Last year, our tour business, Ridge & Valley Tours, LLC began a new tour offering that many are curious about-Snowga! We are offering snowga classes again this year and you don’t want to miss this experience! At the end of the article, you can see the link to purchase tickets for our upcoming classes.
Last year, I was talking with a good friend, Catrina, and we had a conversation about staying active in the winter time. I shared how I was passionate about snowshoeing and the mental benefits of being outside in the winter. She shared her love for yoga and how therapeutic she found yoga to be after the passing of her father. Catrina has been a yoga instructor for a few years now and she is very familiar with teaching stand-up paddle board yoga in the summer. We both love the benefits of being in nature. We both agreed the connection with the outdoors was truly the best part.
As our conversation evolved, we began to explore the idea of melting both of our passions into a new experience. I asked her if she thought we could do some yoga moves during a snowshoeing experience. We talked about what that could look like. She gave it some thought and did a little research. She saw the idea mentioned in upstate New York and told me about her ideas. She said they called it snowga and we both found the idea to be very interesting.
I asked her if she could come up with some yoga moves we could do while snowshoeing and she set her mind to coming up with some yoga flow to add to our snowshoe tours. We had our first experience in Richland Center at the Old Mill Pond park with a great group of ladies. We set a few guiding principles to our class realizing we wanted to engage the body and the mind. We outfitted each of them with snowshoes and a yoga mat to carry on their backs.
We began with a time for socializing as we put on the snowshoes that morning. Many of the ladies had never snowshoed before and I took some time to help them put their snowshoes on and how to take their first strides. Many of the ladies were good friends but due to Covid, they hadn’t seen each other in awhile. It was great for them to be outside, together and yet be safe. Snowshoeing still remains a great activity to do that naturally allows for social distancing. There was a lot of talking and laughing as they took their first strides together.
What I love about snowshoeing is how the body warms up pretty quickly. When engaging in snowshoeing, you use all four extremities and some muscles that haven’t been used in awhile. The glutes and leg muscles are especially utilized while tracking thru the snow. Even if the day is really cold, it takes very little time to warm up. We snowshoed as a group for about 10-15 minutes getting used to the snowshoes on our feet and getting comfortable with the rhythm of our poles.
At that point, we had practiced going up and down small hills and getting our coordination under control. We stopped in a lovely clearing and gathered in a semi circle to begin our time of yoga. Our heart rates were up and our breathing was labored just a bit as we all began a standing yoga flow with our snowshoes and poles. The snowshoes provide a really nice base of support and the poles helped to keep us steady. This experience is perfect for beginners. The moves are easy for anyone to do and balance is easy to maintain.
Catrina is very careful as we begin to do various standing poses and she always instructs us to protect our knees and body with good alignment. We reached for the sky in sun salutations and extended our stretch with side bends. We engaged slowly in warrior poses 1, 2 & 3, always careful to watch our alignment as we progressed through the moves. Everyone could move at their own pace and work the kinks out of their bodies. We slowed our breathing and greeted the day but before we could get cold we took off again in our snowshoes.
As we embarked back on the snowshoe trail, we had them stop for a moment of pictures. We found a spot that allowed for pictures. It was important to preserve these moments for the future. The snowga class was such a nice bonding experience for the participants. Another thing we love about snowga is the fact that we all are wearing bulky winter clothing and all thoughts of body image during yoga are no longer an issue.
After our photo-op, we asked the ladies to snowshoe for a bit in silence. At this point, we were snowshoeing a trail along the Pine River. It was so peaceful to see the river current with ice and snow floating down it and watch the mist rise up from the water. We asked them to allow the sound of their snowshoes crunching in the snow to get them in a meditative state.
We continued along the river and finally broke out into the area on the banks of the Pine River where the water tumbled over the rocks. It was such a lovely sound being near the rapids. We had them drop their mats into the snow and ease down to the mat. We did keep the snowshoes on for a bit, using them as extensions to grab in various poses but we did finally take them off and stretched out our newly awakened muscle groups. Snowshoeing had done a great job of warming them up again and as they laid on the mats in the snow, being cold was not an issue.
We had a similar experience up at Wild Hills Winery when we did our tour there. This time was unique because we had 3 couples and a few other ladies. The guys had never done yoga before but they found it to be really easy to do. We find snowga is a great mix of activity for the body and the mind. We tracked through the winery and found a similar place to stop and do our standing poses. The Winery provides a great opportunity to really get your heart rate up with the hills. We then asked them to snowshoe in silence through the pine forest. We all listened to the snow crunching under our shoes, the wind thru the pine trees and the birds singing us a song. As we exited the forest, there was a big hill to climb. It really can push one to their limits but as we ascended the last hill we all felt victorious at the top. The view at the top of Oak Ridge at the winery is so impressive and it’s the perfect place for a photo-op. Once we were done with pictures, we finished the last quarter mile and dropped our mats in the snow and finished with lying down poses again.
We have done snowga about 5-6 times and each experience is unique. Snowga engages our minds, spirits and body in such a different way. But nature is the real star of the show! We intend to have many snowga opportunities this winter and are planning some really special trails in different locations this year. Please join us! You will love every moment!
If you are interested in trying out Snowga, you can sign up for a drop-in class or you can buy a 4-pack of tickets for every Saturday in January. click on the link below.