Yoga in Nature

I like nature.

 

And I like yoga.

 

So it made sense for me to try the monthly Yoga in Nature class offered at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center.

 

What doesn’t make sense is that I picked a freezing rainy day in December on which to try it out.

 

But there you go.

 

I was curious to see how connected to nature I would feel on a day when I was tempted to stay curled up in bed inside my electric-heated home, with insulated walls protecting me from the miserable weather outside.

 

Plus, I had signed up for the class weeks ago, and I don’t like breaking my commitments.

 

So I grabbed my yoga mat, bundled up, and went to class.

Because of the inclement weather, the class was being held inside the nature center in one of the classrooms, rather than outside under the pavilion, thus making the class Yoga Next to Nature rather than Yoga in Nature.

 
yoga-pavilion

View from the pavilion (which I took on a previous, sunny visit to Wildcat)

 
Still, the atmosphere was much more tranquil than that of my usual yoga practice in my living room. Here, there were no kids asking me for anything as I attempted to find inner peace while following an instructor on a YouTube video.

 

At Wildcat, I had a clear view of the busy bird feeders just outside the classroom window. One of the windows was cracked open, allowing the cheerful bird songs to drift inside. That, along with the chirping of the crickets housed temporarily (unbeknownst to them…) in the classroom’s turtle habitat, created a peaceful ambient background for the yoga class.

 

yoga-feeder

 

While rolling out my mat on the floor, I started asking the instructor, Donna Bowman, some questions. It turns out that, in addition to teaching yoga, she also teaches special education to young children in Carl Junction. After a few minutes of class, I could see how Donna’s clearly articulated instructions, delivered in a patient and calm tone, would work equally well on her young special education students and with her yoga clients.

 

Her voice was as smooth as melted chocolate.

 

Donna began class with simple directions – simple, that is, if you don’t have a frenzied mind like I do, with thoughts bouncing around like a bored spider monkey inside a zoo exhibit:

 

“Take what you need to do today and clear it off your mat. Focus only on your breath.”

 

My monkey brain needed to hear that. Obediently, I mentally tucked away my list of Saturday morning errands and zeroed in on the sound of fresh, pure air filling up my lungs.

 

The first pose we did was Cat-Cow, which is a gentle warm-up done on the hands and knees, and it prepares the body for the rest of class. Donna said to think of this pose as “dental floss for the spine,” which I thought was brilliant. Every day since taking Donna’s class, I’ve been trying to remember to do Cat-Cow in order to keep my spine limber but, like flossing, I sometimes forget…

 

yoga-warrior

Instructor Donna Bowman

 

The pace of Donna’s class was mindfully slow, but that doesn’t imply that it wasn’t challenging. Moving at a slower pace means having to hold positions – like plank position – longer, and I felt my arm muscles quivering at several points during class.

 

When we resting in Child’s Pose after doing Sun Salutations, Donna came over to adjust me and to ensure that I was executing the pose correctly. As she gently pressed on my back, she said, “The rest is just as important as the work.”

 

I tossed that statement around in my mind for a while. I’m constantly guilty of pressing my nose to the grindstone and forgetting to schedule time for rest and play. I know that I’m a better mother/wife/friend/writer/human when I carve out time to rest, and Donna’s words validated this for me.

 

I had found my new mantra.

 

By the end of class, the ever-present tautness in my upper back had given way to fluidity. I felt refreshed and renewed, like I’d just spent the day at a spa.

 

I plan on making this a regular monthly experience.

 

yoga-triangle

 

Donna’s final words echoed what I was already feeling:

 

“Be grateful. Be grateful for the body that you’ve been given, and for the time that you’ve given yourself.”

 

Going to Yoga in Nature that day was like an early Christmas present – to me, from me. And not only did I benefit from going, but so did my family, because I came home relaxed and happy.

 

Because I took time for myself.

 

Because I took time to rest.

 

yoga-bird-in-bush

This sweet bird surprised me as I was leaving class. I thought it was a decoy at first because it didn’t move, even though I was only about a foot away from it. It must have sensed my zen-like yoga afterglow. Namaste, birdie.

 

Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center is located at 201 W. Riviera Drive. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Geocaching in Joplin

My husband Travis and I both work at home.

 

Somehow, our marriage has survived 7 years of this arrangement.

 

Maybe it’s because every day I sequester myself in my daughter’s bedroom with my laptop to write while she’s at school, and her room is on the opposite side of the house from where my husband is talking on the phone with his clients.

 

And that’s how my husband and I are able to both work at home together and still enjoy wedded bliss.

 

Each of us also makes sure to take sanity breaks during the day. Travis and I love to be outdoors, so we make sure to leave our house/office at least once during the workday and take a walk, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

 

We generally take our sanity breaks in solitude because, hey, that’s the point. But sometimes we take our breaks together.

 

Gasp!

 

Like we need more togetherness, right?

 

geo-couple

 

But there’s a lot of value in disconnecting from work and home responsibilities in order to reconnect with your partner. Sometimes, Travis and I will pack a picnic lunch and dine al fresco at a local park. Sometimes we’ll grab our hiking boots and hit some nearby trails.

 

Sometimes we’ll play games.

 

Specifically, I’m talking about a game that can be played outdoors – anywhere, anytime.

 

It’s called geocaching.

 

Geocaching is basically an outdoor scavenger hunt that combines adventure with technology. It involves searching for an object that is hidden outside by using GPS coordinates which are posted online.

