Hike to Yoga connects participants with nature

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

BALDWIN HILLS — One of the reasons Laurie Hang Hutter started Hike to Yoga LA is because hiking and yoga are a winning combination.

With hiking comes the benefit of lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and improved bone density.

The benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, energy and vitality, weight reduction, cardio and circulatory health and improved athletic performance.

Together they make for a healthy lifestyle, which is what she wants to promote. That, coupled with both activities taking place in Kenneth Hahn Park, is a win-win for Hang Hutter.

“I started it because I basically wanted a community hike with neighbors and I also wanted to introduce yoga,” said Hang Hutter, a certified yoga therapist for six years. “Doing things outside is so healing. It’s a way to bring it into practice.”

The mission of Hike to Yoga LA, which Hang Hutter launched in April 2019, is to increase individual self-care awareness through community, nature and yoga. When COVID-19 hit, the hikes and yoga sessions stopped.

Pre-COVID, the group met at 8 a.m. on La Brea Avenue and Don Lorenzo Drive and then took a 40-minute hike with some inclines and declines to an area called the Bluff at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area for a one-hour yoga session. Hang Hutter would have a yoga circle, which included introductions, along with full moon yoga and moon salutations (a sequence to open the hips and get the blood flowing). The hikes are designed to complement the yoga sessions.

Today, Hang Hutter, who is aiming to restart in-person sessions next spring, offers no-cost Full Moon yoga sessions, live-streamed on the Hike to Yoga Facebook page. The next one is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 30.

In partnership with her neighbor, Lory Johansson, founder of Partners of the Parklands, an advocacy nonprofit for Kenneth Hahn Park, Hang Hutter said they joined forces to move Hike to Yoga LA forward. Johansson wanted to start a nonprofit for Kenneth Hahn Park and Hang Hutter wanted to bring people from the Crenshaw District, Inglewood, Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park areas together. The oldest participant thus far has been 78 and the youngest has been 8.

“We have a big international community,” said Hang Hutter, who offers private sessions and chair yoga. “When we learn about each other, the world is not so big and scary. It’s a way for all of us to come together and get to know each other. This is my way to bring it to the masses. This is our version of Griffith Park.”

Currently, there are about 50 active members who come from all walks of life and demographics.

“There was a need in this community,” said Hang Hutter. “We wanted to offer a space for people to come and take what they need. We don’t have those kinds of opportunities often in normal life. People sit too much and don’t move.

“By spending time in nature, connecting with our community, and then moving together in a beginner-friendly yoga class, we are embracing the present moment.”

Hang Hutter, 34, a married mother of two fur babies, was born in a refugee camp in the Phillippines. Two months later, her family moved to the San Gabriel Valley, where her parents still live. Hang Hutter eventually moved to Long Beach before settling in Los Angeles. She studied international business at Cal State Long Beach where she also minored in French.

She credits yoga with “saving” her.  She began her journey to healing, reflection, and well-being in 2012 after leaving what she calls a “toxic job.”

The stress, she said, made her both lactose and gluten intolerant.

“I needed to heal,” Hang Hutter said. “That’s when I decided to heal through yoga. It has been a satisfying journey.”

While Hang Hutter got what she needed out of hiking and yoga, her hope is that participants get what they need out of Hike to Yoga LA as well.

“I think that if I can help one other person connect with nature on the hike and then connect with themselves and with the community, it would be great,” she said. “This was a way to share what I’ve learned. That’s my purpose. I want to share my journey. With this pandemic, so many things are uncertain. The only thing for certain is the sun rising and the dirt beneath my feet.”

For those who want to learn more about Hike to Yoga LA, Hang Hutter suggests subscribing to the newsletter, which is updated every Wednesday.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.