip, the second best feeling one can have aside from the accomplishment of reaching the summit, is finally making it to camp. All of your effort culminates during this glorious moment of relief when you can finally slough off your heavy backpack, change into a comfy pair of camp shoes, and savor a hearty meal before sleeping under the stars.
However, if you’re like me, historically, these are not always the best night's sleep. There are nagging rocks and roots, aching muscles, and that deafening sound of silence (???) that causes us to toss and turn until the sun comes up; making it more restless than restful. Personally, I do not typically wake up and emerge from my tent bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while backpacking, but if I’m wise enough to spend less than ten minutes before and after sleep doing some gentle movement, I can greatly improve my experience on both ends.
I’ve split this quick and easy practice into two complementary ones that you can do moments before crawling into your sleeping bag (in fact, it’ll end in the tent, and even in the bag! Aren’t you impressed?) and from the second you wake up. Before you dive in, something to bear in mind as you prep for sleep is to think low and slow. We’ll gradually move lower to the ground and even start slowing down the breath by focusing on lengthening the exhales to calm the mind and relax the body. By opening with three forward folds, the goal is to do more than just try and touch your toes — in fact, don’t even make that the goal — with slightly bent knees and a long a spine, you can safely stretch the hamstrings, calves, and back while relaxing the nervous system for a more restful state of mind. In the morning sequence, we’ll rev things up by gently increasing circulation throughout the body to smooth out the kinks and increase breath awareness so you can sustain the deep reserve of energy needed to hike from morning to night!
My biggest tip for this practice is not to overdo it. Even small movements have a huge influence! Do them often, move gradually, and if you continue practicing, you’ll eventually notice a difference.
Happy trails and be well!
Katherine Englishman is a writer and yoga teacher based in the beautiful state of Maine. You can find her outside skiing, hiking, biking, or teaching yoga and meditation for the modern yoga student at Waypoints Yoga