“If you are true to your practice, complexity will dissolve.’
–Venerable Khandro Rinpoche
Snowshoeing and yoga have a deep-rooted history. Both have been in existence for thousands of years. Both are among the fastest-growing pursuits. We know the ever-increasing prominence of snowshoeing. It is estimated that 18 million people practice some form of yoga in the United States. Both require discipline and commitment. Obviously neither endeavor is a fad.
Yoga is the union between mind and body. It is a systematic approach toward mindfulness and equanimity through postures [asanas] and breathing techniques [pranayama]. It is the embodiment of spiritual, physical, and social growth. It is not religion although its origin in India was a spiritual path.
The Sanskrit, the ancient religious text and language of the Vedas and Hinduism, birthed the definition of yoga to essentially mean a union or fusion of the body and mind, of science and art, a “well-formed, refined, perfect or polished” method of discipline.
The philosophical and metaphysical impulse of yoga is dated about 5,000 years ago. The first written collection is credited to Indian sage Patanjali about 2,000 years ago. His Yoga Sutra is a treatise on yogic philosophy and provides the foundation upon which yoga is based today. The collection of 195 statements is considered the backbone of weaving human challenges with the universal truths of self-development.
Yoga practice in the west is often construed as yet another variation of stretching, kinesthetic, or flexibility training. Yoga evolved from spirituality with enlightenment as its goal. The proliferation of yoga variations in the mainstream has seemingly shifted the state from enlightenment to a physical pursuit where the rewards are firmed abs, toned muscles, and joint adhesion, for example.
Yoga scholar Ravi Dykema, an adjunct professor at Naropa University, in Boulder, Colo., echoes this trend. “The physical side is so dynamic and so effective that it has earned the right to its popularity. What is unique in the modern era is that yoga practice in the west generally represents a tiny slice of the pie,” he said.
Dykema cited the recent decision by the Aspen, Colo. School Board. A public hearing was conducted to determine whether yoga should be allowed in a local elementary school to help students focus in the classroom. The board determined that “yoga has no religious or spiritual overtones, and so doesn’t violate the separation of church and state clause in the U.S. Constitution.”
This highlights the emphasis placed on yoga as a form of exercise. What does this have to do with the snowshoer? Plenty.
Our sedentary lifestyle wreaks havoc on our bodies. Our posture is poor, we slump while staring at computer screens, we lift improperly, breathe from the chest rather than the belly, and so forth. Yoga can regenerate our bodies and minds.
Benefits of Yoga
Practicing yoga will help the snowshoeing experience immeasurably. These benefits are neural, skeletal, muscular, and spiritual. It is an expressive way to fuse mind and body in an effort to improve your snowshoeing ambitions and your health.
Yoga will increase your flexibility due to toned muscles imparting strength and extensibility. Stretched hip flexors, quads, glutes, psoas, trapezius, and related muscles will allow proper hip position, and pelvic alignment, alleviating lower back, neck, knee, and shoulder discomfort. An elongated spine improves blood flow via capillary proliferation. Your energy level, joint adhesion, and bone density will be pronounced. Alkaline production will replace acidity and initiate regeneration, which is critical to long-term health and sport performance.
Injuries will be mitigated through enhanced muscularity and joint adhesion. Your mental clarity, balance, and awareness will be crystal clear. Breath and postural awareness will ensure an efficient gait in any conditions. Your heart rate will become efficient, the tension in your nervous system will diminish, organ health will be improved, and much more.
Yoga is being applied in the health care industry as complementary treatment for several ailments including but not limited to the following:
*Lower back and related pain
Determining which lineage of yoga best suits your needs requires research – not unlike the process of identifying which snowshoe model to purchase. Following represents a nutshell of the more popular yoga forms developed from spiritual-based Hatha Yoga – a subtle blend of poses and breaths to awaken the rigidity that has developed in your spine, thus, aligning your skin, tissue, bones, and so forth. It is a powerful transformation mode of synthesizing and balancing strength and suppleness. Kripalu is a similar docile style with a meditative focus.
This form developed by Sri B.S. Iyengar is good for the snowshoer because of its importance on alignment and balance. Postures are held longer than most styles and the pace is slow. Beginners may need to use blocks, straps, or even chairs to acclimate themselves to the focus placed on one’s feet, hands, and hip positions during the standing postures.
A consistent, straightforward style that emphasizes breath and movement sequences. A related form that may involve chants and prayer is Sivananda. Both forms are appropriate for the recreational snowshoer seeking a fluid blend of postures and breathing techniques to improve one’s gait and respiratory prowess while trudging in the snow.
Developed in the 1940s, by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, it is an intensity-based form designed to produce sweat. It is often referred to as the most athletic form of yoga thanks to its eight-limb approach. Its continuous flow induces purification within the body by generating heat from intense strength, stamina, and flexibility movements. Power Yoga is America’s offshoot often times equipped with gimmicks like music, flickering lights, and heat to jazz the workout.
This is an intense style because of its 26 simple yet draining posture sequences performed twice in a heated room. Each pose is often held for at least a minute. Each class begins and ends with deep breathing sequences. The heat and strength aspects of this form expedite recovery for the endurance or competitive snowshoer.
This yoga form relies on breathing and meditative exercises to complement postural awareness. It is a form of energy work designed to unleash the primordial cosmic energy that lies dormant within each of us. This style improves fitness by addressing the nagging ailments or mental blocks preventing snowshoers to passionately engage in their sport. This is a terrific off-season approach to your snowshoeing goals.
Finding a Practitioner
Since there are no governing bodies or universal certification programs it would behoove you to scrutinize the credentials of potential practitioners. Try to locate a yogi that emphasizes the whole body workout or practice. Yoga is one of the oldest philosophies on the planet. You would be prudent to find a teacher with a comprehensive understanding of the universal truths.
You can wean yourself initially via video, DVD, or even “Yoga for Dummies,” prior to participating in a class.
Yoga is the ideal union of body and mind. It centers the psychological and the physical aspects of your health. It will improve your snowshoeing and assist in optimum wellness.
Ravi Dykema, Yogiraj, is an adjunct professor of yoga at Naropa University. He is a disciple of the late Swami Gitananda. He is the publisher of Nexus – Colorado’s Holistic Health and Spirituality Journal – and has been studying and teaching yoga since 1972;
“Nexus” Colorado’s Holistic Health and Spirituality Journal;
“Nature’s Cures” by Michael Castleman;
“Spontaneous Healing” by Andrew Weil. M.D.;
“Rocky Mountain Sports Magazine;”
“The Winter Athlete” by Steve Ilg;
“National Center for and Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes for Health”