Yoga in the Forest

My yoga mat on a soft bed of moss.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.
My yoga mat on a soft bed of moss. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Today I did something special. Special for me. I gave myself permission to leave my toddler with my husband for a couple hours so I could do some yoga. The Thousand Islands Land Trust teamed up with River Yoga to offer some “Yoga Treks.” Basically, they were monthly outdoor yoga sessions, each taking place in one of TILT’s nature preserves. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend June or July’s offering, but I made sure I got to attend today’s.  It was held at their new Otter Creek Preserve  in Alexandria Bay, NY.  Although still under construction (there’s currently no parking lot and a sign that you will miss if you aren’t looking carefully), it was an amazing place*.  I wasn’t able to see all of it as we only entered a clearing in a forest to do our yoga.  Everyone was wearing yoga shorts and flip flops – not exactly what you’d want to wear on trails that consist of the woody remains of plants poking up to stab your toes.

The clearing reminded me of the Adirondacks.  The soil was dominated by a thick, soft bed of moss that occasionally opened up to reveal stone painted in an earthy mosaic of lichens.  Here and there, baby oak and white pine pushed upwards, promising that this clearing will have more shade someday.  I unrolled my seldom-used yoga mat on some of that delightful moss.  Getting comfortable, I realized I selected a spot next to a mother and chid white oak.

The class was lead by yoga instructor Liz Price-Kellogg.  The moment I saw her, I felt her nurturing energy.  She had a kind, patient voice and an approachability about her.  I knew I needn’t feel self-conscious about my rustiness and inexperience.  This class emphasized the philosophy of yoga, and her focus was on yoga as a moving meditation rather than simply exercise.  She gently lead us through grounding and centering exercises, invited us to listen to our inner messages, to the Earth’s voice.  The experience was so earthy, so animistic, so, well, Pagan feeling that I sometimes thought I was at a Pagan pride event!

As I lay on my back, starring up at the cerulean sky and oak branches brimming with green acorns, I realized how much I needed this.  I spend so much time organizing rituals and leading others.  At home, I meditate on my own, but it’s still my voice, my own inexperienced guidance, so often interrupted by household noises.  To spend this long in meditation, guided by another’s experience and perspective, was liberating, inspirational, and deeply informative.  At times, it was difficult to relax since I have a very busy and talkative mind, but that eventually hushed so that the only obstacles were the sun sometimes shining too brightly on my face, and the ants crawling over my body.  Yoga outside was, as Liz said, a humbling experience.  Laying on the Earth Mother, surrounded by forest and wildlife, was precisely the intimate retreat this Druid needed.  I need to give myself permission for this more often.

Although the yoga treks are done for this year, both TILT and Liz are poised to offer them again.  I definitely plan to take part as often as possible, and am already thinking about when I can fit more regular yoga classes into my life.

* When the trail is completed, there will be a lookout point and a suspension bridge.  It will be amazing and I can’t wait to explore the whole thing!  Expect a “North Country Druid” post when I do!

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