5 Steps to Outdoor Yoga Aka Yoga #OfftheBeatenMat
October 23, 2015
Some of my most beautiful and mentally challenging yoga practices have been outside. One particular outdoor yoga experience stands out in my mind. My husband, two children and I had just arrived on the beautiful surf escape island of Nusa Lembongan in Indonesia. I checked the hours of the outdoor yoga studio near our bungalow and was in luck—I‘d be able to take the 4 p.m. class. Soon I was standing in Tadasana with the ocean breeze rustling my hair and the sweet smell of tropical foliage filling my nostrils. I felt more at peace with each cycle of breath. Then, and without warning, a low buzzing began to increase in volume around my head until finally the first mosquito (of many) launched its attack on the back of my shoulder. I resisted the urge to slap it loudly, not wanting to disrupt the Zen of the class. But then the secondary attack began, this time on my ankle. I slapped it loudly in a knee-jerk reaction, and, since I had already caused a disturbance, I snuck in a few scratches to my previous bites. Before long, the entire class was a slapping and scratching mess. It was at this point the teacher mentioned the importance of wearing some type of bug repellent to this afternoon class. She even recommended an all-natural lemongrass option the locals used. But this information came too late and there wasn’t any bug repellant at the studio to use. So we kept practicing; enduring the bites and resisting increasing urges to scratch. I really tried, I hunkered down, I went inside my head—I wanted to invoke my inner Buddhist and block out the bugs—but it was challenging. At one point, I was convinced these were the most itch-inducing mosquitoes on the planet. But I made it through. I did attend several more classes at the studio, lathered in lemongrass oil, and not surprisingly had a completely different experience. Some type of natural repellent is now something I don’t go without when practicing outside. There are a couple other things I have learned about having an outdoor practice that can help take some of the natural frustrations out of this experience. Here is my guide for outdoor yoga success: 1. Be Prepared If you’re going to be outdoors, you’re going to need to add a few more things to your yoga arsenal. Pack some bug spray and sunscreen—preferably natural versions. Layer: Warm layers are essential to keep you comfortable before and after your routine, and they can be easily removed as you warm up with your practice. 2. Be Realistic You are outside. You are likely in a public area, there will be noise and interruptions. Be prepared to laugh these off and be light with your intentions. What space are you inhabiting? Are you standing in the middle of a touch football game? You may want to find a better spot. 3. Manage the Risk Understand your environment and adjust your practice as needed. Be mindful of uneven surfaces, especially when doing weight-bearing repetitive postures like Chaturanga Dandasana. Considering skipping the Vinyasa. Have a look around you before you get into the zone. 4. Test Your Balance Use the opportunity of being in a wide-open space to go upside down. There is nothing like practicing a handstand in the middle of a grassy space without fear of kicking a wall or a piece of furniture when you come out. Consider using a softer surface other than a yoga mat. This will allow you to connect with the naturally uneven surface of the Earth and work through some balancing postures. 5. Be the Peace Always remember that the peace you seek comes from within. If you are looking outside yourself you will never find it. Use this mentality when the inevitable distractions that come when practicing outdoors occur. Once you have mastered these small challenges, the benefits of doing yoga outside are immeasurable. Even just going outdoors can do wonders for your mood and several scientific studies have proven it, so it is worth getting right. Namaste.