The Healing Power of Yoga in Nature
More and more scientific research has been released lately that validates what many of us know from personal experience: that spending time in nature is healing. Take, for example, the findings that children with ADHD see reduced symptoms after playing or reading in outdoor settings. Or additional research that muscle tension, pain, increased heart rate, and higher blood pressure—all symptoms of stress—fade or decrease with exposure to nature.
Simultaneously, there have been increasingly more studies focused on the benefits and effects of yoga. Some recent studies highlighted yoga’s effects on conditions such as chronic low back pain and reducing inflammation in the body, which can help stave off chronic disease. Whether for physical, mental, or emotional conditions, western medicine is verifying what yogis have been teaching for centuries. With so much evidence supporting the benefits of both yoga and nature, why not combine the two for an ultra healing experience?
That’s exactly why Laura Loewy founded Backcountry Yoga, an outdoor adventure company that combines hiking, yoga, and an appreciation for the natural world. After moving near the Teton National Park after graduating from college, she started to explore her new backyard as well as her yoga practice. When she did, she experienced a profound shift within herself. While she was dealing with anxiety, insomnia, and depression as a recent college grad trying to find her way, she found that being outside made her feel calm, confident.
She as she explained to me in a recent conversation, she was often venturing out on her own since there wasn’t an easy way to meet others who shared her passion. “I was always by myself, so I felt deeply that other people would be able to feel that healing power of being outside and bringing their yoga practice outside... When you go to a yoga studio you know that you’re surrounded by people that share that common ground, so bringing people that were open to yoga, bringing them together with the outdoors, would be an incredible idea.”
Backcountry Yoga was born out of an authentic desire to share her passion for the outdoors with others. “I wanted to create a community for people who want adventure. Maybe they didn’t grow up going outside, camping, hiking, backpacking. An avenue that brought them closer to themselves or the outdoors.”
Over the past three years, she’s connected thousands of people to nature, taking them from the city to the mountains and being a conduit to the outdoors. Today, Backcountry Yoga offers everything from one-day yoga hikes on local trails, to weeklong yoga retreats in the Rocky Mountains, and even yoga teacher trainings certified through Yoga Alliance. Through dedication to her passion and her craft, she’s become an influencer in outdoor yoga. She says she’s “helping change people's individual experiences of going outside so that they can go and share their knowledge with other people and bring them outside.”
This ripple effect is coming at a time when we need it most. With climate change showing its impacts around the world and many politicians attempting to dismantle environmental protections, we need a stronger connection to the natural world and a deeper understanding of our responsibility to conserve it. The simple step of spending more time in nature is key to creating a connection to the outside world, appreciating our natural environment and its complex but delicate ecosystem.
Yoga, on the other hand, connects us to our internal nature. By focusing on the body, breath, and mind, we create a connection within ourselves. The aim is to develop an awareness of our own energy - our prana, or life force - which, over time, we can come to realize is the same life force within all living beings. That sense of interconnection or oneness is the ultimate goal of yoga, and why the yoga practice is such a perfect complement to spending time outside.
That awareness organically leads to living a sustainable life. To Laura, living a sustainable life means “always taking mindful action, even if it’s small... Noticing the things that you’re curious about and once you’re curious enough, allowing yourself to follow that curiosity. Eventually you’ll find yourself living a fulfilled and sustainable life the more you allow yourself to follow those intentions.”
Backcountry Yoga has tapped into an incredibly powerful offering for individuals as well as communities and societies at large. The trifecta of yoga, nature, and mindfulness can teach us how to heal ourselves and our world.