Geared up for a lifetime adventure, Jessica Winters has hiked many mountains, both alone and with friends, but it was her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada that influenced her life the most.

Winters, a schoolteacher, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and had also earned her Washington state elementary teaching certificate focused on intermediate mathematics and science. She enjoyed her job, loved working with children and supporting them in their educational journey.

But she “was longing to be outside,” she said. It was a calling in a way; she wanted to explore the unknown life outside the city.

Initially Winters wasn’t alone. Her journey began with a friend who was injured soon after the trip had started, and had to return back home. Winters was faced with a difficult choice and she was now facing more fears that she had originally left with, but she was determined to complete the trail. Living in the forest solitary for five and a half months can awaken many emotions. In nature, there’s the luxury of time, meaning: not being preoccupied with the “normal” things in our day-to-day busy life. This gift though, can be a difficult one to unwrap. Memories start to come up. Decisions to be made.

“I had to break through all of my personal demons. I had to face myself.” Winters, just like a wildflower learned to exist on her own and she learned to adjust to her environment. “I would cry and take a few more steps, but then I would put my backpack back on and continue.”

During the hike, for about 80 percent of her trip, she was alone; the animal sounds were the only thing that accompanied her. Winters, said at first it was scary, “but later you become part of it, you become part of the sounds as well.”

“You are connected to the moon cycles and the seasons. You completely submerge yourself into the forest, [the] moose calling, the rivers flowing.”

The quietness of the forest can also be so influential.

It was a feeling of joy when she had reached the Canadian border. “I had done it, and along the way I realized how strong I had become.”

A few years later Winters discovered yoga and fell in love with the practice; she earned her Bikram Yoga certification and continued education in the Hatha yoga certification. Being away from the forest though, felt like she was missing something. So she decided to combine the two passions she couldn’t live without – yoga and mountaineering. To share this gift with others, Winters launched her own business called Wilderness Adventure Yoga, which has been blossoming from its very start. Her retreats provide the opportunity for one to “unplug,” to observe things from a distance, while being able to focus on oneself through attentive yoga practice in nature. You leave stress behind, and you even find solutions to old problems. Most importantly, you recharge.

The pursuit of her love for nature and yoga, often occupies Winters free time. She sees the mountains as yet another home. When she speaks about her upcoming retreats her eyes sparkle. She speaks of nature as if she is returning to visit a loved one back home. Combining nature with yoga has given her life a very different meaning. She loves leading her group, sharing the path and the practices. For Winters, it is nature that has made her yoga practice even more beautiful.

[su_quote cite=”John Muir “]The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.[/su_quote]

Today, certified by NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute for Wilderness First Aid, Winters teaches yoga for about 15 to 20 hours per week, offers wilderness yoga retreats and leads motivational and inspirational mountaineering experiences and volunteers whenever she can.

“I give you my heart and my energy with no conditions. I lead the way, in the classroom and in nature, but it is your journey.”

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1. Who is Jessica outside the yoga studio?
A teacher, a learner and a life-loving creature

2. What is your favorite yoga-clothing brand?
No particular brand, something that fits well

3. What is your favorite pose and why?
Dancers pose. I love to look at it and to practice it

4. Who has impacted your yoga practice the most?
Myself, she smiled

5. What is your approach to teaching yoga?
Relaxation, calmness, enjoy the practice. Do the best you can do in life. Yoga is the bonus

6. What is the best yoga advice you have ever received?
To go within

7. Where would you like to see the Seattle Yoga community in 1 year?
To continue evolving and to stay connected

8. If you could practice with anyone dead or alive, who would that be?
John Muir. Sometimes I feel, as I am the woman version of him, especially when I read his poetry

9. What are the places you have hiked?
–  Kilimanjaro, Africa –  Aconcagua, South America –  Solo Appalachian Trail: Georgia to Maine –  Solo hike of Pacific Crest Trail: Mexico to Canada –  Continental Divide Trail: (Canada to Mexico and the completion of the Continental Divide Trail, for her, was also the completion of the hiking the Triple Crown) –  Many wilderness areas in Washington in addition to trekking into the heart of and across Iceland, Mexico, Jamaica, and Hawaii.