CHARLOTTE – With fall underway and leaves starting to turn, yoga teacher Lisa Strickland is prepping for her Hike to Your Yoga series at South Mountain State Park.
Strickland, who lives near Mount Holly, teaches at a studio in Belmont, substitutes at studios in Mount Holly and elsewhere and can sometimes be found leading yoga classes at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Her hike and yoga adventures add another layer.
Through a hike and a yoga practice based on mindfulness, Strickland hopes participants will come away feeling refreshed and re-energized.
Mountain Island Monitor: How long have you been teaching yoga? How long have you been hiking?
Lisa Strickland: I have been teaching yoga for 8 years. I’ve been hiking since I was a young girl. My dad used to take me hiking for daylong trips when I was a young teenager. And growing up, I played in the woods with my brother and neighborhood kids. Therefore, my love for nature started a long time ago! I started my first Hike to Your Yoga in 2014 and continued them ever since.
MIM: What do you think the two have in common?
LS: Yoga is the connection of your body, mind and spirit, and I truly feel that nature has a way of doing the exact same thing. I have always loved being in nature – the sense of calmness and the healing it provides for me. Studies have shown that people who spend time in nature under the trees have greater mental energy, less stress and live happier lives. Therefore, combining both yoga and a hike in the woods seems to go hand in hand for health and wellness and was something at first I would do alone after becoming a yoga instructor in 2010. Later in 2014 I decided to share this experience with others, and it gave me a way to give back to the parks I loved and enjoyed visiting. Over time as my teaching skills grew and the whole experience developed it became even better.
MIM: Walk us through a Hike to Your Yoga event. What should people expect?
LS: Each class we meet up at the location of choice. The two dates in October will be held at South Mountain State Park. We usually meet in the parking lot area. … After (a) circle-up, we head out on the hike. We travel along the path, sometimes crossing bridges, climbing stairs and crossing rocks yet taking our time to simply enjoy the trip every step of the way. … We hike until we reach a certain spot that I have pre-mapped out for us to pause for the yoga portion of this journey. The yoga is usually around 45 minutes, where we move much slower. This gentle practice focuses on breath, mindfulness, slower movement and deeper stretching. This more meditative practice leaves students feeling restored and relaxed halfway through the trip. After class we usually pause for a few extra minutes to have a snack and rehydrate before heading back to the trail. ... After leaving we take a piece of the journey and the experience with us forever!
MIM: Part of the proceeds from the adventure will be donated. Can you tell us more about that?
LS: As a special event, I am required to coordinate my classes with each park by obtaining a permit. Along with the fees, I also take part of the proceeds I collect for each class and give a love donation back to each park. This way each person who attends a class is giving back in some capacity. I feel it is important to preserve our natural habitats as we want to assure that these areas of beauty are around for many years to come. For not only our children’s children to enjoy, (but) for the children beyond them as well.
MIM: How physically fit do you have to be to participate?
LS: If anyone is questioning whether they are able to join this trip, I would recommend they speak with their doctor, especially if they have major health conditions. The hike can be somewhat strenuous as we are climbing in elevation. However, we do take our time and allow everyone to go at their own pace. I have had people of all ages come along on this journey, anywhere from 12-70 years of age, but each person is fully responsible for themselves and their own wellbeing when joining this journey. I am first aid- and CPR-certified and will use my training if necessary. However, I am very thankful I haven’t ever had to.
MIM: What do you hope people get out of this experience?
LS: I hope people will gain many things from this experience. For example, I hope each person will leave feeling more relaxed and less stressed after spending a day in nature. I hope that through the yoga practice each gain some mental clarity and release some physical tension.