The Therapy of The Wild

November 5, 2021
San Juan Man Laughing

There is a healing that’s just asking for our presence, a wellness that always awaits our focus. Our deepest and most foundational experiences lie just beyond this box that we inhabit, just past the pavement on which we lay our bundled feet. There’s a calm wildness within us that yearns to reconnect with its other half, to rejoin the collective mesh from whence it comes.

Jones Hole Hike VickyFamous through-hiker Cheryl Strayed writes about the power of hiking “for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets.” It’s a power we can’t quite explain in other terms, can’t quite find in any other way. As John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, said, “the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” In the wild, we find something that is both bigger than us and within us already.

The botanist, writer and storyteller Robin Wall Kimmerer writes that “nature isn’t just something ‘out there.’ It is within us as well—we are nature, nature is us. Within the concept of nature, we must include ourselves and recognize that our capacity to heal is grounded in the principles of balance that we find in nature.” The natural world is not just a “break” from our lives, but a fundamental part of our well-being that we ignore at our own peril.

This is why Holiday River Expeditions has created a series of “Balance and Flow” river trips that are centered on healing practices and nature immersion (read more about the specific trips below). We want to expand upon the adventure and relaxation that is already a part of every river trip by honing in on spiritual and physical healing through nature. And this isn’t just woo-woo stuff…

The Science Behind the Oldest Wisdom:

No matter how technologically advanced we become, no matter how far we roam from our nest as nomadic hunter-gatherers, it’s still encoded deeply within our DNA: the earth is our mother. We are utterly dependent on her for everything from our food and water, to our rare minerals and warmth. It’s such a simple and foundational truth that it feels strange to repeat. But repeat it we must, to ourselves, to each other. The earth is our mother. Repeat it we must because when we neglect our connection with nature, when we lose our connection with our mother, it’s not just her fragile soil and swaths of ocean that lose. We lose, too.

One recent study looked at 2,080 families with newborn children and found that “the occurrence of a mother-child separation of a week or longer within the first two years of life was related to higher levels of child negativity (at age 3) and aggression (at ages 3 and 5).” One week of separation can lead to negativity and aggression. This is shockingly similar to what happens when we don’t spend time with our other mother, the earth. Behavioral scientists are finding out what hikers, mystics, environmentalists, naturalists, and many others have known for millennia: when we disconnect ourselves from nature we become angry, depressed, and anxious. Thankfully, the antidote is simply to get outside.  

Going for a short walk or jog in the morning has tremendous effects on our psychology for the rest of the day, but it’s prolonged immersion that really rejuvenates us. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, talks about the “three-day effect.” After just three days outside, we slow down and begin to think more clearly and perform better on tests. It’s like a “cleaning of the mental windshield.” Anyone who has been on a prolonged camping, backpacking, or river rafting trip knows the feeling well; their vision sharpens, their step lightens, and all of the stress of the world seems to fade into the background of a stark and beautiful natural world.

Holiday Balance & Flow Trip Series

Holiday has teamed up with a powerful team of healers, teachers, and mindfulness experts to offer trips that will get you to the “three day effect” and beyond. In 2022, we’re offering four different trips centered around healing, self-discovery, regeneration, wellness, and, of course, some adventure too.

Wild Yoga with Rebecca Wildbear

Go with the flow Yoga LodoreThis is a river soul journey that combines yoga, dreamwork, conversations with the more-than-human world, deep imagination, and a 6-day raft journey through Desolation Canyon. Wild Yoga is an alignment of Earth and soul, an immersion in sacred ceremony and deep listening. Through a variety of modalities, participants will open their sensory body, explore their dreams, and listen deeply. They will engage in ceremony, council, creative movement, and soul poetry.

There will be a daily playful, gentle, and invigorating morning asana practice in which all levels of physical ability are welcome. Each person’s practice becomes individualized, as they are encouraged to listen to their own body’s calling.

Join us and deepen into river consciousness and your unfolding soul story!

Women’s River Rafting and Yoga Trip with Katie Woods

Womens River and Yoga TripKatie Woods (MS, ATC, WEMT, RYT 200) will teach participants not only how to make their yoga practice their own, but also how to live and laugh and enjoy every moment! Katie is a yoga teacher, athletic trainer, and professor in the athletic training program at the University of Utah. She’ll join you for four days in Lodore Canyon on the upper Green River. Lodore is truly magnificent: deep red canyon walls and brilliant blue-green water lapping white sandy beaches. Take in the view while stretching your body and your mind. Katie is passionate about yoga and its benefits for all people, not just those who are extra bendy! She writes, “The practical applications for longevity and health as well as the daily grind are abundant. The more I learn about yoga, the more I see yoga EVERYWHERE. It’s exciting to watch yoga weave throughout my day-to-day and I love helping others notice even the small things in every moment.”

Come get loose in Lodore Canyon while learning to breathe deeply and go with the flow!

Stand-Up Paddleboards, Yoga, and Stargazing

Colorado River Rafting Stand-Up PaddleboardingThe perfect trip for the adventurous soul wanting to dive into the world of rafting, kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, stargazing and more. This is a 12-day trip through Labyrinth, Stillwater, and Cataract Canyons in the heart of the Canyonlands National Park—an International Dark Sky Park. Find your way to better physical and mental fitness through playing in the natural world. Rediscover a childlike sense of awe as you stare up into a sea of stars. Your Holiday guides will lead you on hikes to ancient ruins and spectacular overlooks. Tom Beckett (“The Star Lord”) will show you a celestial wonderland. Yogi extraordinaire Jennifer Gilmore will offer daily stretching sessions. And for most of the trip you’ll have the option to power yourself down river in an inflatable kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard. Twelve days means we can take more time to explore than on a standard Cataract trip—and it means reaching the “three-day effect” nearly four times over! River time is a powerful restorative, and the more of it you can fit into your life, the better.

White Rim Trail Mountain Biking, Yoga, and Stargazing Trip

Cataract Canyon Stars

For the ultimate in self-powered adventure, join us for four days of biking, stargazing, and yoga on Utah’s preeminent mountain bike trail: the White Rim. There’s more than one way to reconnect with nature. Pedaling a bike creates an opportunity for moving meditation. Settle in to the rhythm of your wheels and the slow unfurling of the landscape. The White Rim trail traverses some of Utah’s best red rock country, circumnavigating the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. Jennifer Gilmore (E-RYT 200, RYT 500) has over 15 years of experience teaching yoga and will lead morning and afternoon stretching sessions to keep your biking muscles supple and your mind clear. This trip is timed just after the new moon, making it perfect for stargazing. One of our in-house star guides will be along as well to point out some of the wonders of our universe.

Explore the wildness of the desert and give yourself a physical challenge for a change!



Easton Smith is a Local Wasatch Front resident and writer.   He spends his time community organizing, rock-climbing, and playin’ some mean banjo.