Going on pilgrimage is an ongoing ancient practice within the yogic tradition. In Sanskrit it is called tīrtha-yātrā, meaning “of the river, the ford …a place of spiritual crossing”, as explained by Diana L. Eck in India: A Sacred Geography.
In the Hindu and Buddhist goddess revering traditions, seekers journey to Sakti Pithas, seats of the goddess, which are locations found throughout the South Asian landscape. Natural settings like forests, rivers, lakes, caves, hilltops, and mountain peaks are considered to be places of power, perfect for practice and worship of the divine. Hence, the North Cascades range in the state of Washington is also an ideal place for yogic goddess studies and to have a perfect retreat within the United States.
I realized this after a lifetime of backpacking in the mountains of Washington and years of goddess yoga studies that here in my own country was an accessible way to honor and partake in this longtime yogic tradition of pilgrimage right here at home.
Yoginis on the Washington trail.
The wilds of Washington are an ideal setting to explore the signature qualities of goddesses of yoga found within Tantric and Yogic traditions. The physical characteristics of the pantheon of goddesses live and exist not only in places throughout South Asia like in India and Nepal, but also in the wilderness haunts of Washington. Whether or not one travels long distance to foreign lands or mere steps from one’s local doorstep, these natural sacred spaces are treasuries and refuges of spiritual wisdom, rejuvenation and healing.
When undertaking a retreat of this sort one often makes a vow, called a vrata, to give focus and specific intention to the journey one is undertaking. Or, one might make a commitment to give thanks for a prayer that has been answered, or goes on this journey to for ask for healing, spiritual purification, well-being, to eliminate karmas, to connect more deeply with a specific deity of worship, or simply to be in the presence of the sacred natural place itself and the divine qualities it imbues.
Yoga pilgrim practicing her poses on a snowy field in the Washington mountains.
These sacred places are also within us. And by spending time in regions like the wilds of Washington one begins to see reflections in the land and to access this innate sacredness within. For the word pilgrimage means to journey “to a shrine or sacred place”, and that shrine is also an inner one, a truth that one discovers during meditative experiences like backpacking through pristine forest or gazing upon a limitless expanse of snow covered peaks.
Wilderness Warrior Goddesses.
The tīrtha, “crossing”, that we take or invoke through goddess yoga practices and stepping into wilderness spaces can be the passage way to coming into deep understanding on what’s going on inside us. It will revealing our thoughts, life pattern habits, emotions or attitudes that might be self-limiting or freeing. Ideally, you will return from the pilgrimage not necessarily a changed person, but one who knows herself or himself much more deeply.
We take the pilgrimage to give ourselves a chance to self-reflect, to open up inner space, and discover ways to release and begin to reprogram certain aspects of self or light the inner fire to do so. The journey will allow us to literally and figuratively cross over into the depths of ourselves and gain clarity of our deepest heart’s desires and life aims and whatever may be holding us back from realizing our fullest potential.
Yogini Katie in a tree pose at sunset.
As a Yogini of these retreats shares:
"This is beyond a simple backpacking trip. It is truly an inspiring divine experience. Stephanie is a Yogini, an author and an outdoor enthusiast. Her energy and enthusiasm to bring women of diverse backgrounds to experience the enchanting wilderness and an inner transformation with the help of Goddess teachings and Yoga is very special. I feel fortunate to be part of this very unique experience. This was my second backpacking trip with Stephanie exploring the inner self and the outdoors in the North Cascades National Park. The energies invoked with the Goddess work and Yoga were in perfect harmony with the nature outside. Personally it allows me to check in with myself and be inspired on my life journey. It is indeed such a blessing that Stephanie is able to bring all her unique talents in such a perfect offering.... With much gratitude." ~ Madhavi Kadiyala
Mountain high Goddesses manifesting.
This is why I offer a 4 Day “Wilderness Goddess: Yoga Backpacking Pilgrimages” retreat and 7 Day “Mountain Yogini: Yoga Backpacking Pilgrimages” retreat for women in the state of Washington, United States. For it is a way for women yogic practitioners to come into direct contact with the wisdom goddess traditions of yoga within and without. It offer them all a chance to learn from the land right here in the United States what Devi, Goddess, has to teach us and to explore the depths of one’s being. We aim to discover and unleash together our capability to be free, empowered, and to revel in the beauty within and without. Jai Maa! Victory to the Mother!
Looking for a spiritual journey close to home, right in Washington and its surroundings? There are plenty of Washington yoga retreats to choose from!