Health & Fitness

By Charu Suri

When the wind blows gently and you’re standing on top of a rock in Harriman State Park, practicing yoga, you feel Nirvana is a stone’s throw away. Fall is gently taking over the trees, and the commingling of orange and yellow brings you to a state of colorful peace: tranquility that perhaps only monks in Tibet know when they spin their prayer wheels.

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My great yoga adventure in the mountains was led by Kelly Dwyer, a veteran yoga instructor with several years’ experience. At first, I was skeptical about hiking to the top of a mountain, and then practicing my Warrior I pose as I caught my breath. A yoga novice, I wasn’t sure that this was my cup of tea.

“You’ll be fine,” Kelly assured me, in a sweet, mother-hen sort of way. Her calm encouragement told me I was in good hands. The adventure started at the crack of dawn (well…at least for me…it was more like 8am). Kelly picked up a bunch of eager hikers in the city in her van. Around six of us had signed up for the yoga hike, and were sporting good hiking gear, fleece tunics and carrying yoga mats attached to our backpacks.

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It was a chilly fall morning, and we drove for about an hour to Harriman State Park (upstate New York), and braced for our hike. We had packed plenty of water, lunch and snacks, and made sure that our hiking boots were firmly laced. Kelly led the way as we hiked uphill for about an hour, feet stamping on the dry, crackling maple leaves.

Harriman State park has seven beautiful man made lakes, and once we reached the top of the mountain, we found a level stretch of rock upon which we laid our yoga mats and towels. Kelly led our hour and a half yoga that began with deep stretches. Then we moved quickly into basic yoga postures including “downward facing dog,” “warrior” poses and “baby cobra,” which became progressively more difficult and faster.

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Although novice yoga lovers can take the yoga hike, I strongly recommend that if you’re planning to go on this hike, you should at least be familiar with the basic yoga postures and know how to perform them easily. Kelly is a great instructor, and coaches you when you’re not doing a move correctly, but I’m sure everyone wants to feel like you’re a part of the team and not some “lagger” who can’t get the yoga moves straight!

After the yoga session, we stopped for lunch for an hour, and made some great acquaintances. The energy I had was amazing: the hour and a half of yoga boosted my mental and physical faculties with the alacrity of lightning. I felt more grounded and peaceful, as though I had come back from a week-long spa retreat.

As we hiked down, we stopped and took several photos of the lakes, scenery and trails, and felt sorry when the hike was over. If you want to escape from the daily grind and the wear and tear of city life, then go on this hike! You’ll be so glad you did.

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Kelly partners with a group called Dynamic Outdoors, which offers several outdoor trips over the weekend. She also teaches privately and at the following centers:

Jack Rabbit Sports – 42 West 14th St (between 5th and 6th Aves)
Tuesdays & Thursdays 7:00-8:00am

Elevation Yoga – 121 Fulton Street (downtown financial district)
Wednesdays & Fridays 12:30-1:15pm

NYSC (New York Sports Clubs)
Thursdays 12:15-1:10 pm, 34th & 2nd
Wednesday 11/1, 8:30pm, 36th & Madison

Want to beat the Winter blues? Take the Winter Yoga & Cross
CountrySkiing/Snowshoeing retreat from January 19-21, 2007. Experience great food, a cozy fireplace and great lodgings in the Catskills, next to a peaceful river.

The hikes are priced from $45-$75. To contact Kelly Dwyer, email her at kd@kellydwyer.net or yoga@dynamicoutdoors.com

Originally published November 2006
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