about us


Our Mission

Balanced Rock inspires health and wellbeing through deep connection to nature and spirit.

Who We Are

Balanced Rock is a Yosemite-based non-profit that has been inspiring health and wellbeing through our programs and classes since 1999. Yosemite National Park is a world-heritage site celebrated as one of the most sacred places on earth. We are honored to offer backpacking retreats, weekend camping retreats, day-hikes, workshops, yoga teacher trainings, immersions and lodge-based programs that focus on inward reflection, coupled with outward exploration of this incredible place.

Our compassionate, personable, and expert staff share a rare and unique combination of local Yosemite knowledge and passion for its natural history, with a spirited dedication to contemplative practices including yoga, meditation, and the creative arts.

Our courses are generally appropriate for all levels of experience. Join us in the wilderness this year to cultivate holistic health and wellness, rejuvenate yourself, and transform your life!

Our History

When a local NatureBridge (formerly called Yosemite Institute) outdoor instructor, Joie Armstrong, was tragically killed at the age of 26 in 1999, her fellow instructors, Heather Sullivan and Tana Leach, applied for, and were awarded, a Matthew A. Baxter Memorial Fund grant to create Wild Women Workshops. The first backpacking programs had the goal of helping the local community heal, and included challenging peak summits, journaling, and yoga. The initial expedition was so powerful that our Board of Directors and staff still includes four of the original members who participated in the very first Wild Women Workshops backpacking retreat 20 years ago!

Quickly recognizing that more people could benefit from life-changing empowerment opportunities in the outdoors, the backpacking programs were opened to the general public. In 2007, Balanced Rock co-founders Eliza Kerr and Heather Sullivan made the decision to expand programs to a wider audience, formalize the non-profit structure, and change the name of the organization to Balanced Rock. The name came from the last conversation Heather ever had with Joie, when Joie promised to teach Heather to balance rocks.

Over the years, Balanced Rock has offered programs in Nepal, Tibet, India, Alaska, Point Reyes National Seashore, Red Rocks National Conservation Area, Joshua Tree National Park, and, of course, Yosemite National Park. Program offerings have expanded to include campground- and lodge-based programs, workshops, and bi-weekly yoga classes for the local community. Special scholarship-based programs have included our Women of Color Wilderness Program, the Yosemite Youth Expedition, Care for the Caregiver Retreats, and the Yosemite Green Living Forum.

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What We Do

Nature & Nurture

At Balanced Rock, we’re devoted to providing opportunities for mindful living, self-care, and community involvement in connection with the natural world. Our core programs are nature-based retreats, workshops, and transformational adventures in Yosemite. Balanced Rock experiences offer a setting to cultivate personal balance, and to support our personal and community health. This is inspired by the wisdom found in spending quality time with the natural world. Balanced Rock courses pair the outdoors with contemplative and creative practices (yoga, meditation, art, music, Ayurveda, and self-care) to foster compassion, and facilitate personal empowerment. A Balanced Rock journey can transform your life!

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Yoga in Yosemite

Yoga means union, and at Balanced Rock we focus on the union of our experienced connection with the natural world. Yoga in Yosemite is our breath as we walk along the trail, our posture and awareness as we share a delicious backcountry meal, our challenges with unforeseen obstacles, and our comfort in telling our story around a campfire. There are many reasons to practice yoga asana (postures) in the wilderness and all of our programs offer optional, mostly outdoor yoga classes with instructors registered through Yoga Alliance. We believe that any form of connection with the natural world is so important at this time in history, and yoga asana (postures), pranayama (breath-work), and meditation are particularly good tools to access this connection. Not to mention standing strong and stretching tall on top of a granite dome in is unbeatable!

Balanced Rock facilitates a variety of yoga opportunities in the Yosemite area:

El Portal & Yosemite Valley Community Yoga
Yoga & Wellness at Earth Day, partnered with NPS
Yosemite Facelift Yoga with Yosemite Climbing Association

For more advanced study or to become a certified yoga instructor, our Yoga Alliance-registered WildYoga Advanced Studies Program prepares students to deeply experience and teach yoga both in and outdoors and places special emphasis on the connection between yoga and ecology. Delve into and go beyond the physical practice; explore a full yoga experience in Yosemite!

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Serving Communities

As a 501c3 nonprofit organization Balanced Rock is committed to serving communities in and beyond the Yosemite area. We believe our programs offer tools for health and wellbeing that can flourish here as well as be transferred to lives and communities beyond the awe inspiring landscapes of Yosemite.

Balanced Rock works closely with the National Park Service and other Park Partners including Mountain Crisis Services, Yosemite Climbing Association, El Portal Elementary School, AutoCamp Yosemite and Delaware North Company, and provides numerous local health and wellness opportunities. Bi-weekly donation-based yoga classes give local residents a healthy space to relax, grow and be inspired, and local volunteer yoga instructors a chance to serve their community. Special yoga classes in conjunction with sustainable events including Yoga & Wellness at Yosemite Earth Day, and free yoga for Yosemite Facelift (Yosemite Climbing Association) and Women’s History Month (National Park Service) enrich the health of the local community. Our Yosemite Youth Expedition and Women of Color programs provide empowerment opportunities and build confidence among traditionally underserved communities that might otherwise not experience Yosemite. All of Balanced Rock’s programs encourage participants and instructors to take the experience, the tools and the practice home with us after the course. At the core of our work is the intention to open hearts, minds, and lives.

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To read more download our free e-book here!