Can I just say that I am beyond elated to have Ritu Riyat featured on my blog?
A yoga and mindfulness teacher, Ritu is a fountain of wisdom, beauty, and peace. She is the epitome of feminine power, honoring that deep call to surrender to the unknown, while consistently pushing past any boundaries or limitations in the process!
Just a few months ago, Ritu did something incredibly exceptional — she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! The story of her journey is just amazing. She is a shining example of what happens when we place trust in each step we take and transcend our fear!
Check out my interview with this awesome goddess right here…
What made you decide that you were going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro?
I think the mountain chose me rather than the other way around, haha. I knew I wanted to take a trip and do something to celebrate the new year and my 35th birthday. A few weeks after the travel seed was planted in my head, my good friend Jenny mentioned she was going to Africa in December to climb Kiliminjaro. Before I could even think about it I heard myself saying, “That sounds awesome! I’m in!”
I honestly had NO idea what it meant to climb a mountain, let alone one that is 19,334 feet high. But it felt right so I went along with it. The more I started sharing the news of my epic adventure, the more real it became. I’m always looking for ways to push my limits, and test my body and mind.
I guess I never want to settle for “this is it” because I know there’s always more that we are capable of. The only thing that limits us is our own minds. The climb would be a challenge on all levels –physical, emotional, and mental.
How did you prepare for something like this?
I wasn’t sure how to prepare since I hadn’t climbed a mountain before. So I really didn’t do much else than my regular routine which consisted of Crossfit 4 times a week, Yoga 5 times a week, a bike ride or run once a week, and my Daily Meditation — along with good food and lots of water!
Now that I’ve done it, people ask if I would’ve trained differently and my answer is “no.” I was in pretty good cardiovascular shape to endure the 7 days of hiking. For me, what it came down to was mental strength more than the physical strength.
How would you describe your 7-day experience?
I’ve tried to capture my experience in words as much as I could; but each time I read the words, I find something missing. It truly was a life-changing, epic experience that has transformed the core of me.
I’m still the same person, but something is slightly different; I climbed a mountain! We were a group of 5 people plus 2 guides who came together with one purpose. The level of support that everyone provided each other was amazing to see and feel. These people became my family and — more than standing at the top — the journey to get there was epic.
When you spend 7 days on a mountain sans shower and other amenities, you really begin to appreciate the simple things in life. This learning unfolded over the 7 days. We appreciated the food we ate, the small bowl of warm water that was delivered to our tent in the morning, and the stories that kept us moving.
As you were climbing, were there times where you thought you just wouldn’t make it? How did you find the strength to push through and keep going during those times?
Definitely. Because I had never climbed a mountain before, I had no idea how I would react to altitude and how my anxiety would weather in the oxygen deprived conditions. There were a few times when I felt fear set in and I didn’t think I could take the next step.
At one point, I looked at my friend and said, “I’m so scared right now.” Something about stating the fear disempowered it, and I took a breath and trusted the next step; just like that I kept moving.
On day 4 we were at about 13k feet, and I was experiencing a mini panic attack coming on. I went into my tent and laid there listening to the chatter in my head telling me I needed to get off the mountain. Having a panic attack on the mountain was my worst fear so I closed my eyes and started focusing on slowing my breath down. I felt my heart stop racing and a calm wash over.
How did your yoga and meditation practice support you through this great feat?
I couldn’t have done it without my yoga and meditation practice. I’ve been practicing for 14 years and the skills that are instilled on a deeper level cannot be felt sometimes, but they are there and they are working.
Not only did these practices help on a physical level with coordination, agility, and strength, but moreso on the emotional and mental levels. The practices helped me with perseverance, the ability to quiet the monkey mind (which was more like an ADD monkey mind when deprived of oxygen!), and the ability to believe in myself.
What exactly did it feel like getting to the top, and realizing what you had just accomplished?
Wow. I was elated and humbled standing on top of the mountain. And extremely thankful to have the opportunity to have this experience.
When I got to the top after 8 hours of climbing, I had a rush of energy and thought I could run to the other end but was stopped in my tracks from lack of oxygen. It was a good reminder to slow down and soak in my surroundings. It was so beautiful and pristine up there. I suddenly felt like I could breathe with ease and walk with grace.
How did you celebrate this amazing achievement?
I had promised that I would take a small shiva statue, place him at the highest peak in Africa, and stand in dancers pose to celebrate! I did just that.
Any advice for people who want to overcome their fears and do something extraordinary?
Just do it. I have done a lot of different things that I was afraid of and if I stopped to think about “how” I was going to do it, I probably would not have gotten very far. Yes, you need the basics, the gear. But then you just keep moving and eventually you get there to that place where you’ve overcome your fear and transcended yourself on some intangible level. Fear is just energy waiting to be unlocked and applied however you want to apply it.
Is there any yoga pose or meditation you would recommend for conquering fears?
I love dancers pose! It open the heart, uses strength to balance, and relies upon breath to overcome the fear of falling.
Another pose I do every day is a simple forward bend; when you fold forward, you are letting go. It is an opportunity to let go of anything that is no longer serving you. When you rise back up, the mind and body feel a little lighter.
Breath-focused meditation is at the core of my being. Connecting with the breath as it flows through the nose and out the body is the single most effective way to calm down the nervous system and transform fear.
Ritu, thank you so very much for sharing your inspiring story with us!
You can learn more about Ritu on her websites: