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Nirvana Now!

Is hiking and yoga the ultimate path to rejuvenation? Our man takes his bad back and troubled soul to Yosemite to find out.
0613_nirvana_yoga_illo_schweitzer_445Illustration by Morgan Schweitzer

A healthy, optimistic hiker should look forward to a guided backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park, with daily yoga sessions, as cause for great delight and anticipation.
My story is a little more complicated.
First off, my lower back has been giving me trouble since the afternoon I wrenched it as I lay in bed and reached for an apple fritter without taking my eyes off Starship Troopers, which I like to watch once a month. Second, traveling makes me nervous. Third, the mood elevators I have been gobbling for the past couple of years exacerbated my inclination toward what an ex called “lazy walrusishness,” which forced me to compensate by drinking buckets of coffee, which worsened my acid reflux, which compelled me to up my intake of ice cream and pie (for their calming effects), which prompted my doctor—a tiny woman with an infectious smile—to poke me in my gut and shake her head sadly, and then promise she wouldn’t nag me for a couple of months if I promised to supplement my “alarming” donut habit with the occasional orange or salad. But “the clock is ticking,” she said. All of that made me want to take a long nap.
Merely the idea of planning and packing for a backcountry trek made me exhausted. The notion of sitting in a lotus position made my knees hurt. The prospect of chatting with strangers kicked up what my shrink calls “generalized anxiety disorder.”
And yet.
By combining a guided backpacking trip in the Yosemite high country with regular yoga sessions, California-based Balanced Rock’s catalog promised to “rejuvenate, restore, and return to balance.” Also, it said that participants would travel “into new undiscovered places, both inside and outside of ourselves.” Much as I try to avoid new places, some of my old places were losing their charm. The pizza delivery guy in my neighborhood calls me “Steverino,” and my accountant recently mentioned that he was “officially worried.” My shrink has been ordering me to seek my “authentic self.” Also, the toilet in my New York City studio apartment makes strange sounds at night. So undiscovered places sounded okay. They sounded almost perfect—my wariness about stretch pants, strange languages, and chanting notwithstanding.

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