As published in Nature’s Pathways Northeast Wisconsin June 2016.
Tips for an amazing outdoor yoga practice
When practicing outdoors, there’s no need for a mat as sometimes the grip and cushion of a mat can cause it to bunch up on softer surfaces or slide around on damp grass. A beach towel or heavy blanket — or nothing all — works just fine! If you are practicing on a rough surface (for example, a wooden deck or pier), then consider using a mat or towel to prevent splinters and scrapes.
Get creative using objects in the environment as props. A step, park bench or railing can serve as a support instead of a block, and also work great to elevate the front leg in a Crescent Lunge or Warrior pose to stretch psoas and hip flexor muscles. A rope or long stick works well to connect hands in binds or hold overhead to increase intensity in a Warrior or Crescent pose.
Be mindful of wrists on softer surfaces. A soft surface may have too much “give” and can allow the wrists to collapse and cause strain on the ulna bone of the arm. Instead, limit arm balances, Sun Salutations and long Upward/Downward Dog holds in favor of more standing and balance poses. Standing poses benefit from the uneven surface to strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the legs, ankles and feet. However, there are benefits to soft surfaces, such as grass or sand, as they provide a suitable platform for practicing inversions. Softer ground = softer falls if you take a tumble!
Consider ditching the electronic devices. Tune in to the music of the environment instead! The rustling leaves, swaying branches, splashing water, chirping birds, whirring wind — it’s a symphony of nature! If you must have music, load up a fun playlist on your phone or iPod.
Wear sunscreen! It’s also smart to practice in the shade or have the option to move into a shady spot if you get too warm. Skin damage and heat stroke do not contribute to a healthy yoga lifestyle!
Dress in layers. Or bring a long sleeve shirt or sweater in case the temperatures cool or you need a coverup during savasana when your body temperature lowers.
Depending on your practice environment, you may want to bring bug spray. It could make the difference between an enjoyable and an unpleasant experience.
Stay hydrated, especially in warm temperatures! If you forget your H2O bottle, try to find an area near a water fountain so you have the option to take a few drinks every half hour.
Remember, 5 minutes of yoga are better than no minutes. Even the few poses you do with your dog or children in the backyard count and provide benefits to you physically and emotionally.
June 21st is International Day of Yoga. This is great opportunity to find an outdoor class offered by your local yoga studio or find a spot to practice on your own.
“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5,000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature…” — Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly