Can I practice yoga outdoors?

If you are a practitioner of Iyengar yoga, with its emphasis on the use of walls, ropes and other props, it might feel as though you can’t just do your yoga outdoors.

Not true!

I love to practice with the wind on my face, the sound of birdsong in the background and the view of the clouds scudding across the sky. 

When at home and the sun is shining, I like to practice yoga outdoors

HEALTH IN NATURE

Yoga helps me to feel connected to Mother Earth and it feels completely natural to do the yoga asanas in the open air

In these strange times, not everyone can lay a mat out on a balcony or a terrace. 

But if you can, here are my recommendations: 

  •  Use a mat.  If you can get hold of one, put a mat down.  And take your socks off.  The feeling of gripping can help enormously with the earthed aspect of the pose, helping you to feel grounded and stable.  It is from a stable base that the steadiness in the pose is born. 
We’re lucky enough to have a terrace and we eat outdoors when we can
  • Use ground which is level and firm.  Practising on the grass sounds nice, but the bumpiness can make alignment and balance more challenging.  Needless to say, this can be a practice in itself!  Life is not uniform and even.  But if you’re working on alignment and correcting your own imbalances, levelness is key. 
  • Avoid direct sunlight.  In India of course, the light is usually really strong and there are very good reasons not to be in full sunlight, one of them being the risk of dehydration.  The traditional advice is to avoid the sunlight.  In the West too being in the sunshine can lead to dizziness and light-headedness.  Having light in our eyes causes our attention to wander outwards.  Whereas in asanas we aim for an internal awareness.
I grow flowers and veggies in our back garden, like these tulips which have just come up
  • Be warm enough.  If you are practising yoga in a cooler climate, it is beneficial to feel warm while in the more intense poses.  It helps with loosening the muscles.  But when we enter the restful forward bends and supported poses, the body starts to cool down.  You might want to put on another layer at this stage.  Doing asanas while the body is too cool can lead to muscle strain. 
  • Choose poses which are simple and don’t require yoga props or support.  Don’t be ambitious.  Decide on your sequence before you start or ask a teacher’s help if in doubt.  Standing poses are an excellent place to begin.  You might want to do the active part of your practice outside and move indoors for the more restful asanas. (For more about Iyengar Yoga, check here)
Going on a yoga holiday can give you ample chance to practice yoga outdoors
  • Lighten up.  Let things be a little more fluid than usual.  Don’t be hard on yourself.  You may want to use the breath more.  Allow the body to feel its own natural way in the poses and try not to be too rigid in your instructions to yourself. 
  • Meditate.  If you have a sitting practice, you can observe the breath as it enters and leaves the body, with a light awareness on the sounds around you.  Birdsong, wind effects and voices can be a beautiful way to notice the passing of all phenomena.  Just a note of warning though:  If you can hear the content of a conversation or a song, words can be distracting and take us off on a story, making it harder to stay in the present moment. 
  • Join a friend.  Yoga is often practised as a communal activity and many of us are missing the energy of being together in a class in these unusual times.  But you can make a date with a friend online and practice yoga together virtually.  You might inspire each other with new ideas, new postures and new ways of working
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With the weather warming up throughout the northern hemisphere, now is the perfect time to experiment with your outdoor practice.  And if you don’t have an outdoor space, throw the windows open wide and breathe in the fresh air.  

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Stay safe, stay well and enjoy!

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