I Tried It: Hiking Yoga

Thomas Barwick/Taxi/Getty Images

Yoga hybrids, including aqua yoga, SUP yoga, and of course that old standby, yogilates, are hot trends, but hiking yoga is a little different. It’s less an amalgamation and more an opportunity to do two enjoyable things within the same period of time. And while you can certainly go out hiking and throw in a little yoga on your own, joining a hike that is led by a yoga teacher is a wonderful way to make sure you’re getting quality yoga, a nice walk, and a social experience.


Hiking Yoga is a company that coordinates yoga hikes in nine U.S. States (including Alaska) and in Mexico City. Founded in San Francisco in 2009, Hiking Yoga combines two passions of founder Eric Kipp. In cities like San Francisco and New York, the routes take advantage of large parks to help participants connect to the available natural spots within the sprawl. Elsewhere, the hikes may go into less curated natural areas, depending on what's available in the area. The hike I took in Austin, Texas, uses the Barton Creek Greenbelt, which is a pretty perfect setting since it is a place within the city that still manages to feel very removed from urban life. 

What to Expect from Hiking Yoga

On a recent lovely Saturday in October, Austin-based teacher Chelsea Hover expertly shepherded about 20 participants (thank you, Groupon) on a 90-minute hike. Hover, who has been teaching yoga since 2008 and began leading yoga hikes in 2011, picked out three great spots along the trail where the group could gather for short yoga sessions.

Each yoga break lasted about 10 minutes, with a longer sequence at the final stop that included a seated meditation. Hikers don’t carry mats, so standing poses predominate. If you do most of your yoga indoors, it’s a novel and wonderful feeling to reach your arms up toward the blue sky when doing sun salutations instead pretending there's something transcendent about the acoustic tiles on the ceiling.

 Between stops, hikers were invited to set their own pace along the trail. Many people came with friends, but there were ample opportunities to chat with others as we walked. In fact, encouraging social connection is one of the things Hover enjoys about teaching yoga in this setting. “It’s a bonding thing," Hover told me. "I have witnessed so many connections and friendships being forged on that trail over the years.  It's all about bringing people together.”

All Hiking Yoga teachers must have at least a 200-hour teaching training program under their belts, but develop hikes pretty independently since each setting requires a specialized approach. A love of the outdoors and a desire to share that love is also a requirement. “It makes sense to me to practice coming into "union" out in nature, where we can experience being one with everything,” says Hover. “The Greenbelt is a magical part of Austin that many people, even some who have lived here for years, don't know about or regularly take advantage of.

So I also love exposing people to the beauty of this city that's right under their nose.”

Hiking Yoga Pro Tips:

1: When doing yoga in a dry creek bed, select the most level spot you can find. Avoid loose gravel!

2: Although there were several people on my hike with very little yoga experience, it helps to have some basic knowledge of yoga postures. During the yoga sessions, the focus is on the experience, rather than the specifics of the poses. So, on the flip side, you can still enjoy the experience without being a yoga master. 

3. You don't need to bring a lot of gear. A water bottle, weather appropriate clothing, and maybe a small day pack to hold them. Mats are not necessary.

4. You'll be practicing in your shoes, so make sure they are comfortable.

5. While yoga studios often mention building community, most classes don't allow much of an opportunity to meet people. Hiking Yoga is different, since the setting is much more informal and there are built-in opportunities to talk. It's a great way to connect with other people who share an interest in yoga and nature. 

6. Have fun!

Continue Reading