I love studio classes. There is something energetically magical about coming back to the same space each week — the community of yogis, the oils diffused in the air, the eye pillows. A yoga studio becomes more and more of a sacred space with each practice that is shared.
BUT — I also believe that anywhere can be energetically magical and can provide a soul refreshing experience for a yoga practice. For example, I currently teach twice a week in a room that has a garage door, a cement floor, and is used for storage. It’s the space we have, and I promise you that after the first month of class I began to have the same feeling of peace wash over me when I step into that room as I do in any other studio space I have cultivated. That room, in fact, is what taught me that the space is about what happens in it much more than the aesthetics. I would also venture to guess that my students in that class would also attest to the fact that while unconventional, the room has become a special place.
Many are able to carve out a home studio space that becomes a special place in their home to meet themselves on the mat. And some find an extra bit of zen when they are able to pair their yoga with nature and practice outside.
To me, if you enjoy your practice, that is the key, whether it’s in a studio, in your home, in a garage, outside, or somewhere in between. If you have not yet attempted yoga outside, this post is for you. Maybe you will decide it’s definitely something you want to try; maybe not.
Living in the Midwest, yoga outside provides a treat for me. I am not able to take my practice outside many months, so when I am able to even consider doing so, it’s refreshing and something to mix up my practice.
My personal practice is one usually done in silence (indoor or out). I like the added focus and almost meditative experience that gives me as I move with the breath and have nothing else to distract me. When I am outside, then, that silence is different. I hear the wind, the birds, the leaves, maybe kids playing in the park, dogs barking, etc. There is variation here depending on where you live and where you choose to place your mat. Maybe you go by the water, maybe in a park. You can decide what “playlist” you want, and there is something about this natural playlist that I really enjoy. I realize how much noise there is in nature if you are only paying attention.
And, of course, there is the weather element. Maybe there is the warmth of the sun that you are able to feel after surviving a cold winter. Maybe you find a shady space under a tree to retreat from the heat of summer. I also love listening to the rain as I yoga under a park shelter. The cooling or warming wind is also a gift during practice that cannot be replicated in a studio experience. There is maybe nothing quite like breathing in the fresh air of being outside during practice.
The timing of your outdoor practice can also yield some added benefits. Morning classes, often called sunrise yoga, bring the addition of seeing the sun come up as you practice. Evening classes, on the other hand, can be a great way to end a busy day and bring the day to a close while watching a beautiful sunset. The views during each can be spectacular, and sometimes the way the sun feels on your closed eyes is enough to make it all worthwhile.
Some of the potential challenges or considerations:
The weather is also something that can be a challenge. Wind is a gift and can be refreshing, unless it’s too windy. Warmth can add to the practice, unless it is too warm. Same with cooler weather — a warm vinyasa flow in cooler temperatures might be a great balance, but not if it is too cold. Rain is enjoyable if it is the soft rain on a roof that covers you, but not if it is slanting in or you do not have a shelter. These factors are often why outside yoga is frequently a special offering by yoga studios during the best months with lots of finger crossing for cooperative weather. BUT it’s also why outside yoga can be such a treat on those days when the weather is “just right.”
You will need to pack a few more things for an outdoor practice. You might want to add a blanket for a larger coverage of the ground under your mat, and you also will want to check the ground for depressions and holes so that you don’t step back to Warrior II and step into a hole.
Depending on the time of year and where you live, you may want bug spray and will want to scout the area before committing to a location (not just for bugs but also for other treasures left behind by birds or dogs, etc). For example, there is a beautiful lake near my house, and a picturesque place to yoga other than it is also where the geese like to hang out….and where there are a lot of geese, there is also a lot of goose poop.)
Water and sunscreen are also important for yoga outside, especially if not in the morning and not covered. Allergies are also a concern for some clients, which I understand. I always make sure to take my Claritin D before I head out. And if you really dislike ants and other little insects, you probably will not love yoga in the grass, but perhaps there is a park shelter you can use.
Often yogis and cities will offer some outside yoga opportunities as the seasons allow. I definitely recommend trying it out if you have not before. I also recommend taking your mat with you and finding your own “spots” to place your mat and enjoy even some unstructured yoga time.
In fact — I, along with the City of Kirksville, often offer Yoga in the Park classes at Rotary Park, under the Amphitheater during late spring, early summer, and early fall. They are usually offered on Saturday mornings, getting yoga in before the day really starts. (And maybe before my family really wakes up and gets going with activities.)
Bring your mat! The great outdoors awaits.