. . . or in the grass or under the trees or on the top of that hill
How many of us have experienced being affected in a deep, profound, even spiritual way by nature? For some it’s the vastness or flow of water – an ocean or lake or river. For others it’s the majesty of a mountain range. And for others it’s the quiet and cool of a thick forest. Or maybe all of the above. So when given the opportunity to take our yoga out of the studio and into nature, why would we not want to add the profound and even spiritual experience of nature to our yoga?
In Nature we are immersed in Prana, or life-force energy, naturally stimulating our entire system and awakening our senses. And the sunlight on your skin activates your Agni, or inner fire
Practicing outdoors in an awareness/sensory experience - all of your senses wake up—scent, sight, and touch, in particular, activate parts of the brain that make you more present. Fresh air heightens breath awareness. Sand or grass under foot provides further stimulation, as does the sun or breeze on the skin or the sound of birds or moving water.
And practicing outside increases your inner proprioception, your body’s awareness of where it is in space . . . to know what is up without seeing up, to know where your foot is located even if you can’t see your foot. And if balancing comes easy in the controlled environment of a studio, consider that nothing is stable outside. Can you lift your gaze to the studio ceiling in tree pose? Try gazing up into the infinite sky. Practicing outdoors turns every posture into a balance posture (and in doing so engages and strengthens your core).
It is easy to quiet your mind in a quiet studio with four walls, a smooth, clean floor and heat and air conditioning. Practicing outdoors can help develop inner focus and mental pliabilityby removing the constants – an uneven surface, the breeze, unexpected sounds, visits by mating birds . . . even the occasional raindrop.
You will never feel so grounded – by practicing on the ground, you are literally rooting your practice to the earth, anchoring yourself and embodying your process of self-awareness. Being grounded helps you feel more connected and in alignment with yourself, your feelings and emotions, and also helps you replace feelings of fear or anxiety with a sense of calm and well-being.
And when your Root Chakra is grounded, your other Chakras are set free to shine – you may finish your outdoor practice in a wave of emotion . . . or feeling cleansed or inspired.
Familiarity breeds comfort and security, where changing up the experience and stepping outside of familiarity breeds growth.
Birds singing, wind through the trees, waves lapping on the shore. The sounds of the great outdoors reduce stress. And it’s an actual physical response - field studies published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine show that people who were exposed to a forest environment versus an urban environment had a lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol.
And finally, the vastness and beauty of nature can manifest a strong feeling of being part of something vast and amazing: of your connection to others and to God.
Please share your own experience here about practicing outdoors. We would love to hear!