Instead of rolling out your mat on the hardwood floor of your yoga studio, in just a few weeks the trails and meadows of Central Park and Prospect Park will act as practice rooms for hundreds of New Yorkers. Maybe you?
April marks the debut of Hiking Yoga in New York. The popular program, now available in 15 cities, is the brainchild of tour guide-and-experienced yogi Eric Kipp. He kicked off Hiking Yoga in 2009 in San Francisco with just a backpack, a map for leading hikes in gorgeous city parks and preserves, and a few yoga mats for stops along the way.
Kipp’s upcoming classes at the New York Yoga Journal Conference were the first to sell out, ahead of, for example, Rodney Yee’s and Shiva Rea’s. (Although Hiking Yoga’s class size is significantly smaller.) To meet demand, Kipp has also trained 150 teachers across the country to date.
So will you be one of the urbanites taking her practice into the park for a Hiking Yoga class? If so, you should know these five things that make Hiking Yoga very different from your regular yoga class (besides exposure to the elements):
1. CHATTING DURING CLASS—PERMITTED!
Yoga is suddenly social: you can talk to your BFF while you hike! It’s one of the many elements hiking yoga inadvertently adds to the class experience, says Kipp.
2. YOU COULD LOSE YOUR BEARINGS
You’re exploring the city you live in in a way you might not on your own. “I’ll have a person who’s lived in San Francisco for 20 years and is, like, ‘Where the hell are we?'” There’s an element of reintroducing people to their own community,” Kipp explains.
When you think about it, just how much of Central Park have you seen? Kipp’s got 53 miles of hiking trails at his disposable. (Don’t worry, he’s carefully plotted a route.)
3. YOUR YOGA TEACHER WILL BE WEARING HIKING BOOTS
And so will you (or at least sneakers). During the hike, you’ll stop to do yoga three or four times, and you won’t shed your shoes. Not being able to spread your toes may take some getting used to.
4. MATS ARE PROVIDED
No need to soil your Manduka. Your instructor will have a stock of special mats that are made for shoe soles instead of bare toes.
5. WEATHER PERMITTING
Hikes are 90 minutes, and the style of yoga you do will depend on the instructor. You’ll need to register for class, and the instructor will email you if bad weather means the class is canceled. Classes are $20, or less if you buy a package. The first New York classes will be at 10:00 a.m. on April 7 and 8 in Central Park, led by Kipp. Sign up and get meeting-spot details here. —Lisa Elaine Held