Outdoor yoga is often praised as a special treat, but it can also add a whole new array of challenges to your practice. Unpredictable and uncontrollable temperatures, bugs, noise, uneven or wet ground, and curious bystanders can all make an outdoor practice less than relaxing. Still, getting outside is good for you, and there are steps you can take to make an outdoor yoga practice more enjoyable—beyond just closing your eyes and turning inward.
Temperature. Obviously this is will vary greatly depending on where you live and what time of year it is. And either way, the temperature will be beyond your control and may change quickly. Unless you’re living near the polar ends of the earth, heat is more likely to be a concern than the cold. A vigorous practice will warm you up, but a slow practice isn’t necessarily going to keep you cool.
Depending upon your comfort level, choose a time of day that is most ideal in temperature. In summer or in places that trend towards hot weather, this may be early morning or evening when the sun isn’t fully up and the humidity is likely to be lower.
Be careful of thinking that practicing outside at noon is a good idea just because you like “hot yoga.” Although some studios intentionally turn up the dial, in some places the summertime outdoor heat index (relative temperature plus humidity) can easily exceed even the most hard-core studios. Plus, in a class setting, there is an instructor present to keep a careful eye on the temperature and (hopefully) you. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and know the warning signs of heat related illness.
Sun. It’s possible to get sunburn even on overcast days. If you are prone to this, practice in the shade or under cover if possible. Sunscreen may be necessary for some.
Grounding. Remembering the breath while trying to balance may not be enough if you are fighting gravity in every pose. Perfectly even ground is unlikely unless you practice on a fabricated surface such as pavement, a deck or a patio. An extra mat can help to soften these spaces if needed. If you really want to feel the earth under your feet, find the most even ground you can, and clear away sticks, stones or other debris, and try practicing without a mat. If the ground is damp, a mat can help you stay dry, but it surely won’t help even things out.
Bugs and other wildlife. Early morning or evening can be best for avoiding biters. A natural bug spray is easy to make and smells good too. If you are really sensitive, it may be wise to try and seek out a screened in area to practice. Be aware of your surroundings and watch for nests (of all kinds), snakes, and “gifts” from birds.
Noise. This will vary by location but is also largely out of your control. Because of this, practicing yoga outdoors is a great opportunity to focus on your breath and practice releasing attachment to distractions and sounds. You can also try making a playlist of your favorite yoga music and bringing headphones.
Bystanders. The other wildlife. Passersby can run the gamut of curious, respectful or rude. If you are set on practicing in a park, don’t be surprised if people pause to look, or if someone snaps your picture with his or her phone. If you don’t want your practice to be a social meme, find a secluded or less populated area or a private outdoor space. On the flip side, remember to be respectful of others ability to enjoy the space as well.
Everyone’s process and comfort levels are different, so you may have to decide which battles are most important in creating an outdoor practice that works for you. If you can find that sweet spot though, it can be well worth it.