Backcountry Camping can be Yoga

Tara smiling and standing in front of their sleeping-tarp set-up.
Image Description: A picture of Tara – in a white body – wearing a black jacket and a black and white baseball cap with a light grey toque over top, smiling and standing in front of their sleeping-tarp set-up.

This blog post is a combination of three reflections made after three separate nights in the woods between July 4 and September 24 2021.

Let’s get into it!

the first night – July 24 2021

Tara after dark lying down wearing a bug netting hat, smiling and giving a thumbs up.
Image description: Tara - in a white body - at night lying on a blue sleeping pad wearing a bug netting hat. They are smiling and giving a thumbs up.

Ever since I started studying Yoga (philosophy), I see more and more opportunities to practice in every moment.

This post is about one of those opportunities as, last lunar cycle [sidereal Taurus], I decided to endeavour on an adventure into the wilderness.

Success in Yoga looks like your life being a result of your choices.
Not luck.
Not privilege.

Just you and the choices that you make out of devotion to the Sovereignty of all people.
This is Kaivalya. This is isolation. This is liberation.

As I’ve been studying, I have noticed how much I take for granted -aka how much I experience (that I want to experience) that isn’t a result of my choices.

In particular, as I’ve been hiking more I have become very aware of how unskilled I am in the outdoors. If I were to be stranded, I would be in trouble. I was taking my safety for granted. And if anyone else out there needed help, I wouldn’t be much good to them either.

So to bring my experience within my control (aka to practice Yoga), I decided to go on a guided wilderness survival course.

I had never practiced wilderness survival before. I had no gear. I had no clue what I was doing. I found Canada West Mountain School online and signed up for a course.

[And what an incredible experience it was! If you are a newbie looking for guidance, I HIGHLY recommend them. I felt so safe and supported.]

 

Anyways, I had a wonderful time. I hiked in with my camp on my back, I caught a spark with a flint and steel, I set up a (meager) tarp to sleep under, I picked a relatively poor spot to sleep (though it was surrounded by blueberry bushes), and I worked with a partner to navigate our way back on Day 2 without a single wrong turn.

I share this experience to remind us all that Yoga ≠ a flow of body postures exclusively.

Any time you take responsibility for how you relate to your experiences, you are practicing Yoga!

the second night – september 15 2021

Tara standing in the forest with a backpack on, smiling.
Image Description: A picture of Tara – in a white body – wearing a red sweater, a black and white baseball cap with a light grey toque over top, and a large, green backpack. They are smiling.
Two pieces of paper with notes outlining how to tie a Bowline and a Trucker's Hitch knot.
Image Description: A picture of two papers with details for how to tie two knots: the Bowline and the Trucker's Hitch. The pieces of paper are resting on top of a olive green backpack with the bark of a tree in the background and some red, thin rope on the left side.
An orange tarp set up between two trees.
Image Description: A picture of an orange tarp amongst trees with the sun streaming through them. Underneath the tarp there is a shadow of a hammock.
A collapsible orange bowl with food inside and a spork sticking out.
Image Description: A picture of instant oatmeal with dried fruit and seeds in an orange collapsible bown with a yellow spork sitting in it. In the background is a sandy beach with a river beyond it.

I did it!

One night alone in the backcountry with my gear on my back.

To some: not a big deal.
To me: a huge success!

Wilderness survival/camping is an expression of Yogic practice that I am growing quite passionate about.

Any practice is Yoga when it has these three qualities:

1. It pushes against your inherited limitations,
2. It allows you to own your values, and
3. It creates space for all people to do this same practice. (Yoga Sūtra II.1)

Camping is definitely pushing against my inherited limitations. It is not only challenging my beliefs about what is ‘safe’ and what I ‘can and cannot do,’ but also my physical limitations including strength in my body to be able to carry my gear for a multi-kilometer hike.

This practice is allowing me to own my values of self-responsibility, confidence and empowerment! I feel like a fricken forest ninja and it feels GOOD!

And in doing this while leaving no trace and respecting all other human- and non-human animals in the area, I am practicing creating space for all people – myself included – to continue to thrive.

I learned A LOT on this first solo trip, and look forward to many more!

A few takeaways:

– Remember PJ’s!
– You can never bring too many plastic bags.
– Check the weather in the mountains.. not in the city below..🤦🏻

Shoutout to Canada West Mountain School for their work which allowed me to feel prepared enough to endeavour on this adventure.

Some Yogic words of encouragement: “(Success in Yoga is) near for those who are intense (Yoga Sūtra I.21) and is also proportional to the degree of intensity: feeble, moderate or above measure (Yoga Sūtra I.22).” – translation by Dr. Shyam Ranganathan

If you want to do something, do it! Jump in with both feet!

“I ain’t gonna live forever. I just wanna live while I’m alive.” – Bon Jovi

the third night – september 23 2021

Tara in the woods smiling.
Image Description: A photo of Tara – in a white body – in the woods, wearing a black and white baseball cap with brown sunglasses resting on the brim. They have on a dark grey buff, a black shirt, and are wearing an olive-green backpack. They are smiling and in the background there are leaves and trees.
A dark purple mushroom.
Image Description: A photo of a dark purple mushroom emerging from the forest floor. There are green plants and sticks that surround it in the foreground and background.
A rocky mountain beach on a partly sunny day.
Image Description: A photo of a Half Moon Beach. It is rocky and there is a river with trees beyond it and mountains in the background. It is a partly sunny day and the sun is peeking out between clouds and the mountains.
Reddening Vine Maple leaves from below looking up towards the sky.
Image Description: A photo of Vine Maple leaves from below looking up towards the sky. The leaves are in the midst of changing colour from green to red.
Tara in their hammock with a tablet and wireless keyboard after dark.

I did it.. again!

Previously I shared about how I completed my first ever solo, single-night backpacking trip as an expression of my personal Yoga practice.

And I went ahead and did another solo, single-night trip last week.

And I learned more and enjoyed it so much.

But what I really want to share about it in this moment is that before Yoga practice (formally outlined in the second limb of Yoga) comes Yoga pre-practice, namely the Yama-s (the first limb of Yoga).

The Yama-s outline the Yogi’s outward effort to stabilize their environment so that they can practice effectively.

The Yama-s suggest that one always needs to interrupt harm before taking seriously any facts that come out of a situation.

The fact is: I made it out of the woods very well on my first solo trip and there was no evidence suggesting I couldn’t go for two nights next time.

But when I consider harm interruption first, I realize that going for a longer period of time is not necessary.

Because one night is still challenging enough.

Do you ever notice how, after you’ve done something once, you might expect yourself to not only perform up to the same standard the next time, but to also do it better/faster/etc.?

This expectation assumes consistency in all other aspects of your experience.

In my case, it assumes the same weather, that I remembered all the same gear, that I won’t twist an ankle while hiking, etc.

This is unrealistic.

So, thank goodness for Yoga. Because in Yoga we do not focus on outcomes. We focus on right practice. And right practice is the kind of practice that INTERRUPTS harm, not the kind of practice that creates it.

So I’ll be doing solo, single-night trips for a while.

And yes, the novelty will wear off.

Other people might become uninterested or even judgmental that my practice is not progressing ‘fast enough.’

However, until this length of trip is no longer pushing against my limitations, allowing me to own my values, and creating space for every person to thrive.. I will continue it.

I hope that you enjoyed going on this yoga practice/camping journey with me!

What is a practice that you are taking slow and steady these days? Please share in the comments! And if you found this interesting, please consider sharing it with people you know by following the icons below.

Until next time!

In practice,

Tara

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Backcountry Camping can be Yoga – the one person revolution