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Responsible Travel: Enjoying US National Parks & Yoga

We can all agree that the events of previous years took a significant toll on our physical and mental health. That’s why it’s unsurprising that yoga and meditation really took off during the pandemic. And now that restrictions in most areas have been lifted, we are seeing a rise in popularity when it comes to outdoor yoga as a way to relieve stress and stretch the body, all while returning to nature and appreciating its beauty.

The magazine Me Time Away lists some of the different yoga types like beach yoga, forest bathing, yoga retreats, and others that have been gaining a following from outdoor yoga enthusiasts. There’s even something called SnowGa – a way for skiers to get ready for the slopes.

So, if you’re interested in trying some of these out for yourself, checking out some National Parks is a fantastic way to get started, as long as you travel responsibly.

Here’s how you can get the most out of National Parks and yoga:

1. Learning about outdoor yoga

Spending time outdoors comes with plenty of benefits. Virginia Cooperative Extention specialist Samantha Harden mentions how “Outdoor activities are an opportunity to come back to nature and ‘disconnect’ from the technological world”. This can also have positive effects on mental and physical health, such as increasing blood flow, improving flexibility, promoting mindfulness, reducing anxiety, and even cutting down your chances of depression.

2. Finding an ideal National Park for you

An essential guide to enjoying US National Parks responsibly, highlights how there are 62 National Parks in the US, all with their own unique features. For instance, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers everything from fields to coves. If you want a bit of action, Yosemite National Park is a great place to go for a mid-hike flow. So, it’s best to pick a park that has the ideal landscape, especially for outdoor yogis that are just starting their journey.

3. Preparing for your outdoor yoga trip

Some of the things you should bring on a yoga trip in a National Park would include a yoga mat, a sturdy pair of shoes that can double as hiking shoes, bug spray, sunscreen, and water. Thankfully, most yoga poses can be done while standing or sitting in a natural environment and can be practiced with or without the use of props. The National Park Service shows this through an ‘Arches National Park Yoga’ article, among other articles viewable on their website.

4. The do’s and don’ts of yoga in National Parks

There are few restrictions in National Parks when it comes to practicing outdoor activities like yoga, and the rule of thumb is to keep yourself safe and follow park rules. Prepare as much as you can by learning the hazards of the park environment – this includes any wild animals, territorial dangers, and weather issues that might arise. Whether you’re going alone or as a group, be respectful of other visitors and do not leave behind any litter.

5. Getting used to bringing yoga everywhere

As we reiterate in our article on ‘How To Keep Up Your Yoga Practice While Traveling’, bringing yoga with you during your travels can be done through consistent practice. You may feel awkward at first, especially when you lay your mat on unfamiliar National Park terrain surrounded by a myriad of sights and sounds. But instead of viewing these new sensations as distractions, think of them as signs of life that are to be appreciated and enjoyed thoroughly.

Some final thoughts

Of course, you’ll learn more about outdoor yoga with more time and experience. You’ll also find what National Parks work for you, and what parks don’t. It’s okay to start small and frequent parks that are near you and start broadening your horizons by visiting unfamiliar areas. Eventually, you’ll be able to gain enough confidence and focus to try visiting a new park every now and again. Then you’ll reap the physical and mental benefits of being at one with nature.

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