Taking our yoga mats outside can help us to connect to ourselves and at the same time be more connected to the world around us. Yoga has many physical and emotional benefits, as does spending time moving our bodies outdoors. So why not combine the two practices and take your mat outside, find a quiet place and start to move and breathe. In addition to topping up your Vitamin D levels let's explore why practice yoga outdoors and some tips for practicing safely?
Nature is ever-changing
When we limit our view of the world to man-made materials and objects our senses can become dull, no matter how beautiful they may be. Life can start to feel monotonous and lacklustre if we stay inside the comfort of four walls. In the natural world, there is always something to observe. The change of the seasons is a constant reminder that we are moving forward and not restricted to one place or moment of time. The change we see in nature can provide a different perspective than the one we see inside. No two days are ever the same! Practicing yoga outdoors can provide that fresh pair of eyes and rejuvenate your outlook on the world.
Nature gives us space for free
In a local park, at the beach or on a mountain trail, nature provides us with space for free. Even if you live in a city you will be able to find a small piece of a quiet green space somewhere. It's fairly easy to find space to place your yoga mat and to take time for your practice. The feeling of space with fewer restrictions or boundaries can also help us to go deeper into your practice. Practicing yoga outdoors can help to be more immersed in the movement and the breath, without having to pay anything for it! The beauty of nature is that it is constant, no matter how short or long we spend outside, we can go again another time and it will still be there.
Nature is innately part of yoga
You may have wondered why so many of the yoga asanas - poses are named after animals and birds. The key theories that explain this centre around the idea that the ancient yogis mimicked what they saw around them in nature; mountains, trees, crows, cat and cow. They saw simple observations of the natural world to model their practice on. The movements and transitions between asanas are also part of this observation. Next time you are in a cat pose, think about how the cat likes to stretch out and arch its spine. Even better if you see the neighbourhood cat while you are on your mat! Cat's can also be very intrigued by humans practicing so don't be too surprised if they join you!
Photo by SaigeSeadae https://www.saigeseadae.com/
Nature helps us to connect to the present moment
Being surrounded by nature as we move through a sequence of asanas can create an added sense of grounding and calm that may be difficult to find inside. By grounding your feet to the mat, or looking up to the sky it is easy to remind ourselves of our presence in the world and connection to the earth. By opening ourselves to the natural world we can open our senses, feel the air on our skins, smell the freshly cut grass or the flowers blooming, be dazzled by the sunlight streaming through the clouds or awakened by the chirping of birds returning to their habitats. Experiencing these simple natural stimuli can help to lower stress levels and increase energy and happiness.
Nature has unexpected benefits
There is increasing evidence of the benefits of the practice of grounding - simply placing your bare feet on the ground and receiving the Earth's electrons through the physical connection. The impact on the process of inflammation and cortisol levels in the body is intriguing to explore. If you are feeling sceptical I would encourage you to take your shoes off and place your feet on the earth beneath you. Then think about how much of your day you spend in a pair of shoes or socks and on concrete or wooden floors. It's amazing to realise that we have become so disconnected from the simple practice of walking on the earth and how simple it is to adopt.
Tips for practicing yoga outdoors:
Find a location where you feel calm and comfortable, with minimal distractions.
Clear a flat (ish) area to lay out your mat and follow your intuition with the direction you want to face. This might feel strange to start if you are used to facing a wall but try to focus on the beauty of the natural view in front of you.
Take warm clothes for the start and end of the practice - particularly if you are on a mountain top!
Expose your skin to top up your vitamin D levels, but remember to cover up or use sunscreen if it's a sunny day.
If the ground is hard or bumpy take an extra mat or blanket to use as padding for your knees.
As with any yoga practice try to turn off your notifications and dedicate this time just for you.
Take a pair of headphones to really immerse yourself in the experience.
Start with a sequence or online class that you feel familiar with. You will soon notice that any feelings of self-consciousness disappear when you get into your flow.
Take care with balancing poses. These can be more challenging outside if the ground is uneven or soft. Engage your muscles when practicing these poses and be mindful of your transitions.
Enjoy the time for meditation or savasana at the end of the class. Being silent in nature can be energising. Take a few extra minutes to soak up this feeling.
Hopefully, these ideas have inspired you to grab your mat and head outside for 10 or 20 minutes. If you would like to try an up-tempo Vinyasa sequence try the video below. This is perfect to practice outdoors and should leave you feeling energised and connected to the world around you.
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