outdoor yoga

The Other Half | Yoga in True Nature Project

Welcome to the third post from the True Nature Tribe. If you’re new here, head back and check out the first post: Introducing the True Nature Tribe and the second: Finding Home of the West Coast Trail. Throughout this project we photograph and interview yogis about yoga in nature. Before we share their stories, we wanted to share ours. Last time I talked about me, today I interview Marc!

yoga in nature

It only took Marc a moment to remember the first time he practiced yoga in nature. He recalled practicing yoga on a beach somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. The memory slowly became clearer as he recalled our trip to the West Coast Trail. “We would hike every day, most of the day, because it was a pretty long trip. We’d hike on the beach, hike on the coast, and then hike on the bluffs through the forest. It was really peaceful but also exciting because it was new and the trail held challenges: ladders and river crossings. It was the experience of traveling a really rugged coastline. And then at the end of the day, we’d set up camp on the beach. We’d do yoga in the sand to get limber and relaxed before eating. We’d usually jump in the ocean. It was really good to stretch out, face the ocean, watch the waves, be relaxed, and not have any of the stress of normal everyday life.”

west coast trail yoga

a place to reset

As Marc remembers it, his first time trying yoga was in college at our good friend Katie’s house. From there, we starting going to a studio in downtown San Luis Obispo. Marc remembers how much better he felt after attending classes at the studio and he continues to practice because he believes it’s a healthy thing to do. In his words, “Yoga clears your mind, it boosts creativity, and it has positive benefits (such as awareness) that make you a better person.”

Marc has always liked hiking, backpacking, and being in remote places. Waking up and being active everyday brings simplicity to his life. There’s something calming, relaxing, and meditative about it and Marc believes that people practice yoga for the same reasons. For Marc, that is the purpose of this project, “I think it’s about drawing a connection between people practicing yoga to the same sort of experience that you can have either doing yoga in the outdoors or just being present in outdoor spaces.” He says that whether someone practices yoga outside, in a studio, or in their house they receive the benefits of being present. For Marc yoga gives him a little dose of the reset that he gets from being in the outdoors. He believes that it is important to have a “place that you can go to reset and just be yourself.”

As an athlete, Marc enjoys the physical and mental challenges of yoga saying that, “Awhile ago I wouldn’t have even tried a handstand because I knew it wasn’t an option but now it seems attainable.” Meanwhile, he feels like he’s being benefited in other ways as he learns to witness his own thoughts and how he feels about things. Prior to yoga, he didn’t really have a structure of learning tools for self-observation.

yoga in nature

simplicity in the outdoors

Marc uses simple yoga poses in order to either prepare for or stretch out after his outdoor activities. Doing yoga poses outdoors sometimes adds a new challenge. “Being on the edge of a cliff focuses your intent on not losing your balance and causes you to be aware of your surroundings.” Marc has another fond memory of meditating in the Sequoia trees. He remembers it being peaceful, “You start to hear all of the sounds and become far more aware of all the things that are around you.”

While he can been seen enjoying a variety of outdoor activities, Marc appreciates those in which he can find flow, that meditative state where you’re just moving. While he enjoys a good challenge or a chance to relax, there’s something about getting in the groove of moving. “I love the outdoors because you have a great time when you’re out there and you don’t have to think about everything else.”

Summarizing what he sees as three main aspects of yoga, Marc says, “Yoga is active, intentional, and simplifying.” During Asana he gets to be active and strong. That’s the part where he’s physically doing the poses. Then he’s intentional, controlling his thoughts and his breath. The result, like in backpacking, is simplifying: allowing him to focus only on what he is doing.

One of Marc’s favorite memories of the simplicity of being outside is the time he hiked a section of the John Muir Trail with two friends. Since there were only three of them and they were hiking at different paces, they were often either in a pair or alone. “It was really relaxing to just walk and observe everything that was around you. All you had to do was walk however many miles we had selected that day. You just hike along and you have nothing else to focus on because there’s nothing to interrupt what you’re doing. No one can contact you; you’re just out there. By yourself.”

Much of what he remembers was being above the tree line with a lot of vistas and grand views of the Southern Sierra. As he describes it, “The trail was pretty rugged. I remember there was a lot of rocky alpine terrain and high altitude lakes.” Marc enjoys the peaceful, simple qualities of hiking but he also has an appreciation for the personal challenge and the positive feedback of the accomplishment. “I remember hiking through the snow. By myself. It was really deep,” he says laughing, “probably like knee deep because it was a really big snow year. Carl brought snowshoes but I didn’t want to carry them so I didn’t bring them, so I was post holing.”

People that know Marc are familiar with his passion for research. He has a knack for retaining, digesting, and integrating information from various guidebooks and personal experiences. It shouldn’t have surprised me to learn (after almost five years of marriage) that his first backpacking trip began with a stop at the library. As he puts it, “I remember going to the library, getting a book on backpacking, and telling my dad that I wanted to go.” Marc knew that his dad had been before but other than that he didn’t know that much about it. “I just remember wanting to go and thinking it was so cool that you could just pack everything that you need on your back and walk into the wilderness.”

Marc likes being outside and he likes sharing the experience with others. He figures that might be the reason he fell in love with photography. He wanted to bring back something from his experience in the outdoors so that he could both share it and document it for his own memory.

“I think there’s clarity in nature. If you really get out in the wilderness, in true nature, then you experience your True Self because you don’t have any distractions. Usually you’re with people that you know pretty well so you feel like you can be yourself. It brings clarity so you can really decide how you feel about things and be able to think through challenges. If you’re having a hard time with a decision, you go for a hike and you can think through the options without distractions or interruptions.”

Thanks for tuning in! Be sure to visit our website for more information on what we are doing with the True Nature Tribe project about yoga in nature. You’ll see glimpses of the stories ahead and well as ways to get involved. We would be honored if you would support our project in whatever way you are able. We’ve created a Postcard Pack that is available for purchase. 100% of the profits will be donated to land conservation.

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