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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon

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Featured

Sep 18, 2017

Do you even Yoga?

Whether you’re planning on hiking, surfing, or doing any sport really—yoga will only make you better at these activities by strengthening the body, building stamina, and of course, improving flexibility.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

The combination of asana (yoga pose) with pranayama (breathing) helps the body in many ways. Here are some easy steps to help adapt your yoga practice and to get you ready for the outdoors!
  1.  Try a gentler approach. If you’re performing a yoga pose that increases your body temperature (like Surya Namaskara) then slow down. Don’t rush, go at a little slower pace than normal. Take two breaths rather than one.
  2. Consider your timing. Try practicing during the early morning hours when your body and the weather are cooler. Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid practicing during the heat of the day and especially in direct sunlight. This is a sure way to overheat the body.
  3. The third and final step is to choose yoga poses that help the body release heat, such as forward bends. We will show a few poses perfect for this. Forward bending poses physically cool down the body and help keep the mind calm. These are extremely helpful to counteract deep and more intense back bending poses.
 Get out of your head and get outside, breathe some fresh air, find your inner self, and incorporate these simple yoga postures into your lifestyle. Each one of the following poses are performed by Ashtanga Yoga Instructor & Practitioner, Alejandra Uranga. She is wearing yoga apparel from her own clothing line (Ananda 108) that she co-founded. Ananda 108 recently launched their online store where they sell a variety of yoga apparel that is perfect for this summer season. Check it out at ananda108clothing.com

All of the poses pictured are part of the Ashtanga Yoga series.

SURYA NAMASKARA
Start in Samasthitih (the mountain pose).
  1. INHALE. Bring the arms up.
  2. EXHALE. Bend the torso forward and bring the head towards the knees.
  3. INHALE. Lift the torso and head half way and look forward.
  4. EXHALE. Chaturanga, jump back with your legs like a plane pose (keep the hands and toes on the floor only) but move the body lower.
  5. INHALE. Urdhva mukha, push the chest forward, lift the head upward, straighten the arms and the thighs or knees shouldn’t touch the floor.
  6. EXHALE. Adho mukha, lift the waist up, bring the heels towards the floor, bring the gaze towards the navel and stay here for 5 breaths.
  7. INHALE. Jump so that the feet are in the middle of the hands, and lift the head up.
  8. EXHALE. Bend the torso forward as shown in fig. 2.
  9. INHALE. Lift the arms up.
  10. EXHALE. Samasthitih.
PRASĀRITA PĀDOTTANASANA  
1. Spread your legs to the length of your mat around 3 or 4 feet.
2. INHALE. Place the hands on the waist.
3. EXHALE. Move forward and catch the big toes.
4. INHALE. Lift the head and look forward.
5. EXHALE. Place the head on the floor if possible (if not, just try to go as low as you can and hold the position for 5 breaths).
6. INHALE. Lift the head only.
7. EXHALE. Hands on the hips.

8. INHALE. Come up and return to Samasthitih.


JĀNU SĪRSĀSANA 
1. Sit on the mat with the legs straight.
2. Fold the right leg to the side touching the inner thigh with the toes, keep the left leg straight and grab the left foot (if this is not possible just take your leg as far that you can).
3. EXHALE. Try to reach the knee with the head, stay here for 5 breaths.
4. INHALE. Lift the head up, and do the same to the other side.

MARĪCASANA  A
1. Continue on the floor in a seated position, legs straight.
2. Bend the right knee up and bring the right foot next to the right gluteus.
3. Wrap the right arm around the leg, locking the hands behind the back (if you cannot reach the hands you can take a towel or a belt and use it to help your hands together).
4. EXHALE. Try to reach the knee with the chin, stay here 5 breaths.
5. INHALE. Lift the head only and switch to do the same for the left side.
BADDHA KONĀSANA
1. Stay in seated position.
2. Bring the feet together, draw the heels in to the pelvis.
3. Fold both legs to the side and open the feet with the hands to help the hips open more.
4. EXHALE. Place the chin on the floor if possible. If not go as low as possible, keeping the back straight, breathe 5 times.
5. INHALE. Sit again and do the left side.

