Winter Hiking: By Rhea Mitchell
As someone who is no longer an avid skier or snowboarder, winter stands to be challenging for outdoor activities. Maybe you feel the same, or maybe its costly and a hassle to drive the few hours to your nearest mountain. I have found though that winter away from the mountains has grounded and humbled me. Instead of opting for high adventure activities I find myself deep in the woods, or seeing my favorite trails in a new light.
When temps drop I have found the peaceful approach of hiking has been my outlet to connect with nature and my internal landscape this winter. The silence of the forest allows for silence within. The outward peace comes inward. The crisp winter air energizes mind and body. The steady movement becomes a meditation in motion. There is an energetic presence that cannot be felt at any other time of year. It’s refreshing, it’s freeing.
Layering is very important. While being active will increase your heart rate, it’s important not to sweat much. Excessive sweating can lead to illness or possibly hypothermia. Wearing non-cotton based clothing such as wool or sythetic wicking material is best. Bring several layers but always start out cold, your body will heat up faster than you think! Be sure to wear a hat and gloves to keep heat trapped in areas it easily escapes. Water-resistant gloves and insulated boots will help to keep the dreaded “screaming barfies” at bay. Frequent snacking is even more important during winter hikes. I suggest mixed nuts, as they release more even and long term energy. Having a thermas with warm tea will help you stay hydrated, but if tea is not for your cup slip a wool sock over your water bottle to prevent it from freezing through out the day.
Find a vista or some space in the forest that speaks to you. Take a few deep breaths, invigorate your body with the winter air and allow this energy to pulse through you. Ground your feet to the earth. Allow your breath to guide you through a standing sequence. I suggest to avoid touching the ground as it may transfer the precious heat in your hands to the earth. When you feel your practice is complete, close your eyes, go within, and observe how bringing yoga into nature has affected you.
I strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to get humbled, grounded, and rejuvenated by regular hikes this winter!
Rhea’s hometown is the quiet town of Danville, Pa which sits on the banks of the Susquehanna River nestled in the valley of the Appalachian foothills. Still in the Appalachian Mountain range Fayetteville, West Virginia is the place she now calls home. Her cool small town is surrounded by beautiful sandstone walls, deciduous forests with endless trails, and amazing rivers, creeks, and lakes. It’s truly a place where peace and adventure meet.
Being outside helps her to connect with the bigger picture of life. To feel grounded and grateful, and also open and inspired to living more mindfully and soulfully.
The power of yoga and mindful living has shaped her life in so many enriching ways, and she felt called to share and teach this practice with others. She has been teaching yoga for four years.
Rhea holds a 200 hour yoga teacher certification through the Kripalu School of Yoga, and is also certified as an AMGA climbing guide and Wilderness First Responder.