Climbing 14ers Through The Eyes of Yoga

By Mary-Laurence Bevington

Mary-Laurence Bevington with a group of hiking companions.

Mary-Laurence Bevington with a group of hiking companions.

Imagine you’re at the head of a small pack of friends near the heights of peak 14 something, something.

It’s 11 am and you’ve treaded through aspen forests, alpine meadows, and grassy ridges since just before sunrise. The August sun blazes, your mouth is dry, and the daypack weighs on your shoulders.

You look up to see the Colorado blue-sky soar just above the next hump. Could this be the top? It must be, you’ve been on your feet for an age. You look over your shoulder at your friends, slow and steady they stride, heads over dusty boots. You look forward at this hard earned summit, and receive a sudden burst of energy.

Your step quickens, and the headache that’s been nudging you since breakfast instantly fades, while your heart races.

To infinity and beyond!  

And just as you attain your goal the mirage fades, more mountain appears: a lot more mountain, in fact a few more football fields of grassy ridge come into view. This stretch then gives way to a rocky peak. That must be the top—the far, faraway top.

Aaaahhh, man, a false summit! Dad gummit!

Part of you wants to eject your pack and sun bathe atop the marmots’ caves in the talus below the ridge. You even throw up your hands and turn to see your mates have paused the march.

One of them sees your rosy cheeks and hands you a small piece of chocolate, then pulls a water bottle out of your side pouch so you can have a swig.

She peers at the route and says, “don’t worry, friend, we’ll be there in no time”.

You smile in spite of it all, warmed by the support. Everything is simple now: eat, drink, and gaze at the spacious view; get psyched for the next stint of putting one foot in front of the other with your people.

This is loving kindness, and when the going gets tough these small gestures, good vibes and caring acts from your team will remind you that you know exactly how to tap your deep wells of strength.

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life working for Outward Bound where we liken an expedition to a lifeboat. In a lifeboat your success is proportional to how much everyone is willing to help each other. The collective skill and togetherness or, on the contrary, deficient nature of your group can make or break a mountain journey. Weather, preparation, luck and group performance all play a role, and if the group radiates synergy even the most adverse moments may be surmounted.

This is yoga for at its heart yoga means to join with the tremendousness of the whole.

Enjoying the togetherness of a challenging mountain climb.

Enjoying the togetherness of a challenging mountain climb.

Yoga trains the mind, body, spirit, soul and senses for life’s obstacles. One could even consider a difficult posture, breath practice, or a long meditative sit as preparation for staying cool, calm and compassionate when the lightning storm swoops in and everyone needs to descend off of the ridge—pronto.

When we agree to climb a mountain with others and for others, such as many of you will do this August, we commit to something much bigger than ourselves. In so doing your team becomes like the great Ulysses’ band of brothers, “one equal temper of heroic hearts,” catapulting your awareness into the fullness of the web of life.

14er Summit Yoga Routine

Standing at the summit of a Colorado 14er.

Standing at the summit of a Colorado 14er.

I wish you well on your 14er journey, and I offer you one parting shot, a brief yoga ritual:

Approximate time: 1 minute and 8 seconds

Location: the summit, or whatever your summit may be on this upcoming auspicious August day.

  1. Feel your heart.
  2. Sense the team heartbeat.
  3. Take in your friends and family rooting for you at home.
  4. Admire the elemental nature all around you.
  5. Send all of it to the people your climb will help.

And you will feel the ripple effect that you are essential to as you loop up and down Colorado’s 54 jewels with 500 other brave souls—sparkling larger than the sum of your parts!

Mary-Laurence Bevington is the Managing Director and the Yoga and Pilates Director at Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder. She believes that everyone should climb a mountain at least every now and then, especially if it helps others.