SALAMBA SARVĀNGĀSANA
1. Lie down on the floor or mat.
2. INHALE. Bring the legs up, place the hands on your upper back for support, try to align the shoulder, hips and feet in one vertical line, if this is to intense for you do Halasana.
3.Hold the posture for 10 breaths, and move to the floor slowly.

HALĀSANA
1. From Salamaba Sarvāngāsana, bring the legs behind the head and place the feet on the floor, toes pointing downwards.
2. Stretch your arms forward and interlace the fingers.
3. Hold the posture for 8 breaths.
4. To leave the posture you can place the hands on your back to help the torso and legs to return to the floor.
MATSYĀSANA
1. You can do this posture from Padmasana or lotus position in the legs. For a variation you can just cross your legs or bend your knees with the soles on the floor.
2. Bring the chest up and place the crown of the head on the floor, if your legs are in Padmasana, wrap the feet and the arms straight, hold the posture for 8 breaths.
Note: for the posture you need to be careful with the neck because it is an intense stretch. You can just place the elbows firmly on the floor next to the chest. To leave the posture you can place the arms on the floor and go down slowly.
Remember that these are postures that we recommend, but is very important that you find a teacher to provide proper guidance. Each person is different, each body is different, and we need to adapt the practice according to our necessities.
Post in collaboration with Ananda 108 clothing.
Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Outdoor Journal possible

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Athletes & Explorers

Feb 15, 2019

Flow State: The Reason Why Alex Honnold and Steph Davis are not Adrenaline Junkies.

“When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die.”

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

Recently, while watching Alex Honnold’s film, Free Solo, I began questioning the motives behind why he does what he does. I imagine that like me, you asked yourself, what is the driving force behind his compulsive need to risk his life? Why does he have such a passion for free soloing difficult routes, while the rest of us sit paralyzed in fear, simply watching in awe?

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the directors of the film (which has recently won a BAFTA and has been nominated for an Oscar), touched on Alex’s reasoning a little. For Alex, it is when he is climbing without a rope and is closest to death, that he actually feels most alive.

As an extreme sports athlete myself, with a background in whitewater kayaking, I can relate to this feeling. When I am kayaking a difficult and consequential rapid, my brain is 100% focused on the present moment. In the book, “The Rise of Superman” (if you haven’t read it, do so now), Steven Kotler discusses Flow State. Kotler describes it as being “so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Time flies. Self vanishes. Performance goes through the roof.” Dr. Ilona Boniwell, a European leader in positive psychology, says, “The State of Flow happens under very specific conditions – when we encounter a challenge that is testing for our skills, and yet our skills and capacities are such that it is just about possible to meet this challenge. So both the challenge and the skills are at high levels, stretching us almost to the limit.” Flow State is very difficult to achieve. The perfect balance between challenge and skill must be met, and the result is a very elusive zone, which is tricky to replicate. In Kotler’s book, he describes action and adventure sports as the only way to consistently trigger this flow state. Flow state is often triggered by a sense of being close to death, which, in return, triggers the maximum sensation of being alive. Kotler describes it simply, “When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die.”

I remember the first time I experienced Flow. I was running Itunda Falls on the Nile River. Itunda is known for being one of the biggest rapids on the Victoria White Nile stretch of whitewater and is a rapid that, if not executed correctly, could be fatal. I recall Flow State kicking in as soon as I entered the rapid. My mind went completely blank, and I experienced a hyper-focused state in which every paddle stroke I took, every drop of water that hit my face, every little bit of it was a slow-motion, full experience. I felt nervous before entering the rapid, but as soon as I dropped in, my nerves faded, and I relaxed into a calm state of execution. While in that Flow State, I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do, perfectly. I made zero mistakes and had a perfect line through the rapid. It was the first time in my life that I felt I had 100% fully experienced something – not only in a physical sense but also in a mental and emotional sense as well.

“My favourite state of being.”

In a collaboration between The Outdoor Journal and Mercedez-Benz, I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of their sponsored athletes – free solo climber and BASE jumper, Steph Davis. When asked about Flow, Davis described it as, “the feeling of taking a deep breath, letting it out and feeling totally good and at ease with nothing else in my mind and truly in the moment.”

