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Washingtonian’s Fitness Bloggers Review Yoga Hikes DC


 Fitness Class Review: Yoga Hikes DC

The new fitness program leads a hike through DC and Rock Creek Park interspersed with mini yoga sessions.
By Melissa Romero

Danielle Reyes leads a small group of hikers through a 15-minute yoga session in Montrose Park. It’s all part of the new program Yoga Hikes DC. Photographs by Melissa Romero.

Comments (1) | Published June 4, 2013

Washingtonians are such a fitness-loving bunch that hybrid exercise classes have become the norm. Barre and cycling? Been there. Yoga and Pilates (a.k.a. Yogalates)? Done that. I thought I’d seen all the city had to offer, until I stumbled upon the new program Yoga Hikes DC.

For the past three weeks, those who frequent Rock Creek Park may have come across a small group of yogis practicing their tree pose or Warrior II at the foot of the creek. Or maybe they’ve drawn stares in Dumbarton Oaks as they stop for a quick Downward Dog before setting out once more on one of the many winding trails.

It’s all part of Yoga Hikes DC, the brainchild of Danielle Reyes, who offers 90-minute urban hikes through the city interspersed with 15-minute yoga breaks along the way. Reyes, who grew up hiking with her family in upstate New York, says yoga became the “perfect counterbalance” after her muscles began suffering some wear and tear from running and hiking. Combining hiking and yoga into one workout was just an easy fix. After noticing the huge following of hiking yoga in other major cities, including San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, Reyes wondered, “How do we not have this in DC?”

On Saturday morning I joined Reyes and a group of six women for a yoga hike through Rock Creek Park, Dumbarton Oaks, and Montrose Park. Reyes carried all the supplies we’d need—sunscreen, bug spray, mini yoga mats—in a backpack and led us to the start of a trail below Calvert Street.

Before beginning the hike, Reyes led us through our first 15-minute yoga session under a canopy of trees, encouraging us to be aware of our surroundings. “In a typical yoga class you’re asked to tune everything out,” Reyes said. “This class I want you to take everything in—the sounds, smells, and sights.”

After a few downward dogs and some bug scares (expect to find a few critters crawling around), we headed into the woods to begin the brisk hike. This is no leisurely hike—Reyes has each route mapped and timed so that the group reaches each yoga spot on schedule. But each 15-minute session flew by, as we did Warrior II poses under the searing sun at the bank of the creek, and as we hiked through the public portion of Dumbarton Oaks, where many of us exclaimed in wonder over the 27 acres of land.

Reyes says introducing people to the many trails of DC was a big reason she decided to launch Yoga Hikes DC: “I just didn’t realize how few people know a lot of the trails around Rock Creek Park, or they just don’t know what to expect.”

After climbing one big hill—each hike includes at least one—Reyes led us through our last yoga session in Montrose Park, where we fittingly did tree poses while gazing up at a giant tree. But just as soon as we handed our mats back to Reyes, we were off again to finish the hike back to trailhead.

Although Yoga Hikes DC is still new, Reyes is already considering a few additions, including longer hikes out in Great Falls or Shenandoah National Parks, or throwing in the occasional yoga run for those more experienced. But for now, Reyes is confident Yoga Hikes will easily find a place in DC: “It’s social, it’s outdoors, it’s active. Those are the three check boxes for me—and it fits really well into DC’s culture.”

Yoga Hikes DC is $25 for drop-ins. Enter the code FFSPRING at checkout to receive a 20 percent discount. Reyes leads four to five hikes each week beginning in Dupont Circle and Rock Creek Park.


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No Mats Necessary and Other YHDC Details

Do I need to bring a mat?  Can I participate if I’m new to yoga?  How far do we hike?Danielle on YogaHike 1

All good questions and we appreciate you asking!

The most commonly asked question to date has definitely been, “Do I need to bring a mat?”  Great news!  You do NOT need to bring a yoga mat with you!  During a Yoga Hike we want you to have an active cardio experience, so your arms and legs need to be free to move unencumbered.  Also, if you’ve practiced yoga outside you know that a mat is not always that helpful and sometimes messy.  What is helpful are our handy mat squares, which provide a good barrier between your bottom and the ground.  Your instructor will have mat squares for everyone to use at the final YogaStop.  That said, the choice to take a seated or full savasana on the ground is up to the comfort level of each individual participant.

