Bringing Yoga Teachings to the Mountain….

This week’s blog entry is written by Lauren Lake, a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program.  Lauren can be contacted at laurenclairlake@gmail.com.

A year ago, just as I was finishing my yoga teacher training with Tracy Weber at Whole Life Yoga, I decided to climb Mt. Rainier with my best friend, Mariza Esteban.  Mariza and I had talked about climbing Mt. Rainier multiple times over the years, but there was always some excuse – lack of time, money or life getting in the way. We finally decided last summer to hold ourselves accountable by paying for a guide service to ensure a safe climb. We grabbed the last two spots on a full moon weekend in August, and then started to panic about what the heck we were getting ourselves into!

To my surprise, yoga teachings kept surfacing over the year during the training and again during the actual climb.  One of the recommendations on the RMI website for training emphasized the need to stretch, improve balance, and work on core strength.  These skills are particularly important during the summit climb, in order to safely navigate tricky terrain.  Thanks to the training at Whole Life Yoga, I was able to create a home yoga practice focusing on balance, core strengthening, and leg stretches.  Mariza and I also created a mantra for our climb.  This climb with the guides is described as running a marathon, and then taking a nap, and running another marathon, which is a fairly accurate description.  I spent many hikes with a heavy pack on Mt. Si feeling out different mantras, and finally discovered that repeating to myself, “It will get better” was my mantra to use on Mt. Rainier.  It reminded me that the pain was temporary, that a break would come eventually, and that I could survive the situation.

One benefit of using the guide service, was receiving a mountaineering class the day prior to the climb.  At the very start of the class, one of the first skills we learned was pressure or pursed lip breathing.  When we reached altitude, and the fatigue was creeping in, our lead guide, Dave Hahn, taught that we should use a rest step (a quick pause to allow your muscles to relax) along with a pressured breath to increase the amount of oxygen we received while climbing.  This breathing technique is similar to some of the techniques we practiced in our yoga teacher’s training course.  Sure enough, at around 8,000 feet, with fatigue, altitude and low oxygen levels settling, I had to rely on my mantra and my breath to continue moving up the mountain.  At 11,000 feet, during our summit climb, my knees were screaming at me, and causing unsteady footing.  To ensure a safe descent, I turned back to base camp arriving just in time to enjoy a beautiful sunrise with the beautiful full moon overhead!

Surprising or not, yoga complements mountaineering very well, as it felt like a physical meditation to be climbing the mountain so slowly, with such intention, and focus on the breath.  Attempting to climb Mt. Rainier has been one of the most difficult adventures I have pursued in a long time, but I am grateful for the journey with my best friend and happy to be safely back at sea level in Seattle!

Lauren Lake

More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site:  Yoga Teacher Training at Whole Life Yoga.

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