The Benefits of Yoga + Snowshoeing

When the snow falls, stoke your inner fire with the perfect union of winter sports and yoga!

Research shows that activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing provide an excellent cardio workout and build balance and strength. The other big plus: They get you outside, even when it’s extra cold out. Studies reveal that time in nature can increase vitality, boost resilience, and stave off depression.Engaging in outdoor sports not only increases dopamine and overall well-being, it also exercises muscles we often forget about. And a nourishing on-the-mat practice balances that vigorous activity and enhances the mindful impact.

"The pairing of yoga and snowshoeing is a natural combination," says Susannah Gale, a Kripalu Yoga teacher and R&R Retreat workshop presenter who teaches Snowshoeing and Yoga programs at Kripalu. "Yoga cultivates a deeper relationship to the rhythm of breath while harnessing an alert presence of what is happening within and around us. Taking this presence into the great outdoors can awaken curiosity of the beauty in nature."

For Kripalu R&R faculty Sarajean Rudman, an avid hiker, runner, paddler, and outdoor enthusiast, time outdoors is a chance to become more aware. "When I put away the smartphone and am nowhere near any other stimulation from artificial sources, there are only so many things to pay attention to," she says. "When that clutter is cleared, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations rise to the top. In these moments, I have the opportunity to notice them, see how I react to them, allow that reaction to be there without judgment, and build resilience around feelings or sensations, even when I am off the trail."

As Steven Leonard, a Kripalu Yoga and meditation teacher, puts it, "These activities let us savor the sights and sounds of everything happening around us. Whether it’s the twinkling of sunlight on fresh snow or a red cardinal sighting, snowshoeing brings us into the present moment.”

To go deeper into the experience, notice how it affects your senses. "You notice the variety of bird calls in the forest, the crunch of the snow beneath your snowshoes, a faint smell of the trees, or the cool breeze across your skin," says Susannah. "The senses come alive, and the forest's true beauty, and our relationship to it, is magnified."

Plus, says Sarajean, time outside offers an opportunity to reset our biological rhythms. "Since all of our organs run on a biological clock that controls the release of certain hormones throughout the day, exposing the body to light stimulates proper timing of these functions," she says. "This regulates emotions, metabolism, sleep, and more."

"In a society that has become so disconnected from what is going on outside of the walls of our cozy home or office building," adds Sarajean, "it has never been more important to commune with nature every day, no matter what the temperature, to remind us that we are living on this earth, and this earth is supporting our living."  

Find out about outdoor programs at Kripalu.

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