As you start to see the change in the seasons it's the perfect time to take your yoga mat and practice yoga outdoors. I try to practice yoga outside as much as I can despite the changing weather but Springtime is a firm favourite of mine as there is so much to see in the natural world around me. The connection to the earth beneath you and the sky above you can help to create the feeling of being grounded to the present moment and go deeper into your yoga practice. Most yoga poses can be taken outside the studio or the comfort of your home but some are particularly great at creating that feeling of connection. Here are five simple yoga poses to try outdoors when you want to embrace the change in the seasons and cultivate a change in yourself.
1. Mountain pose (Tadasana)
Mountain pose allows us to connect to the earth beneath our feet and to find our place in the world. A simple pose that allows you to arrive on your mat or on the ground, this is the perfect way to start a yoga practice outdoors. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Focus on placing all four corners of your feet into the mat.
Align your knees with your ankles, hips in line with your knees and torso in line with your pelvis. Drop your shoulder away from your ears and gently close your eyes. Allow your arms and hands to fall naturally in line with the side of your body. With your eyes close take a moment to sway and find your natural centre of gravity. Take a deep inhalation and exhalation and feel a sense of grounding and arrival on to the mat beneath you.
2. Crescent pose - high lunge (Anjaneyasana)
The Crescent pose creates the feeling of energy moving from the core in both directions - out through the hands and down to the feet. You can transition to Crescent pose from a downward-facing dog or simply step back with your right foot from Mountain pose. Start the pose with your hands on your hips to find balance. Bend your left leg at the knee to come into the lunge.
Take care to ensure that your left knee is above your ankle and does not fall forward or to the side. Create a sense of grounding by focusing on the connection of the ball of your feet into the mat. When you are steady reach your hands above your head and towards the sky. Open your chest fully to feel the expansion as you inhale and exhale deeply. Keep your gaze forward and relax the shoulders away from your ears. This is a great pose to energise and uplift. To transition out of the pose return your hands on your hips and step forward with the right foot and then repeat on the left side.
3. Warrior II pose (Virabhadrasana II)
Warrior II is a strong standing pose that creates an opening in the hips and upper body. Transition into Warrior II from Mountain pose. Take a step back with your right leg. The distance between your feet should be the same as the distance between your wrists with your arms outstretched. Turn the toes of your right foot inwards, finding an angle that suits the natural form of your right leg.
Bend the left knee, taking care to ensure the knee does not fall over the ankle. Firmly connect to the mat by rooting down through both feet. When you feel stable take your hands up and out to the sides, in line with your shoulders. Gaze over the left fingertips, releasing your shoulders away from your ears and gently drawing the shoulder blades towards each other. Extend out through all four limbs. You can check the position of your back leg and arm by looking behind you. You may need to make small adjustments to the rotation of your back leg to find the most comfortable version of the pose for you. After taking several deep breaths return to Mountain pose by straightening your front leg and stepping forward with the right leg to the front of the mat. Repeat on the left side. Be aware of your torso and core in this pose and think about keeping your chest in line with your pelvis.
4. Half moon pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
A half-moon pose can be a challenging pose outside especially if the ground is uneven but it creates energy and warmth. Try to find a simple prop, a book or a water bottle to help you. From a Warrior II pose with your left foot at the front of your mat, place your right hand on your right hip.
Take a short step forward with your right foot towards the middle of the mat.
As you step forward tilt your pelvis and upper body towards the ground, reaching your left fingertips to the little toe side of your left foot. You can rest your left hand on the prop for balance. As you tilt the upper body bring your right leg outstretched behind you, level with the right hip. Flex the right foot and keep the toes perpendicular to the ground. Focus on finding your balance in this pose by rooting down through your standing foot. Gaze toward the floor or out to the side. If you feel stable you can stretch your right arm up to the sky and feel the energy travelling through all four limbs. To return to Warrior II, return your right hand to your right hip. Bend the left knee slightly and return the right foot to the mat as you raise your torso. From Warrior II pose repeat on your left side. If at any point you lose your balance simply step out of the pose and transition from Warrior II again.
5. Tree pose (Vrksasana)
Tree pose is the ultimate pose to practice outdoors. Another balancing posture is great for connecting to nature. From Mountain pose find a point of visual focus in the distance (drishti) and keep your gaze on that point. Shift your weight on to the left leg, as you do so come on to tiptoes on the right foot. Ground your weight through all four corners of the left foot and gently bend your right knee, bringing the right foot off the ground. Guide the sole of your right foot onto the inner shin of the left leg or if comfortable the inner left thigh - using your hand as you gain experience with the pose. Avoid placing the right foot on the left knee joint. Keeping your gaze ahead allow the right knee to fall out to the side and focus on pressing the sole of the right foot and the inner left leg together. Keeping your core engaged find your point of balance, place your hands on your waist and level your hips.
Don't worry if you sway a little - remember it's natural for a tree to sway without falling over. To come into the full pose gently reach your hands outstretched over your head. Take deep breaths here, keeping your gaze firmly on your drishti point. If you lose your balance - release the pose and start building your balance again. To return to Mountain pose, lower your arms, place your hands on your hips, lower the right leg and find your sense of grounding on to the mat. Repeat on the other side.
As you work through these five simple yoga pose to try outdoors, don't forget to connect to your breath. The Victorious breath Ujjayi is a great breath practice to keep focus and simple to practice outdoors. Create a slight constriction at the back of your throat, breathe through the nose and hear a soft sound created on every inhalation and exhalation. By controlling the depth and regularity of the breath you can deepen your yoga practice and at the same time feel more connected to the natural world around you.
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