Victoria Jackson ponders the challenges of taking your yoga practice outdoors during the British summertime
Every year, about this time, as the seasons turn a little further towards summer and the days are longer, lighter and warmer, I find myself tempted to take my practice outside. It feels stuffy and confined indoors and, after a day working in the office in artificial light, I crave some open spaces and fresh air. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to drift out of work to the nearest park and roll out my mat there for some al fresco asana instead of heading to the studio or practicing at home in my apartment? I’d have a beautiful expanse of sky above me, the spreading trees as my inspiration for standing postures and the grass would tickle my feet deliciously in Savasana. The sun would warm me gently and perhaps a soft summer zephyr would play over my skin bringing a vital aliveness to each posture. The birds would sing and insects buzz past offering up their own natural rendition
of an ‘om’. In my mind it would be a perfect setting and my
beautiful practice would flow along effortlessly with the very rhythms of life and the natural world. Aaaah, I’m smiling even at the thought of it. Bliss!
So it’s no surprise that in the past few years I’ve succumbed to this modest yoga fantasy. But of course it’s never quite lived up to my expectations. In reality, the ground is always annoyingly lumpy as the winter mud has dried in uneven corrugations. This might create an interesting challenge in balancing poses, but it’s plain uncomfortable to lie on. And the UK always feels too cold, even on the sunniest day, so extra layers are a must. Anyone who’s tried even one Downward Facing Dog in a hoody will know how distracting that can be. And besides that, no matter how focused I try to be, concentrating madly on nose-tip or fingertip drishti, I always get distracted by unfamiliar sounds – anything from the sudden sirens of emergency vehicles to comments from passers-by (and their ever-curious children). And finally, who can actually sink into a satisfying Savasana in a public place? In a busy, urban environment that would take my level of trust to a whole new level!
So I’m resolved to stick indoors this year and just embrace the sweaty heat of my practice. If I get tempted to try outdoor asana just one more time, I’m going to remind myself of the lowest point last summer: the time when a dog actually cocked its leg towards my yoga mat. It was hard in that moment to remember ahimsa and compassion for all fellow creatures. And whatever words sprang to my lips in that moment of indignation and incredulity, it certainly wasn’t om shanti! !
Victoria Jackson lives and practices in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as a vinyasa yoga teacher