Another popular question has been about the level of the yoga.  Yoga Hikes is an open level vinyasa flow yoga format.  Open level yoga means that our yoga practice is accessible to beginners and more advanced yoga practitioners.   Is it helpful to have some prior exposure to yoga?  Sure!  But if  you are new to yoga, a Yoga Hike is a great way to learn.  At the same time, more experienced yogis will be invited to take more advanced versions of poses during the flow and are encouraged to make the practice their own.

Finally, (at least for this post) are the questions about the duration and intensity of the hiking.  You can currently sign up for 90 minutes Yoga Hikes and coming soon, 2 hour Yoga Hikes.  During a 90 minute hike you will likely get in about 45 minutes of hiking in 3 fifteen minute intervals (though this varies depending on the route and location of our Yoga Stops).  As for intensity, this is an outdoor fitness workout.  The hiking is our cardio work, so we keep a comfortable, but steady hiking pace.  Keeping pace with the group is important in order to maintain the workout and get to all of our YogaStops in time!

From time to time we will offer a more restorative Yoga Hike with a leisurely pace and restorative postures.  If you like the idea of going on a Yoga Hike, but would prefer a more leisurely pace, consider organizing a private hike.  Private Yoga Hikes can be tailored to meet the needs and interest of the group.  For more information on private hikes or other questions about the Yoga Hikes, please email or tweet @YogaHikes


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How My Yoga Practice Made it’s Way into the Woods

My first exposure to yoga was at my gym in a dimly lit mirrored room.  My gaze drifted from my reflection, to the instructor, to those seasoned students doing advanced expressions of each pose.  I struggled to focus solely on the instructor’s verbal cues and instead found myself following those around me.  When we finally transitioned from standing flow to our bellies, I was grateful.  I took a quick peek at my watch for a time check, not much longer.  Finally, we made our way into savasana.  I wondered how long it would last and used the time to make a mental grocery list of what I needed to pick up at Trader Joes after class.

It wasn’t a bad class or a weak instructor, it was me.  I didn’t know the poses physically or by name.  I had no idea what it meant to be present in a yoga class or at the gym in general.  Yoga seemed painfully slow to a cardio-lover like myself.  For a long time I thought that yoga just might not be for me.

Shortly after this experience I went on a  surfing vacation to Cost Rica.  While there, I was convinced to take an outdoor yoga class in Montezuma.  Surrounded by lush green vegetation with the sound of the waves in the distance, I experienced my first full yoga class outdoors and it was transformative.  Moving through our poses amid the fresh air and beauty of the outdoors seemed like the most natural thing in the world.  I remember saying, “I would practice yoga every day, if it was outdoors!”

Many years and many yoga classes later (both indoor and outdoor), I am putting those words into action and combing two of my favorite activities, yoga and hiking!  Spending time outdoors with friends has always been a big part of my lifestyle.  As an avid runner and hiker I am out on the trails several times a week.   As yoga became more a part of my routine, I would find myself taking breaks at favorite spots in the woods and along the river to enjoy a little yoga before getting back on the trail.  It wasn’t long before I realized how complimentary these two activities are together.

Yoga Hikes makes for a fun, active, outdoor yoga experience that can be enjoyed anyone.  It breaks down a 45-60 minute open-level yoga practice into short intervals and integrates them into a 90 min. – 2 hour hike.   It’s a combination of nature, accessible yoga, and cardio in a small group atmosphere.

It’s funny to think back to those days when I dragged myself to yoga, but I’m so glad I did.  I have grown to love my gym yoga, my studio yoga, and my outdoor yoga experiences.  There are many ways to practice yoga and part of the journey is finding the way that speaks to your mind and your body.   Finding my way led me to start Yoga Hikes DC, an experience I hope others will find as enjoyable as I do!

Danielle M. Reyes in Washington, DC

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