Take Your Yoga Practice Outdoors
Taking your yoga practice out of the studio and into a natural environment is a refreshing way to take your exercise outdoors this summer;
After all, yoga is not just about connecting with yourself, but also with the environment surrounding you. People can be put off from doing yoga outdoors for several reasons: they may feel self-conscious, uncomfortable about the thought of getting dirty or sandy, or feel that it's more convenient to schedule a studio class. With planning and a sense of adventure these can be overcome and the benefits are worth the small added effort.
Take a comfortable cross legged position. Place the hands on the knees, gaze out at the view and just breathe. Take in the sounds and smells around you. Quieten the mind in this simple posture to focus simply on your breath and how it feels to be in your body by turning the gaze inward. Remain here for a few minutes to start and end your practice.
Simple Seated Twist
From seated, bend the left knee and place the foot by the right hip with the side of the leg on the floor, bend the right leg and bring it over the left leg with the foot on the floor outside the left hip. Place the right hand behind the back and inhale. Raise the left arm up and then hug the right leg as you exhale into the twist. Keep the seat bones on the ground and gaze out behind.
Outdoor tip: twisting is detoxifying as the twist massages the internal organs. Ground through the hips and keep the spine long to enjoy the spiral.
Standing with the feet together, inhale, bend the knees so the fingers brush the ground and then sweep the arms overhead until they are shoulder width with the hands roughly over the feet. Squeeze the knees together and engage into your core and enjoy the feeling of the ribs floating away from the hips.
Outdoor tip: this pose connects the feet with the earth and strengthens the legs.
From standing take a wide step out to the side. Turn the right foot out and the left foot in slightly. Inhale, reach out to the right, lengthening the lower ribs and exhale to place the hand on the shin or ankle, or even take the big toe. Reach the left hand up to the sky with the thumb over the mouth and gaze up towards the fingers. Try and keep the ribs over the right leg rather than curling forwards as you press the tailbone towards the back heel. To finish, inhale to rise up and exhale pivot on the heels to change sides.
Outdoor tip: this pose lengthens and strengthens the waist and opens the hips. Gazing up to the hand in the sky lets you find your balance without a ceiling.
Lie down on the mat with the palms facing the sky and relax the legs to the sides. Close the eyes and let each muscle relax. This pose lets the body assimilate what it has done and allows the mind to relax as the muscles melt away from the bones.
Outdoor tip: focus on the feel and sounds of the environment around you.
Remember, the key to outdoor yoga is to relax and not hurry. Try and hold each pose for 30 seconds or 10 deep and unhurried breaths, drawing the air all the way to the bottom of the lungs and then taking the same amount of time to exhale.
More outdoor yoga tips:
- If you are near water (a lake - like Lake Windermere , above - the sea or even a stream) you'll get the benefits of negative ions which increase your sense of wellbeing and enhance respiratory function.
- Yoga increases serotonin levels and this effect is boosted by moving outdoors.
- Sunshine is the body's main way of synthesising vitamin D which keeps teeth and bones healthy, but remember to take sun cream.
- Take a yoga mat to protect your feet and help you balance.
- If you practice to music, take along your headphones to help you focus. Better yet turn your phone off to add to the sense of “getting away from it all" and enjoy the natural soundtrack of your surroundings.
- Stay hydrated. Even on a cool day make sure you drink enough water as thirst or dehydration may spoil the enjoyment of your yoga.
- Step away from your normal routine and embrace something different. You will feel a sense of achievement for moving outside of your comfort level.