 

You’d be surprised at how many caches are hidden all over the Joplin area – or anywhere, for that matter, as geocaching is a game that’s played all over the world.

 

On a recent lunch break, Travis and I decided to combine a short hike at Wildcat Park with a game of geocaching.

 

Before we left our house, I checked for local caches on my smartphone’s geocaching app. Cachebot offers a free app which allows you to view nearby caches on a map, as well as detailed descriptions of, and coordinates for, up to three caches per day; if you want to research more, then you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.

 

Travis has the classic version of the Groundspeak Navigation app on his phone, which he downloaded several years ago. When I recently signed up for the free version of the app, I found it to be very limited; I could see nearby caches, but had to upgrade to a monthly or yearly membership in order to retrieve the details and coordinates of the caches.

 

Regardless of which app you choose, you’ll need to create an account on a cache listing site (geocaching.com) and link it to your app. This sounds like a complicated process, but it’s a one-time deal that will allow you to track your finds forever. And it’s free!

 

If you want to go old-school, you can use a handheld GPS navigator, such as those made by Garmin. But since most people have smartphones on them these days, it’s more convenient to use a phone app.

 

After looking for nearby caches on my app, I selected one located on a bluff trail at Wildcat Park. The cache is called Love Hollow at Mother Nature’s Crack, which sounds both romantic and crass at the same time.

 

But knowing that Mother Nature’s Crack refers to a fissure in a particular rock outcropping on the trail rather than a part of the human anatomy, I focused on the enticing “Love Hollow” part of the cache name instead. The person who hid the cache did so as a gift for his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day to mark the spot where they and their friends had gathered for years and created happy memories.

 

I thought that sounded sweet when I first read it, but then I thought how disappointed I would be if my guy got me a Valentine’s Day gift and then immediately hid it.

 

Forever.

 

It’s a romantic gesture, nonetheless, and it made for a nice backstory for my geocaching lunch date adventure with Travis.

 

When Travis and I reached Mother Nature’s Crack on the hiking trail, he pulled out his phone and read the hint that was given about where to find the cache: Look for the dead trees.

 

Hmm. There were several dead trees lying on the forest floor on the hill above us, but my attention was drawn to a group of them several feet up from the cliff. As I circled around them, I saw what I thought was a piece of trash tucked between the tree and a pile of leaves.

 

Upon closer inspection, I saw that there was writing on this “trash” which indicated that it was, indeed, the Love Hollow cache.

 

geo-bag

I felt giddy that I found the treasure on our scavenger hunt, but also a bit disappointed at the state of the cache itself. This weathered plastic Ziploc bag with a hole in one end was not was I was expecting.

 

Typically, caches are protected in metal boxes which can withstand the elements, like these that my kids have found on previous geocaching outings:

 

geo-shoal

 

geo-big-boxBut there was nothing inside of the partially disintegrated baggie at Love Hollow.

 

Usually, there’s a log to sign when you find a cache. I like to glance through these logs to see who else has found them, and when they found them. Granted, I can read cache logs online (plus add our own find to the log), but it’s more personal to see different people’s writing on a piece of paper.

 

Also, there weren’t any trackables in the bag. Trackables are items that move from one cache to another, and you can follow their movements online, which is another fun part of the geocaching experience.

 

Although there were no trackables or log entries for me to read about, I was still satisfied because I had found the cache (as you can tell from my smug posture).

 

geo-lounge

 

What did Travis find?

 

geo-glove

Well, he found a glove on the ground. It was totally unrelated to our mission, but he seemed pleased with himself. Considering the glove blended in with the rocks on the ground like an object in an I Spy book, finding it was definitely an accomplishment.

 

The best part of hunting for the Love Hollow cache was its location. I know you have been curious about this since the beginning of the post, so here you go: This is Mother Nature’s Crack.

 

geo-crack-view

Even when the trees are bare, this is a beautiful view.

 

geo-standing-on-crack

 

Travis and I decided to take a selfie to commemorate our Love Hollow lunch date. As I was struggling to position my smartphone to take the photo, Travis showed me how to use the photo timer for the selfie.

 

The what?

 

This was a game-changer for me.

 

Up to this point, the few selfies that I’ve taken have been blurry, a result of me trying to look into the lens while simultaneously looking for the camera button.

 

I’m sure this timer thing is common knowledge to the majority of smartphone wielding population, but I’ve arrived a bit late to the selfie culture.

 

geo-selfie

Here I am just after processing this new knowledge. Travis is looking at me like I’m a crazy person, but that’s okay. I learned something new!

 

We left Mother Nature’s Crack behind us and hiked back to the car. I had seen another cache that I wanted to stop at before our lunch break was over. This cache is called Winged Cross, and it marks the edge of the area where an EF5 tornado touched down on May 22, 2011.

 

Unlike traditional caches, which are hidden, this cache is in the open, and is considered a landmark cache. Located on a corner in a residential area, the Winged Cross stands over 5 feet tall and was carved from a tree that was several hundred years old.

 

geo-cross

 

I thought I’d seen all of the commemorative works that have popped up in Joplin after the tornado, but I had never seen this – nor had I heard about it until Travis and I decided to go geocaching.

 

So here you have it, the secret to being able to work at home with your spouse: Be sure to take sanity breaks during the day, and make sure you add a little adventure together every now and then.

 

 

To learn more about geocaching, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.