By: Sawyer Smith

In preparation for this article, I did a quick Google search for the “Bitterroot Valley” in Montana, and to say the photographs I encountered took my breath away would be an understatement. This stunning, forested area nestled in the mountains on the Western side of Montana is where Val Aerni, yoga instructor, mindset coach, and mom of two, found herself planting roots after growing up on the East Coast. 

She described “falling in love with the mountains of the west”, stating they were the reason she never left, and having been born and raised in a valley surrounded by epic peaks myself, I can relate. 

In her small, seemingly gorgeous town, Val runs a yoga studio where she offers both private and group classes, health and mindset coaching, and retreats. It’s her list of hobbies, however, that I found so intriguing because they read like a list written by a true Utah native. 

“I love to mountain bike,” she told me. “Camp, rock climb, swim, go rock hounding, hike, and explore with my family.” 

In other words, she fits right in with those of us who live and work closer to the Southern end of the Rockies, and that’s just one of the many reasons why I think she’s going to make a wonderful trip facilitator. 

Val Aerni Tree pose yogaWellness on the Water

In mid-July, Val will be making the journey to Utah to facilitate a river rafting trip through the unforgettable Lodore Canyon, which will focus specifically on women’s wellness. When asked to take the lead on this rafting adventure, Val told me she simply couldn’t resist, and that she was particularly excited “about connecting with new people on the trip and making connections to the natural world around us through yoga.” 

In the spirit of putting wellness first, Val plans on curating unique yoga practices each day based on everyone’s energy and desired level of movement. 

“I trained in Hatha Yoga, but have a lot of experience with yin yoga, vinyasa, restorative, meditation, and breathwork.” Val’s vast knowledge and expertise allow her to cater her practices to all skill levels, and her goal for this trip is to help people feel “more connected to their own bodies, minds, and landscape.”

Speaking of connecting to the landscape, Val had this to say on the topic of practicing yoga outdoors: 

“By being outside, you get to experience nature in its truest form, from the sun on your skin, to sand beneath your toes, to birds flying overhead. Yoga outdoors is incredibly grounding and peaceful.” 

So if you’re considering whether or not you want to go on this trip, don’t ask yourself, am I strong enough to hold a downward dog? 

Instead, ask yourself if you’re interested in “feeling a deeper sense of self, who you are, what you desire, and how you want to navigate in the world.” Val Aerni sideplank yoga

Val will help guide you along this journey through movement, meditation, and more. What better time to dive deeper into who you are than while floating down the Green River with striking rock formations and rare wildlife surrounding you and your new best friends? 

Connecting with Val both On and Off the River

If you’re interested in taking what I can already tell is going to be an amazing, potentially even life-changing trip with Val through the Lodore Canyon, go to the Holiday River Expeditions website to sign up!

If you can’t make the trip, but you’re interested in taking one of Val’s classes or learning more about her work as a mindset coach (I know I for one am particularly interested in her focus on ‘befriending anxiety’), you can find more information here



Sawyer Smith WriterSawyer Smith is a Utah native currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri. When she isn’t working as a freelance writer or hiking through sections of the Mark Twain National Forest, she is planning trips in her head back to her beloved state to once again climb on the red rocks and ski down the snowy mountains.