Dear Beautiful Yogi,

I just arrived home from a week in the mountains with my husband, no kids. What a week it was. Amidst record winter storms and what seemed to be 10 feet of snow in 6 days, we took full advantage of our time away. It was a challenging and fulfilling experience and I want to share with you some spiritual insights from my week in Tahoe.

For the first time in more than twenty years, I have returned to skiing. My new-found interest started last year and this was my first chance to dedicate multiple days to building my skills and confidence. Those days on the mountain and the varying weather conditions left me with three huge spiritual lessons about yoga, Ayurveda and life. Here they are:

Yes, it’s so important in life to try new things and get comfortable being uncomfortable! My body is so used to yoga that I don’t face many big fears on my yoga mat. The poses that were once intimidating or even scary just aren’t anymore. But when I found myself a few feet down a black diamond run that was steeper than I thought, whoa, my mind went CRAZY. I stood there, frozen, in a complete panic, realizing my mind was spinning out. I made it down the mountain and acknowledged I had work to do. I needed to practice my skills and I needed to calm my mind down.

So that’s exactly what I did. I spent a few hours on easier hills getting better form and control. By the end of the day, I knew I was ready to face that same run again. I was nervous at the top but I was also able to gain control of my mind. That’s where my yoga and meditation skills kicked in: I recognized my mind taking me to places and scenarios that weren’t actually happening. I said to myself, “Get present, Nikki and breathe” and off I went. The second attempt equaled success. I made it down without freezing in my tracks or panicking at all. Actually, it was exhilarating. And, the feeling of accomplishment was pure joy.

The only way to get stronger physically and mentally is to put yourself in new situations and get out of your comfort zone. The older I get the more I know this is essential in continuing to grow and thrive.

Whether it’s climbing, or skiing or snowboarding, if you are navigating a cold, steep, snowy mountain, you HAVE TO BE PRESENT. I noticed how focused and undistracted my mind was on the mountain (eka grata in Sanskrit). There is no multitasking, not much daydreaming and I don’t think I pulled my phone out once the entire day when I was outside on the mountain. I found myself as cliché as it sounds “one with the mountain”.

On our second day, conditions were really challenging. It was rainy and icy at the bottom of the mountain with heavy snow and low visibility at the top. I was wet and cold on the lifts going up, and in total contrast, I was sweating buckets going down and breathing like I was running a race. My legs burned from all the effort to get through the heavy snow and it was way more of a workout than the day before.

But, on multiple occasions, I would pause part way down to rest my legs and look up and down and not see even one person on the mountain. Pure joy and satisfaction to be working my way down a beautiful slope, in the solitude and peace of nature. There is truly nothing like it. Challenging oneself in the grandeur and magnificence of nature is one of the best, most healing and nourishing activities of human existence. It’s why so many prolific writers and spiritual traditions emphasize both silence and time in nature. Ayurveda says it actually builds your vitality and immunity reserves (called ojas in Sanskrit). Time spent in this way requires and creates a total presence of mind and nourishes the spirit.

The snowy mountains are kapha all the way. Kapha is a combination of earth and water elements. The large, solid, dense and heavy mountains are the epitome of the earth element. The snow is frozen water, and with tons and tons of snow, you have a major accumulation of the water element. While the cold was really tough for this vata gal (air and space elements), all the kapha density and mountain time felt incredibly grounding. I satisfied my need for movement (also vata) with the skiing but the surrounding environment brought in the balancing elements of earth and water. Plus, using my legs so much on the down-hill skiing built muscle and strength also connected to the earth element. Choosing your exercise according to Ayurvedic principles such as “opposites balance” makes for the best physical, mental and spiritual experience. It’s one of the reasons why that week in the mountains was so satisfying and rewarding. The elements alone balanced out my nature.

As I settle back into home life and routine, I am grateful for the ways in which my yoga and meditation practices influence all the new, different and challenging life experiences I encounter. Reciprocally, I appreciate that those new and different activities I find myself engaging in, support my spiritual growth and evolution as a yogi.

Love & Snowballs,