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Get Out There! How to Maximize the Benefits of Outdoor Yoga

Posted by Sky Andersen on 9/5/2016

One of the profound benefits of yoga is that it helps to reconnect us with the essence of life itself. The Oneness, the “All That Is” – it’s the same energy that causes the plants and trees to grow, the seasons to change, and your body to regenerate and sustain itself. It is the very essence of nature and of life itself.

Yoga reconnects us with the forces of nature, and practicing outdoors can naturally enhance this effect. While there are more variables while doing yoga outside, the benefits of doing outdoor yoga are many. They include:

Greater resilience. Practicing yoga in a comfortable temperature controlled studio is one thing; practicing on uneven terrain in a park, forest or meadow is quite another.

Increased strength. Performing asanas in an unfamiliar or uneven setting helps to cultivate greater core strength and stamina both physically and mentally.
A deeper connection with nature. While yoga inherently helps you to tap into life force energy, doing yoga while in nature increases this effect. You’ll feel the outdoor air on your skin, the cool earth beneath your feet and hands, and you’ll drink in the scents and sounds of nature from all around you.

Greater peace and equanimity. Birds singing, leaves rustling, the sun and gentle breezes – the backdrop of nature can take your practice to new heights of elation and greater depths of self awareness.

Tips for Dealing with Nature’s Challenges

Insects. You might have encounters with flies, ants or mosquitoes while practicing in nature. Wearing a bit of insect repellent can counteract this, or you could choose to see these visitors as part of the rich tapestry of nature and strive to respect and coexist with them.

Uneven terrain. See the undulations of nature as a potential ally and partner during your practice. A rock or a tree stump could be the perfect prop for a challenging pose. Allow shifting or uneven ground to help you cultivate even more strength and balance.

Changing conditions. If you expect changes in temperature or precipitation, bring along different clothing options. However, be prepared to stay centered and in a state of equanimity no matter what nature brings. Notice the shifting light, the movement of shadows, the rustling of trees and grass, or any other changes with curiosity or even reverence. Notice what feelings these changes bring up in you, and allow them to pass through so that you can stay centered and aware.

Unforeseen distractions. A loud airplane flying overhead, a stray cat wandering onto your yoga mat, or a curious stranger trying to strike up a conversation could make their way into your outdoor yoga space at any moment. Prepare yourself to embrace and flow with whatever your outdoor yoga experience brings and respond with wisdom, kindness and equanimity.

Connecting with the Earth

Yoga poses that involve forward bends and a direct connection with the ground are ideal for taking in the earth’s powerful and restorative energy. Child’s Pose (Balasana), Head-of-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana), Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), and Savasana (Corpse Pose) are all ideal for enhancing this connection.

Standing Yoga Poses

Standing poses can allow you to tune into the energies of the trees and rock formations around you. Allow these natural elements to inspire you to new heights of poise and mastery. Mountain Pose (Tadasana), Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana), Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) and Tree Pose (Vrksasana) are particularly empowering. Strive for both strength and balance when doing standing poses; root yourself to the earth and drink in its powerful energies.

Finding Balance and Flow

Balancing poses include an extra dose of challenge while practiced out in nature on uneven terrain. Sand, dirt or soft grass can be your ally as you engage your core and cultivate greater strength and mastery. Consider practicing Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana), Crow Pose (Bakasana) and Eagle Pose (Garudasana).   

While the known and expected conditions of a yoga studio offer a consistent setting, there are numerous advantages to doing yoga outdoors. With a little preparation and an open mindset, you’ll receive a range of valuable benefits. Use these tips as inspiration to get out there and immerse yourself in the natural world.

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