Some people feel that you can’t do yoga in nature. While it’s true that many yoga practices exist primarily to help the practitioner achieve a level of calm and focus, this doesn’t mean you need to be inside your house with all the doors locked and curtains closed for it to work. In fact, several yogis believe that practicing in nature yields benefits that cannot be achieved elsewhere.
The Basics: What Is Yoga?
The literal definition of yoga is “to yoke” or “to unite,” which could be interpreted as uniting body and mind (the physical and mental aspects), and/or connecting with something larger than ourselves (a higher power). However we interpret the word, we can probably agree on what constitutes a yoga practice: physical postures, or asanas, that affect the body and breathing exercises that affect the mind.
Hatha yoga is a type of yoga with physical poses practiced in conjunction with deep breathing exercises. In this article we’ll discuss just the physical aspect of hatha yoga—the poses you would do outside or anywhere else. We’ve already talked about what yoga is, so let’s talk about why you might want to do it outdoors instead of inside.
The Benefits of Outdoor Yoga
Some people feel that practicing yoga outside makes their bodies more receptive to the beneficial effects of the workout, which helps them go deeper into each pose than they could indoors where distractions from noise and other things can get in their way.
Doing yoga outside also gives you the opportunity to meditate on what’s around you. Because many of us spend so much time inside, we’re not used to seeing things like clouds moving across the sky or blades of grass blowing in the wind. These simple things can be quite refreshing for our eyes and minds, which can feel less distracted when they are looking at something new instead of staring at the same four walls every day.
Now let’s talk about nature itself. Many people believe that doing yoga outside forces their bodies to adjust to changes in temperature, humidity, and even barometric pressure (which is affected by weather). All of these factors exist indoors too; however, they change more quickly outdoors because there is more space and, therefore, less insulation.
Some yogis believe that the extra change of environment is beneficial because it forces your body to adapt quickly to changes and imbalances. For example, practicing in high humidity and high temperatures helps acclimate the body to feeling uncomfortable so that you can be ready for those conditions when they occur naturally outside or during a workout.
Varying levels of physical activity also affect barometric pressure as you move from active poses like Warrior II (pictured right) to passive ones like Child’s Pose, all while staying outdoors. In other words, your body will experience higher and lower levels of energy as you go from one pose to another—just as if you were experiencing them inside.
Just like with any other form of exercise or workout, you can get the most out of your yoga practice by choosing a good location. Many people feel that nature itself is enough of a location to do yoga in—and they are absolutely right because if you are surrounded by trees and grass, you are naturally more inclined to want to stretch yourself among them. But if you live in an area where the only scenery available is the inside of your apartment building’s stairwell (especially during winter), there are still plenty of places you can go outside for a change of scenery .
If it’s within walking distance, try going on a hike. Choose one too many rocks or roots (if you’re not wearing the right shoes) and you’ll be feeling it in your thighs.
If it’s within biking distance, take a trip on your bike to an outdoor mall or park with shops, statues, fountains, people-watching opportunities, benches, and so on. Any of these is good for yoga if they provide enough space—try balancing poses like Tree Pose (Vriksasana) using various objects around you as support.
If it’s too far away to safely get there by bike or foot at this point in time but still close enough that you could drive there, consider finding an open field somewhere nearby. You can do some pretty cool things outside where there is nothing but land—for example, you can practice balancing poses like Tree Pose or Warrior II (pictured right) with your feet spread wider than your shoulders for a real challenge!
If it’s far away enough that you’ll need to drive, look for an outdoor mall or theme park in the area and choose a parking lot that has plenty of space. You can either go ahead and do yoga in this parking lot (and bring something to cover the vehicle’s roof if it is very hot outside—don’t forget one of these; they’re great for shading yourself from sun!) or find another open field nearby .
Some people also prefer doing yoga outside because there is less natural light indoors, so when their bodies are in brighter surroundings, they become more aware of the lighting in their bodies and adjust themselves accordingly.
You can also try having a picnic outside or lounging around on your back porch if it’s large enough to practice yoga on—be creative!
And most importantly: have fun. The more you learn about doing yoga outdoors, the easier it will become for you to find locations where you can do it whenever you want and with anyone else who wants to join you. That said, there is no wrong way to do yoga, so just keep an open mind and remember that changing up your scenery might be just what your body needs!
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Vinyasa Flow classes at Yoga Flow SF mix traditional yoga poses with athletic movements to create a vigorous and balanced workout. Our instructors’ energy during the class is infectious, making it an empowering experience for all levels of practitioners—from beginner to advanced. Whether you’re looking for inspiration or just need something more challenging in your life, our heated live-music sessions will make the most out of every session! We offer modifications that simplify the poses to be more suitable for beginners or some that amplify them for our advanced practitioners so you can choose which one is better suited based on your skill level! Specifically, this type of yoga really helps with creating strength and flexibility in both body AND mind while challenging us to grow into stronger versions of ourselves. Book your first class now at one of our San Francisco locations or our new location in downtown Walnut Creek!
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