When performing high-risk activities, like BASE jumping, Davis says her brain has no choice but to enter a hyper-focused Flow State. “With BASE jumping and wingsuit BASE, getting there is pretty much guaranteed because it seems like there’s no choice but to enter that state of pure focus when leaving the edge – although it’s a pretty short-lived experience because BASE jumping is over very quickly.”

Read Next: Steph Davis: Flow, Focus, and Feeling in Control

The film, Free Solo, suggests Alex’s ability to achieve Flow State. When I spoke with Alex Honnold about the topic (also in a collaboration courtesy of his sponsor, Rivian), he shared a similar sentiment towards free solo climbing. “I think that has always been a big part of the pleasure in free soloing is that it forces you into that state more than other kinds of climbing do.” Alex says that he can tap into the Flow State while climbing with ropes as well, but it is rare and doesn’t come as easily.

For Davis, Flow State while free solo climbing isn’t as much a result of being close to death, but rather a result of getting away from external influences. “For me, a big factor for reaching focus, or Flow, is getting away from outside energy – so free soloing inherently works really well because you are alone.” No matter how she achieves Flow State, Davis can’t seem to get enough of it. “It’s my favorite state of being.”

The Science

According to Kotler’s book, Flow State originates in the brain. The release of five mood-boosting chemicals – dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, serotonin, and anandamide – creates a high that athletes, just like Davis, “can’t seem to get enough of”. It’s a wonderful experience – Flow State. So wonderful, in fact, that when you achieve it, it can become addictive. Dr. Ilona Boniwell describes the addiction to Flow State well. “Even activities that are morally good or neutral, like mountain climbing, chess or Playstation, can become addictive, so much that life without them can feel static, boring and meaningless. A simple non-gambling game on your computer, like solitaire, which many people use to ‘switch off’ for a few minutes, can take over your life. This happens when, instead of being a choice, a Flow-inducing activity becomes a necessity.”

Searching for Perfection

This addiction to Flow is different from an addiction to adrenaline. An athlete addicted to Flow is not an ‘adrenaline junkie’. They are not searching for that adrenaline rush that comes when you do something risky – like bungee jumping or skydiving. They are searching for perfection in what they are doing. Honnold says he is searching for the feeling of effortlessness. “When climbing feels good, when it feels effortless, when it feels flowy. That’s Flow State. And that is the appeal of climbing in a lot of ways is to get into that state. To feel like you’re doing something well and that you’re performing well.”

“I really belonged there and I wasn’t just scraping through it”

Davis says when she has had experiences BASE jumping in which something almost went wrong and she “got lucky” – which may be a situation where an adrenaline rush could be triggered – she is usually unhappy with that experience. “For me, it’s not really seeking an adrenaline burst. It’s more seeking the ability to do something that maybe should be impossible, and yet doing it in a way that’s actually pretty reasonable… When I’ve had those moments where it just barely worked out, and I almost felt that I got lucky, I’m usually really dissatisfied with that experience. I prefer to feel like I’ve entered the situation in a very calculated way. I’ve really prepared. I’ve gone through Plan B, Plan C, Plan D scenarios. I’ve tried to really think through everything that could ever go wrong and feel like I have a plan for that. And then when it starts happening, I feel like I’m very in control of the situation because I chose to get into it feeling like I’m really ready for it. To me, those are always the most satisfying outcomes. When I either land from a jump or top out a climb and I feel like, ‘wow, you know, I really belonged there and I wasn’t just scrapping through it’.” A perfect balance of challenge and skill.

But for Steph, addiction to Flow is not the main reason she continues pursuing these high-risk activities. For her, it is simply a way of life. “I’m 46 now and I’ve been climbing since I was 18, so my entire adult life I’ve been doing these sports in various forms… it is honestly really hard for me to imagine not being out in the mountains and the desert and just doing these things that I love doing.”

Thanks to Rivian and Mercedes for the interviews.

Cover photo: Vincent Kleine for She’s Mercedes.

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