Yoga in the great outdoors: is it for you?

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Last weekend, my partner and I took a camping trip to Big Sur. Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Pismo Beach, we were in awe of the natural beauty along the coast. (And the size and number of elephant seals!)

Our campsite was surrounded by redwoods that seemed to graze the clouds and that provided cool, shaded shelter from the piercing sunlight. The presence of these trees was very grounding, and practicing yoga amongst them was awe inspiring and humbling.

How does being outdoors change my yoga practice?

First thing I noticed was the earth. No longer was I on a perfectly flat hardwood floor, but I could feel the bumps and grooves from the soil. This made a radical difference in what my poses felt like: was I grounding down with my root knuckles in adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog)? Was I lifting my arches in tadasana (mountain pose)? I felt less certain in my stance and alignment, and realized how much information about my pose that I get from the earth.

Next thing that stood out was the surroundings and sky. Instead of being contained in a room with four walls and a ceiling, I was surrounded by trees, representing pillars of strength and resilience, and I felt the rays of sunshine that poked through the canopy. My practice felt limitless, my arms reaching towards the sky unimpeded, my nose touching and smelling earth when I lowered down.

The sounds of nature were its own soundtrack: the breeze rustling tree branches, the waves meeting the shore, birds vocalizing, the pitter patter of nuts falling to the earth. The sounds and rhythms were complex, but they complemented each other.

Finally, I saw many opportunities to practice. Some were very brief, like striking a tree pose by the ocean, and others were longer. But it was all playful, coming from a place of curiosity (Can I do a pose on a rock? How does this breeze inspire my flow?).

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Advice for practicing outdoors?

  • Use a good quality mat that won’t slip during your practice. Or practice directly on the earth!
  • Bring bug spray/sunscreen
  • Be open to the experience — it will feel different from an indoor practice, maybe in ways you don’t expect

Would I recommend practicing yoga outdoors?

Absolutely! It connects you with the aliveness of the earth, and opens your practice to new information. Maybe it will inspire your own flow sequence!

Whether you choose to practice yoga asanas outdoors or not, simply being outdoors can be a yoga practice in itself. Being in nature unites your individual self with the universal self — plus, who doesn’t love watching the sunset?

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3 thoughts on “Yoga in the great outdoors: is it for you?

  1. I teach at a place where we once had three weeks off. The students thought that was way too long so we decided to meet in the park and do yoga there. It was really cool to have the extra challenge of the uneven earth beneath us. We liked that! With that one little change it really changes ones focus.

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