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Yoga on the Rocks

Amanda Barron ventures to the edge of Lower Table Rock, takes off her shoes, and suddenly a tree sprouts from the basalt rim overlooking the Rogue Valley.

The Tree gives way to the Dancing Warrior sequence, with Barron's arms and legs moving in the silent symphony that is yoga, but this time with the valley's panorama as its backdrop. The Eagle pose might next be proper, in homage to the raptors now returning to the Table Rocks.

But not Upward Dog. No pets allowed on the Table Rocks.

Trees, eagles and other yoga poses will speckle Lower Table Rock May 7 when Barron leads a "Yoga on the Rocks" hike, one of a handful of new hikes added to the old favorites of the spring hike series that is now entering its 31st year.

"I want people to live in the moment," says Barron, 35, who owns a Medford yoga studio. "Whatever you do, you can do a little yoga. Why not here? It's not all 90-minute Zen seminars."

Mixing the natural world with natural movements is the newest idea to spruce up the hike series sponsored annually by The Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of Land Management, which in tandem manage the valley's two signature mesas overlooking the Rogue River.

The free, guided spring hikes, many of which are centered around rare spring wildflowers, are the Table Rocks' annual coming-out party to the public, many of whom grew up with guided school hikes during their youth.

The 16 scheduled hikes begin April 1 with a wildflower hike on Upper Table Rock and end May 21 with a storytelling hike for kids on the loop trail below the rock. In between are hikes delving into history, geology, archeology, bats, birds and more, including one April 23 aimed at Spanish speakers.

This year organizers added hikes spiced with Table Rocks-inspired poetry read along the trail, as well as the storytelling hike and a hike delving into how insects impact forests. The yoga hike rounds out the new-look lineup, which organizers see as a complement to the popular offerings at the core of the spring series. 

"We were trying to find something new and different to offer the public and maybe get a different group of people up there who wouldn't normally go there," says Molly Allen, BLM's environmental education coordinator who helps craft the hike series.

The conservancy's Molly Morison, who joins Allen in planning the hikes, is a student at Barron's studio, so they had a good idea of who to invite to lead the inaugural yoga hike.

Barron, an Idaho native who has taught yoga since 2002, says she used to lead yoga hikes before moving to the Rogue Valley, "and I've thought of doing something here but never did it."

Barron says she plans to lead what she calls "walking meditation" for hikers who will stretch beforehand and stop at a series of flat spots along the trail to do some upright stretching and postures with no mats or prone poses.

"I want people to be mindful and in the moment during our hiking," Barron says.

Once on top, the group will venture across the mesa and over a footbridge protecting the plateau's vernal pools and their rare fairy shrimp to reach the basalt lip and a vista that provides jpeg moments for many camera buffs on Lower Table Rock.

The hike is open to anyone from yoga veterans to newbies who may not be able to stretch much past their knees. Even so, they also will get the opportunity to be a tree overlooking the valley.

"People know that pose," Barron says of the balancing posture on one leg, with the other foot tucked into the thigh and hands in the prayer position.

"What we teach in yoga is about grounding, being in the moment," Barron says. "It'll be great."

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Amanda Barron demonstrates The Warrior pose Wednesday on a walkway erected to protect delicate vernal pools on Lower Table Rock. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]
Amanda Barron demonstrates a yoga pose called The Tree Wednesday on Lower Table Rock. Barron will lead a yoga hike May 7 as part of the annual spring hike series on the Table Rocks. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]