Asheville Area Adventures in Mountain Biking, Mindfulness, Yoga and Hiking
I’m so stoked to share this post from our only yoga hiking guide with a Y chromosome.
John is a former U.S. Marine and today works as a Wilderness-based addiction recovery guide offering connection and motivation for those starting on a new path. Along the way he has led hundreds of classes for 6 years including 6 semesters of Yoga for Health at Indiana University and at the University of Notre Dame. He loves both hiking and yoga as both are best done immersed in the scenery of the great outdoors.
Enjoy John’s vetted and verified list of his favorite locations near Asheville to do day hikes, mountain bike, meditate and do yoga. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to join him for one of our yoga hikes this season!
One of my favorite things to do since moving to Asheville 1 year ago is driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s one of America’s beloved and most pristine highways; and its 469 miles of climbs, curves, tunnels and overlooks make it equally enjoyable for both driver and passenger. I love watching the giant blue mountain ranges fade into gray nothingness. Climbing, descending - the wind whips through my hair as nearby trees and rocks blur past my open window . Here I am in the mountains. Here I am in the forest. Here I drive and feel free.
My Top 3 Asheville-area Blue Ridge Parkway Experiences:
#3 - Mile Marker 393: North Carolina Arboretum
#2 - Mile Marker 339: Crabtree Falls
Mountain Biking (MTB) has become another of my favorite nature-loving activities here in Asheville. Nothing beats ripping down a mountain trail you’ve worked so hard to climb. Here the air is clear and clean to satiate sucking lungs. Here the branches and rocks are palpable - sometimes too palpable. Here I am in the mountains. Here I am in the forest. Here I can flow and feel free.
My Top 3 Asheville-area Bicycle Experiences:
As much as I enjoy backpacking, day-hiking is my jam. I love taking along just a few snacks and essentials in my day pack - and scampering off on yet another adventure. The air is fresh and the water is cool. Here, my child-like curiosities give me permission to stop and smell all the proverbial roses, splash in the creek, climb the tree, admire the sunset or salamander, hear the birds and feel the water in my fingers, hair, face and toes. Journeys become destinations. Here I am in the mountains. Here I am in the forest. Here I can explore and feel free.
My Top 3 Asheville-area Day Hikes:
#2 - Craggy Gardens
When the weather is just right, yoga poses (asana) in the sun are now for me spontaneous bits of joy sprinkled throughout my day. Before the hike, along the hike, during a break from the hike, and after the hike are all appropriate times to sneak in a pose or 3. If the spot is just right for an extended practice, the natural world around me can grow accustomed to my presence, as I learn to grow accustomed to the natural world. Orienting my body and poses in all directions, I can bask in the beauty of the macro: sun, clouds, and sky; and the micro: moss, leaves, and bugs - sometimes from upside down! Here I breathe deep intentional breaths of fresh and fragrant air (pranayama). Here I am in the mountains. Here I am in the forest. Here I can observe and feel free.
My Top 3 Yoga Poses to do in Nature:
Last, but certainly not least, meditation (dhyana) in nature brings us to stillness in a wild yet peaceful place. On the mountain top, near the stream or waterfall, in the sunshine, around the campfire, under a favorite tree - these are environs I find ripe to slip into optimal posture coupled with intentional awareness of my environment, my body, and my thoughts. Here I am still. Here I am alert. Here I am at ease. Here I am in the mountains. Here I am in the forest. Here I am aware and I feel free.
My Top 3 Meditation Techniques to Practice in Nature:
#3 - Loving-Kindness (Metta) Visualization: Send warm, kind, compassionate thoughts to a loved-one, a stranger, an antagonist, and myself. Visually send loving kindness geographically in all directions.
#2 - Inner - Awareness or Mindfulness Meditation: Notice the fluctuations and emotions of my mind as it flutters here and there - observing without judgement. Gently bring awareness back to the present moment.
#1 - Sense Inventory: Cycle my awareness through what I see, hear, feel, and smell in the present moment - directing my attention for a few moments on each. Repeat.
Activity in nature exists on a spectrum of fast movement (cars and bikes) to slower movements (walking and yoga) - all the way down to stillness (mediation). The eastern practices of yoga and meditation encourage us to slow down, stop, and just be. I am grateful these practices allow me to lighten my pace, and get even further enjoyment from these beautiful mountains I now - with gratitude - get to call home.