Lets take this outside! Yoga
In the Midwest we wait most of the year for summer to arrive and can’t get enough of it when it does. Our senses bathe in bright colors, natural sounds, fresh air, and the delight of bare skin in warm sunshine. Our bodies move freely and openly without hunching in reaction to the cold; layers of restrictive clothing are shed; our eyes lift and faces soften. Life just seems to be a more manageable balance between effort and ease. We eat, drink, meet and work outside – so leave your usual practice space and get your yoga outside! Here are some ideas for taking your asana and meditation outdoors.
CHANGE IT UP – Taking your asana practice outside is a break with your routine, so don’t just change the venue, change your practice as well. Be creative and unfettered as you move around. Shift from thinking to feeling as you move with naturalness and ease. Build slowly, making sure you warm up before more challenging poses, but maybe allow a little more playfulness and languor in your sequence. Follow your intuition more than habit and take in the natural vibrant energy around you.
NEED A MAT? – Ask yourself if you really need your mat. If the surface you’re on is rough concrete or prickly pine needles, you will want your mat. On the other hand consider how wonderful it might be to feel grass, a soft playground surface or fine beach sand on your bare feet. Maybe a towel or blanket would be more useful to keep sand or natural debris from insinuating itself into your clothes or nose. Notice the habits your mind- body has established regarding using your hands, feet and body on a sticky yoga mat and explore your poses in new ways. Feel your muscles, nerves and mind adjust to the new situation with skill – aware of learning as you go. Uneven surfaces are just another part of this precious moment!
BE CONSCIOUS OF SUN AND HEAT – While some exposure to sunlight is healthy, too much causes harm. Practicing in the cooler parts of the day, in the shade, or while using sunscreen are all good ideas to prevent sunburn. Using sunglasses that won’t slip off your face as you move or invert can keep your face relaxed and eyes softly focused which helps concentration. As always, stay hydrated. Drink before you’re thirsty.
EXPLORE UNUSUAL PROPS – Park benches, trees, playground fixtures, overturned boats, even public sculpture and sports equipment can all be useful and inspirational tools with which to interact. Challenge your balance in different ways. Turn yourself upside down, sideways, backwards, off kilter and so on. Explore and play with internal and external variables. Find a few muscles you’d forgotten about and heighten your awareness as the mind-body adapts to the new situation.
LINGER – no need to rush off. Stay to meditate, look up at the stars, jump in the waves, hike the area or sit with your journal or inspirational reading. Maybe practice savasana in a hammock – all afternoon!
MINDFULNESS MEDITATION OUTDOORS – Long before monasteries and churches were built for contemplation and devotion, people sat or walked in nature feeling healthy and connected to themselves, the universe, and all they found sacred. The physical, mental and emotional benefits of meditation are beyond dispute with new studies coming out at a rate difficult to ignore. Sitting or walking mindfully in nature is, well, a “natural” way to sooth our nervous systems and de-fragment our scattered, agitated brains. When we slow down and focus on positive emotions we can heal and stay healthy. Find a welcoming spot and open all your senses to your surroundings with curiosity and appreciation. Sit without doing anything; walk without a destination. Let yourself relax and feel.
Yoga instructor and Mediation Coach