Taking Yoga Outdoors

outdoor yoga
Photo byChrisGarzaATX

The sun is finally out after what has seemed like a long dark winter, and humanity is heading outdoors in droves. In my neck of the woods hiking trails are crowded and creeks are overrun with fisherman. In my neighborhood, everyone, and I mean everyone, is outside soaking in the beautiful spring at any available opportunity. So reluctantly, I drag myself inside to expound upon the joys of yoga asana which at the moment is identifying with the natural instinct to ditch four walls and get out of doors for practice as teachers, students, and studios across the country find a space in nature for their asana classes.

Asana at its essence is a reflection of our natural world. Through the various poses we take the shapes of animals, angles, and divine expressions of natural phenomenon. It seems only natural that we would be drawn outdoors as the animals awake from their winter sleep and the trees and flowers unfold their greens and reds and pinks to explore that which we reflect in our practice. When we talk about becoming more grounded, there is a place deep within us that truly wants to feel the grass and soil beneath our feet. In our often “virtual” world, the realness of our practice guides us to the realness of our experiences.

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So teachers take their classes to public parks, to outdoor spaces, and even to mountaintops. When they instruct their students to “reach their hands toward the sky,” they are met with a beautiful blue expanse instead of a non-descript roof over their heads. And the students feel the difference. My teacher says that prana, the life force that rides upon the breath, is strongest in the places that are most alive, most green and most vibrant. So we are subtly but undeniable drawn outdoors at the dawn of spring to fill our “energetic” cup. We drink in the smells of grass and flowers that we have almost forgotten during the cold winter months, and we elevate our aliveness in the process.

Practicing outdoors brings the teachings of yoga and asana into focus. The world might be full of distractions, from birds chirping to jackhammers pounding, but when we come into contact with our Self in nature, we are able to dig deep inside to find our balance and strength. Getting out of the ordinary element of our yoga studio or gym might be just what was needed to reawaken our practice after a long, winter hibernation.

As practitioners, yogis are moving outdoors outside of the context of organized classes. Spontaneous asanas may erupt on an afternoon hike or during a day at the park. Several of my friends and students are recommitting to their practice now that the back porch is baked in morning sunlight. Organized programs like “Park Bench Yoga” encourage public displays of asana, and provide tools to make it more accessible. There are outdoor classes everywhere from Central Park to the Rocky Mountains. And with a little bit of searching, you can find one to choose from in your area.

What do you think? Does practicing outdoors have an effect on your practice?

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