Walking in NepalLataLove Yoga Trips (Lata Kadel)
Walking in Nepal – This is intended to get you thinking about your walking – we’ll take time with the practicum when you arrive in Nepal.
Walking in Nepal is different than walking on pavement in the flatlands. Trails either go up or down, and are usually not smooth. It requires full awareness of breath and above all, awareness of where you place your feet., so what seems complicated in writing will become very simple and natural. The more up and down walking you can do before coming to Nepal, the better, even if it’s on stairways. This will strengthen your muscles for both up and down hill. Daily hatha yoga to lengthen your muscles will also be rewarding, even if you only do a few rounds of Surya Namaskar. Here are some basic hints that will help make your hiking experience more enjoyable.
Remember to keep your own pace, and don’t worry about keeping up with others. There will always be a cheerful Nepali guide to stay with you and keep you on the trail, and carry your daypack when you don’t want to. Watch how easily they walk, where they walk, and follow their example.
Use diaphragmatic breathing as much as possible. On steep uphills, you may find that full yogic breathing is more helpful. As much as possible, breathe through your nose, but when you need more air don’t be shy about breathing through your mouth.
As in hatha yoga, begin with breath awareness, establish a comfortable, even breath rhythm, then walk on your breath. As in hatha practice, breathing should be smooth and steady without pauses or jerks.
Establish a steady pace using the breath as a guide. Uphill, downhill and flat walking will all have different requirements. We will almost always be walking on uneven terrain, so you need to keep your eyes on the trail and look for helpful footholds.
a. Flat: Experiment with your pace; speeding up until you feel short of breath, then slow down a bit so the breath is comfortable and keep that pace. 1:2 breathing works well on the flat. It might be 3 steps on inhale, 6 steps on exhale, or whatever rate is personally comfortable.
b. Uphill: This requires more energy, so the breath rhythm will naturally speed up, but try to keep a steady pace with the breath, letting the breath determine the pace. You will probably need to use 1:1 breathing. Slow down enough so that you can stay with one inhale or exhale per step (i.e. inhale left, exhale right, etc.). The goal is to still be able to talk if necessary. It helps to clasp your hands behind your back and bend forward a bit, keeping a straight spine. This tightens the posterior muscles so they can pull more efficiently. It also helps to fully straighten your leg with each step, as much as possible.
c. Downhill: Breathing will be easy on the downhills, but they are often steep and you need to protect your knees. It helps if you visualize yourself as a drop of water flowing down the path, so that your movements are smooth and flowing. Use small footholds (stones or protuberances) to keep secure footing, take small steps, and keep your knees flexed a bit to minimize impact. As much as possible, straighten your leg after impact. Keep your feet parallel when possible to reduce strain on the knees (and other joints), depending on the terrain.
There is usually no possibility to keep an equal distance between steps – the terrain will determine what is possible.
Keep your attention on the trail. When you watch experienced walkers, they will place their feet on every little stone or step that helps to get up the hill (or down).
Walking sticks (ski poles) can be very useful on both uphills and downhills, for stability and extra power.
Also useful is the “gait of power”: on inhale, imagine sending a golden cord from your navel area and attaching it to a point ahead of you. On exhale, reel it in.
Don’t get attached to all these words! Relax and Enjoy! Take time to stop and enjoy the scenery.