Fit as a fiddle for autumn

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Leaves are turning and beginning to fall, darkness comes early now, and the evenings are getting downright chilly. Despite some warm afternoons, autumn really is upon us.

What better time than a change of season, to energize the body and restore spirits with hiking, yoga and healthy food? I spent last week in Canton Valais, doing just that.

The program at Equilibrium, a hiking and yoga retreat center based in Verbier, involves a daily hike of four to six hours in the nearby mountains. It’s bespoke hiking, with a guide leading the charge up the mountainsides (my longest hike was five hours). We were encouraged to push our limits, reminded to hydrate, and now and again, to stop and enjoy the view. Through the week, we gloried in blue skies and fresh mountain air.

The food was tasty, light and nourishing. From a Thai salmon stir-fry to vegetable curry to chicken fajitas, the meals were low-carb treats. Packed lunches for the longer hiking days included a roasted vegetable wrap with hummus and couscous salad with vegetables.

Our final dinner was “Tam mak taeng”, a piquant Asian cucumber and carrot salad topped with quick-cooked gingered prawns. We were given a Cajun chicken wrap for the journey home—and the recipes for most of the meals.

The chalet was simply but comfortably furnished, with restorative mountain views . Candlelight and an iPod stocked with mellow sounds contributed to the homely atmosphere. The absence of TV, laptops and cell phones in public spaces made it that much easier to chill out after the day’s activities.

With just three guests last week, the staff-to- guest ratio was 2:1, providing about as much personal attention as this body could stand. Hatha yoga before breakfast helped us stretch muscles gone stiff overnight, and an evening yoga session before dinner—after an hour-long massage—stretched  out the day’s exertions. It was the yoga component that piqued my interest in the first place, and the draw of a daily massage sealed the deal.

The workouts didn’t stop with hiking, either. These folks aim to keep guests moving through the day, with a just couple of hours of downtime late in the day. We started the week with a mid-afternoon strength-building session, a circuit session with weights. For the rest of my time in Verbier, I had a daily session with a personal trainer, and came home with a set of exercises tailored just for me.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) divides the year into four seasons of 73 days and four inter-seasons of 18 days each. These intervals between seasons are times to bring the body into harmony through detoxification and renewal, in preparation for the oncoming season. In autumn, TCM attends to the lungs. What better way to energize the lungs than with long, invigorating hikes in pristine mountain air?

My dates for personal renewal may not have been in sync with TCM this time around (I was a bit ahead of the late-summer-to-autumn inter-season), but the concept resonates.

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