I’ve practiced a lot of yoga. Yoga is like food to me. It’s why I’ve come to The Overlander Mountain Lodge in the heart of the Rockies. I’m at The Overlander for a three-day yoga retreat with David Robson, one of many workshops the lodge offers guests in its spectacular mountain setting and fresh alpine air near Jasper National Park. I’ve practiced yoga as a long-time student in India, New York City, Seattle, Boulder, Iceland, Utah, Mexico, Hawaii, I taught in Washington, DC. . . in 12 years there’s something enchantingly special about yoga at The Overlander though.
It could be the mountains: Inside the main lodge where I inhale and exhale along with my fellow students in the crisp, clear, high oxygen, we perch like gods above the Athabasca River Basin. Fingers of glacier-fed streams and winding tributaries stretch wide and voluminous beneath us. Above our practice space surround the stone sentinels — Black Cat Mountain, Capitol Mountain, Utopia Mountain, aptly named— and Pocahontas, the mythic ridge to the south, sleeping majestically on her side. Everywhere I look (when I’m not focusing on my breath of course), I see ridge after rising ridge of obsidian black rock peaks. Flowing and floating in our yoga practice with such awesome views is a boost of adrenaline au naturale.
It could be the starry nights that make yoga at The Overlander so special: Jasper National Park is the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve. Constellations most people never see their entire lifetime, shine bright nightly over the lodge grounds. After a day of class its yoga lore and strolls together under the stars. It could be the caribou: As a wildlife enthusiast, at The Overlander I get my yoga and my time with animals all at once. Home to many of Canada’s charismatic and endangered species— the mountain caribou, the grizzly bear, the peregrine falcon, for example, the land of and around the lodge offers solace not only to people. If you’re lucky you might even see the elusive lynx rambling the cliffs on the drive from Jasper. The calls of ravens, the chippers of squirrels and the morning chimes of chickadees in the thriving sub-boreal forest nestling our cabins. . . Who needs music to practice yoga to?
Perhaps it’s the beds. As a Charming Inn of Alberta, The Overlander is one cozy place. I was so comfortable in bed the first night I stayed there for 12 hours. It’s more than the beds that are delighting at the lodge: My afternoon the next day was a shower under a shiatsu-massage showerhead (next time I’m going to hit the Miette Hot Springs, too) and a nap by the wood-burning fireplace. Ethically it feels good to sleep in a place like this; as of December 2011, The Overlander has offset 143% of their annual carbon footprint. That means as a human endeavour they’re actually helping the earth. The recycling throughout the hotel and energy conservation timers on the public lights makes it easy to live as an ethical citizen. The lodge, in its 175.9 tons of carbon offsets, is in just one day, taking 12,841 cars off the road! At The Overlander good karma is easy to come by.
The yoga masters in India speak of prana. The prana, or “ch’i,” “vital energy,” or “illiaster,” as it is referred to in China, or by ancient philosophers Pythagoras and Paracelsus. . . whatever you want to call that vital primordial essence that brings youth, happiness, fulfillment and inspiration in life— what yoga’s all about— The Overlander’s got it.