As we move into summertime, the warm days naturally draw yogis around the country to practice yoga outdoors. While practicing yoga in nature is indisputably becoming more common, sunnier climes—from Florida to Boulder—have offered outdoor yoga as a staple over the past decade. And of course, the concept of yogis practicing outdoors is perhaps as ancient as sadhana itself, age-old clichés of yogis in caves notwithstanding. As modern American yogis begin to increasingly embrace outdoor practice, a briefing on the benefits of time spent outdoors is in order.
Yoga practiced anywhere is highly beneficial to health, but when executed outdoors (especially in green settings) such benefits may be compounded. Scientists have shown that exposure to sunlight improves eyesight and decreases the likelihood of poor vision. Another obvious benefit to increased sunlight exposure is Vitamin D uptake, a serious consideration for those of us north of Atlanta GA. A shout out to sunscreen is a must here; optimal time for Vitamin D uptake is roughly 10-20 minutes, after which it’s recommended that sunscreen be applied to avoid excessive UV ray exposure.
Time spent in nature—called “forest bathing” in Japan—has been found to correlate with improved immune function as well as lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, and optimize parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system function. Improved recovery time from surgery can also be added to the list of nature’s benefits on health.
Researchers have also found cognitive benefits to be associated with time spent in nature, including improvements in directed attention and cognitive performance, decreased mental fatigue, restored mental clarity, and improved sense of well-being. While extensive, these benefits are but a sampling of the many perks of spending time outdoors.
Some yogis may find it challenging to practice yoga or otherwise exercise outdoors, due to pollen, insects, or other factors. Never fear; the benefits are still accessible! Simply practicing in a space where green plants may be viewed has also been shown beneficial to health. An additional benefit for those with allergies? Many plants, whether in or out of doors—such as philodendron, Chinese evergreen, or bamboo palm—have been shown to “improve air quality, increase humidity, and reduce the quantity of mold spores and airborne germs.”
How has practicing yoga outdoors effected your yoga practice, your physical health or your mind?