8 incentives to practice yoga outside

Find a level place. Practicing yoga in nature, by Alexa Mergen

Sunday mornings when a volunteer teacher leads a public yoga class along our city's riverfront, tourists and locals alike to stop to observe. Colourful mats cluster on wide wooden planks. The teacher weaves among the moving bodies. Everyone's arms are raised toward blue sky, their legs planted beneath them like those of Canada geese flocked nearby.

The tracks of an excursion train run on the other side of the raised staging area. When the conductor toots the horn in greeting people smile.

Yoga outside brings the practice alive. It's common nowadays to see classes held in parks and on beaches.

Long before yoga was a household word across the world, the Sanskrit Svetasvatara Upanishad counselled yoga practitioners to perform exercises in places where the scenery is charming and pleasing to the eyes and where there is water to help with concentration. These days, in major cities where distractions abound, contemporary yoga practitioners might not find themselves free from disturbing noise, as the text suggests, but they likely can find a level place out of the wind and free from pebbles.

Fresh air, natural light and bird song enhance asana practice. Standing barefoot on the ground reminds us of how yoga situates us between earth and sky, and enhances our connection with ourselves, others and the natural world.

Each of the hundreds of thousands of people who have practiced yoga al fresco on continents across our planet has a reason for doing so.

Here are 8 incentives to take yoga asana into gardens, parks, plazas and campgrounds.

  • Honor Earth
    Just as we can dedicate a practice to a friend in need, we can dedicate our practice to the landscape. Where we place attention we bring love.
  • Attunes senses
    Perspectives shift as we stand and sit in sand or on earth or stones, when we bring ourselves eye-level with flowers and blades of grass. Eyes closed in meditation sounds intensify. Breeze graces bare skin.
  • Balance
    Swapping a smooth floor for a textured surface outside gives bare feet new information. This information can change the experience of Vrksasana or another standing pose, awakening muscles, encouraging the whole sole to engage.
  • Embrace the land's contours
    On a incline, look up! A gentle hilside provides a delicious, simple inversion in Savasana.
  • Embody
    The spaciousness of the out-of-doors encourages information. Become a tree. Perch like an eagle. Be the mountain.
  • Breathe with plants.
    Each breath is an exchange from within to without, without to within. Respiration brings us in cahoots with the greenery around us.
  • Buoy community
    Sharing public space connects us. Strangers become friends. The sense of playfulness and freedom creates community.
  • Spark
    When passersby see people moving through yoga poses they might inquire into movement and meditation, opening possibilities for well-being in their own lives.

Alexa Mergen

Alexa Mergen (RYT-500) writes about yoga, nature and animals from Sacramento, Calif.