It is mid-July, and if you have not gotten your yoga mat outside for a little outdoor yoga, you need to get on it. I have been practicing and teaching yoga outdoors quite a bit this summer, and, to be honest, I’m getting a little spoiled. It gets harder and harder to go inside to the studio. If you are wavering about whether outdoor yoga is for you, here are a few incentives to get you motivated.
1. Being outside. If you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you have got to take advantage of the opportunity to get outside and blow the stink off. Seriously, any chance you can get outside for any activity between May and the first freeze have got to be taken advantage of. ’Nuff said.
2. Amazing views. How cool is it to do a spread-legged forward fold and then, when you twist to the side, see a beautiful blue sky or the green leaves of a tree flapping in the wind? This is the view I had today during this very pose
3. Challenge. Anyone can practice inside but not everyone can practice with their feet in the sand or grass. The ground might be uneven, an ant might crawl across your mat, or the sun may be shining in your eyes, but that is what makes outdoor practice so rewarding. You get to go outside your normal routine, feel the earth beneath your feet, and make playful adjustments to your asanas.
4. Best yoga-class playlist ever! The music comes courtesy of chirping birds, flowing wind, and the waves lapping up on the beach. I couldn’t put together a better playlist if I tried. Close your eyes and it is sublime.
5. Special effects. You may get the unexpected delight of seeing a fish jump out of the water, an eagle soaring through the sky, or ducks waddling down the beach (if you are practicing by water).
6. Growing your practice. Said special effects in #5 can also provide extra challenges in staying mindful and present. Yesterday, while practicing on the beach, I kept spying sea glass around my yoga mat. I had to set those thoughts aside, resisting the urge to bend over and start collecting up all the sea glass and really focus on remaining present. Surely, this has to be good for building mental strength and clarity in my practice
7. Sunshine. There’s just something special about doing a sun salutation when you can reach your arms up and truly salute the sun.
8. Wind. Sometimes an outdoor yoga class can feel like Bikram yoga. It can get a little toasty out there. But when that cool wind brushes across your face, it is nirvana.
9. Incredible inversions. Getting into a handstand always feels pretty damn good, but when you get to do one and see a view like the one below, the pose takes on a whole new dimension.
10. High on nature. Yep, yoga can get you high when you practice inside, but I’m here to tell you the buzz you get from an outdoor practice is simply yogalicious.
11. (I never stop at 10!) Postpractice curriculum. Once your practice is complete, the postgame activity choices are pretty cool. My favorite is a little beach-walk meditation, or just sitting with your eyes closed while in meditation, letting the sounds of nature envelop you can provide an excellent way to seal in your practice. Or you may just want to wander off the mat and find a few pieces of sea glass…
No matter where you live, do yourself a favor and get outside this summer for a little outdoor yoga. Yoga is all about the union of the body and the mind, and when you add the extra element of the outdoors, you can also make it about becoming one with nature. Just a note of caution: Use sunscreen and maybe a dash of bug spray before you venture onto your mat!