Practising Yoga Outside

Featured in Yoga & Health Magazine, June 2010

Ever thought about practising yoga outside? Summer time is here! The perfect time for us to grab our mat and head outdoors! Let’s all get into the flow beneath the sunshine today. What are we waiting for?…

There are various reasons why we’re not all pushing past one another to get to that picturesque spot in the park. Even though, in theory, we like the idea of taking our yoga practice outside, of feeling the warmth on our skin and of being one with nature, we’re just not entirely comfortable with actually doing it. In fact, as soon as we even contemplate the idea, a bunch of worries come along too.

“What if people look at me, or the neighbours think that I’m silly?… I’ll have to bare a lot of skin… I’ll be bending into and out of all kinds of embarrassing positions… I think I’ll be happier staying inside today.”

These are just some of the common initial reactions to the idea of taking yoga outdoors. I know this to be true, because I’ve thought many of them myself. I used to come home from university for the summer holidays, exhausted and in need of some good rest. My yoga practice was something I’d do as a way of getting back in touch with myself. I’d want to find my centre and dwell there. It was very personal. My bedroom seemed to me to be the sensible place to practise; quiet and undisturbed. But, on really sunny days, I’d find myself too hot and sweaty to continue inside and I’d often end up drawn to practising beneath the rays.

“This is lovely” I’d think at first, as I rolled out my mat close by to the roses. “Saluting to the Sun beneath the sunshine! What could be better than this?”

But, before long, I’d start to get twitchy and distracted by the sounds all around. Whereas in my bedroom, I’d just have my music and breath to listen to, here I could hear all kinds of things, including traffic and people’s voices.

“Why isn’t the wall between my garden and the park next door a bit taller? I’d whisper to myself. “Anyone walking by can just peer in and look at me.” I was becoming uneasy. “And the fence between my garden and the neighbours is not even shoulder height and it’s got holes in it! I need to have more privacy to do yoga.” And that would be it. Practice over, before I’d barely started. I’d fling my mat over my shoulder and scamper off back to my bedroom. “Ahh peace at last.” I’d sigh, lying down in savasana, in appreciation of how comfortable my bedroom felt. Hot I may have been, but at least I wasn’t at risk of being ‘on show’.

Yoga is often something we like to do by ourselves, in our own space and in peace and quiet. It’s unsurprising therefore why the idea of being ‘out in the open’ can fill us with fear, as well as other feelings, such as vulnerability and embarrassment. Natural as these feelings may be though, it’s a shame never to experience yoga beyond the comfort of our homes.

The truth is there’s so much more to gain than to lose in practising yoga outside from time to time. Besides from benefiting from the good ol’ fresh air in our lungs, we get to experience the world from a new perspective and connect with nature. We often spend far too long a part of the artificial world, and not enough a part of a more natural one.

I now love to practise outside. I’ve realised that there’s really nothing to worry about. Nobody is looking, and if they are, it’s probably just because they’re inspired by our courage and form! Nothing should come between us and this opportunity to practise the asanas, pranayama and meditation in a variety of different environments. Whether we’ve got a garden or not, there are so many locations to choose from where we can roll our mat out, reach up and stretch up high and enjoy the warming sunshine, the gentle breeze, the bird’s song, the ocean waves: be it the park, the beach, the woods or even an outdoor yoga class.

Let us make peace with ourselves and our surroundings. Let us heal by and through nature and open ourselves to this amazing opportunity. Enjoy Summer. Enjoy yoga.

© Rosanna Gordon 2010. All rights reserved.