One of the most remarkable aspects of yoga is that it can be done anywhere. And while professional yoga teachers try their best to create the perfect environment for a relaxing yoga class using soft lights, soothing sounds and natural incense, why settle for the artificial experience when you can do it outdoors?
Taking your yoga practice outside will not only pep up your mood, but also invigorate your entire system and enrich your yoga experience. As we celebrate International Yoga Day this weekend, how about packing your yoga essentials and heading to the wilderness?
Outdoor Yoga: The Many Benefits
According to a recent study, Swedish researchers found that taking your yoga class outside can increase wakeful relaxation and internal focus. The study highlighted the importance of fractals (the organically occurring patterns in tree branches) to increase focus and induce alpha brain activity.
Open-air yoga can add a different dimension to your yoga routine while pairing you with Mother Nature. The benefits of spending quality time outdoors needs no scientific backing and coupling this with yoga will only escalate its efficiency in bringing positive changes in your life. Here are three ways outdoor yoga can help you.
1. Heightens Awareness
Your sense of proprioception, aka your body’s ability to determine the spatial orientation of your limbs, gets an uphill boost with open air yoga. This increase translates into more profound adjustments in several poses, which in turn can build muscles. Fresh air also heightens breath awareness, which improves the oxygen intake, clears the mind and stimulates the release of endorphins. An added bonus: uneven surface is known to better engage your core and strengthen it.
2. Develops Inner Stability & Self-Confidence
Isn’t it easy to achieve a state of inner bliss when no one is around to bother you? When you’re in sync with the outer elements, your nervous system is more upbeat and allows the body to recalibrate itself and develop a sense of stability. Practicing outside gets you out of your comfort zone and gives that much-needed boost to your inner confidence.
3. Boosts Meditation Benefits
Yoga not only comprises of twists and inversions, but also deep-breathing exercises and a full body meditation. Several studies have found that spending quality time in the lap of nature can significantly lower your stress levels by inhibiting the production of cortisol (stress hormone). Remember, Buddha didn’t meditate in a hall!
Before you head out and unroll your mat, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Start off gradually and be realistic of your goals. Begin with a 15- to 20-minute session at first, moving up the ladder gradually.
2. Always carry your mat. Whether you are planning to practice in a park, pavement or just your backyard, the rough surface can irritate your sensitive skin. Invest in a sticky mat that will protect you from uneven and heated surfaces.
3. While a practice on the beach sounds perfect, select a firm enough spot—the one close to the water’s edge sounds about right. Squishy or marshy surfaces can put your joints at risk for twisting. Avoid inclined surfaces as they can interfere with your balance and cause injuries.
4. Don’t forget your sunblock, bug spray and plenty of water. It is imperative to protect your exposed skin with a good sunscreen if you are practicing in direct sunlight. A bug spray will come handy if you intend to head to the woods or want to practice at night. Also, don’t forget to load on your water supply.
5. Begin with easy trial poses like balasana (child’s pose) or adho mukha svanasna (downward facing dog) to get a feel for the inclination and unevenness of the surface. The balancing tree pose is a good asana to start your practice.