Summer is the perfect time to start trialling an outdoor yoga session. Read our top tips before you start.
It’s an indisputable fact that everything feels better in the fresh air. I love taking a walk around the block after work, no matter what the weather; going on a long cycle ride on the weekend and even eating outside in summer as often as I can. Like many people, I find my happiness and general well being are massively improved by being outdoors.
It’s funny that we have no qualms about going for a run or cycle outside, or even using the fitness equipment in the park, but practising yoga outside always feels a bit… silly? I’m not sure if that’s just my own worries about looking daft, or not ‘perfect’, or bending over potentially in the middle of a bunch of strangers!
However, if we think about it, outdoor yoga is not an unusual idea at all – the ancient yogis didn’t practice their yoga asana in the confines of a brightly-lit room. They’d be practising in nature, honing their connection to the world around them. Taking a yoga class outside should be a natural progression of our yoga practice.
There are a hundred reasons why you might want to get into Downward Dog in the fresh air, but to get you started, here are our top 5:
Five Reasons to Practice Yoga Outside
Boost your mood
Spending time in nature has been proven to improve your mental and physical wellbeing in a number of ways. It reduces feelings of stress, anxiety or anger. It gives you space to process any negative situations that you’ve experienced in the day, helping you to relax.
Hone your balancing skills
The outside world can be a sharp change from your indoor yoga class. Your focal point suddenly becomes very far away, there are no walls for support, and there are all sorts of distractions. This is fantastic for balancing yoga poses, really helping you to find the stability within yourself, rather than looking for external support.
Feel the ground beneath your feet
Ever heard of ‘earthing’ – the act of spending time barefoot? It’s said to have myriad health benefits, from improved sleep to reduced inflammation. Whether you believe in the pseudoscience of it, there’s no doubt that spending time barefoot, whether at the beach or the park, has an amazing calming effect.
Get your Vitamin D fix
Absorb the sun’s natural goodness and keep your bones strong with a shot of Vitamin D. Of course, being safe in the sun is essential, but with so much of the UK being plunged into darkness over winter, yoga outside in the summer will help you replenish your body while the sun shines.
Connecting with nature
Hearing the sound of birds tweeting. Feeling a slight breeze rippling through the air. Smelling the scent of pine needles or freshly-mown grass. It’s no secret that these small signs of the natural world help us to feel good. Undertaking yoga poses in nature is more than just moving through the asana; it connects us strongly with the world around us.
Before you take to the grass, the sand or the patio, you might want to consider a few things to make sure that you’re as comfortable as possible. Whether you’re doing a solo yoga practice or a live, online yoga class, the principles are the same. To help get you started, here are the Frog Project’s top tips for taking your yoga practice into the outdoors.
Eight Top Tips for Practising Yoga Outside
1. Find some shade
While it might be tempting to find the cosiest patch of sun, when dipping your toe into outdoor yoga it’s worthwhile starting off in the shade. Yoga poses can be pretty intense (a code word for sweaty!), and you don’t want to add direct heat to that. Having said that, if shade is impossible then make sure you slather the sun cream on before you begin.
2. Consider the time of day
Practising yoga in the morning or late afternoon is ideal to avoid the heat of the midday. Equally, if you’re going to a park or a beach then you might want to avoid the post-school rush or the busy weekend afternoons. Or perhaps the sun moves across your garden at a certain time that you’d like to avoid. A quick think about the location will really help you enjoy your practice to the fullest.
3. Choose your clothes wisely
No surprise here - yoga clothes for outdoor classes are just the same as yoga clothes for the inside. You’ll want to wear something loose, lightweight and comfortable. However, if it’s sunny you might want to think about wearing a cap or headscarf/buff to keep the sun off your head. And for your savasana, it’s a great idea to have something like a light top or jumper to put over your eyes. This will cut out some light so that you can really absorb your practice.
Don’t forget your water bottle! Ideally you’d have one with you every hour of the day, but of course hydration is even more important if you’re doing exercise. Don’t be afraid to take a break during the class if you’re getting hot – you can always jump back in for the next posture.
5. Mat or no mat?
There are definitely pros and cons to using a yoga mat outside. Personally, I like to avoid it – I love feeling the ground beneath my feet (and hands!), and I also want to avoid getting my usual mat dirty. However, balance is trickier on uneven surfaces, and postures like easy seat (Sukhasana) may get uncomfortable if there are twigs digging into your ankles. Clear the area of stones and any other nasties before you give it a go, and take it slowly. Alternatively there are loads of lightweight, portable yoga mats on the market – perfect for travelling, and taking down to the park.
6. Where to locate yourself
This might sound silly, but it’s a really good idea to think about which direction you’re pointing in. If you’re in the back garden, you might want to face away from the house so that you’re not constantly thinking about cooking dinner or doing the laundry. If you’re in a park, can you face a lovely patch of green instead of the children’s playground? With so many distractions outside you want to focus and also enjoy the natural element of your yoga practice.
If you’re taking your online yoga class outside (and at the Frog Project we encourage it!), think about having a shade for your screen, so that you can see everything properly. If you have a laptop with bluetooth capabilities, along with bluetooth speakers or earphones, you could even set this up to make sure you don’t miss an instruction.
8. Bring a book!
After your yoga class you might want to stay outside and soak up more of the sun’s goodness. With a handy book in your bag, you’ll be sorted for the rest of the day!
Ready to create a little bit of space for you? Why not try our Live Online Yoga classes, bringing you accessible yoga for all, from our living room to yours? Sign up now for 15 days of free unlimited classes.
Carmel is a travel professional and lover of literature and Latin America. In her day job at a tour operator she whisks people away to far off destinations, while in her spare time she moonlights as a freelance copywriter. You can find her portfolio here https://carmelhendry.journoportfolio.com. While not writing, or dreaming about travel, she can be found playing the piano, cycling or practising yoga. She’s spent the last year learning how to do a headstand, but mostly can be found relaxing in child’s pose! Join her and the Frog Project Community with 15 days of free unlimited classes. It’s just yoga.