Health January 13, 2009
Body & Soul: Yoga on the Rocks

Last summer, when climbing instructor Aimee Barnes and yogi Natasha Sevilla teamed up to launch City Girls Yoga and Rock Climbing retreats, they had no idea what the response would be. “We had tried some all-women’s programs in the past, but they weren’t the right mix of activities,” explains Barnes. As it turns out, the new weekend workshops were so well received that they’re back again, by popular demand.

Held in the mystical City of Rocks in southeastern Idaho, about 50 miles south of Burley, the three-day programs are run by Sawtooth Mountain Guides. Women of all ages and abilities learn to use the principles of yoga to improve their climbing skills—and find more balance in their daily lives.

“There’s a real synergy between yoga and rock climbing,” says Sevilla, an instructor at Sacred Cow Yoga Studio in Ketchum. Many of the things practiced on the yoga mat—including relaxation, deep breathing, and balance—apply when you’re scaling a vertical slab of rock. “Both are disciplines of the body, mind and breath. They require you to be completely focused and in the moment, and involve flexibility in proportion to strength.”

Each City Girls retreat kicks off on a Friday afternoon. After setting up camp, participants detox with two hours of yoga and a healthy meal prepared by local caterer Abby Grosvenor. On Saturday and Sunday, the morning begins with a soothing hour of Sun Salutations and Downward-Facing Dogs. For beginners, the rest of the day is spent learning basic climbing skills, such as knot tying, belaying, and anchoring. More advanced climbers might work on simulated lead climbing and belaying from above. Afterward, it’s back to camp for Savasana (a relaxation pose), and a feast of gourmet fare such as cold poached salmon and tabbouleh salad.

Barnes notes that women often feel more comfortable trying something new and challenging in a supportive, all-female environment. “Last year, the women couldn’t believe the kinds of climbs they were doing,” she says. “At the end of the day, they were just euphoric.” And just about everyone can use a weekend away with the girls, for some fun and “therapy.” As Barnes puts it: “At night, when we’re sitting around the campfire, the conversations are truly amazing.”