In the middle of warm, sun-shiney, gorgeous summer weather, it can be especially challenging to drive to a dimly-lit yoga studio or to a gym with harsh fluorescent lights when there’s so much beauty and fun to be had outside.
I get it. The beach calls, with it’s soothing ocean sounds and squishy sand and...why are you sitting in front of your computer right now staring at a screen anyways?
That’s right. You’re probably working. Which means you’re daydreaming about those few precious hours of free time you get every weekend. Of course you want to make the most of them and get outside while you can! Luckily, there are so many ways to practice yoga outside, you don’t have to skip out on your practice to enjoy nature. (Here’s the truth: I don’t care if you skip my class. I’ll miss you, but your practice is YOURS and you should do it in the way that makes your heart sing.)
There are lots of good reasons to take your practice outside. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Enhanced stress relief.
It has been well documented that taking a walk outside in nature can improve mood and reduce stress levels [Source]. If there’s a bit of water close by (beach yoga, anyone?) it enhances that effect even more. In one study, cancer patients who were shown a video of nature scenes including sounds of ocean waves, waterfalls, and creeks, experienced a 20 to 30 percent reduction in stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol [Source]. Add this to yoga's practically magical, incredible stress relieving benefits and you’ve got a powerful antidote to stress and all the ways in which it negatively impacts your life.
Photo by Andrey
2. Enhanced brain function.
Other studies have shown that there is a real cognitive advantage to spending time in nature. For example, in one study, students who took a test near a window with a view of trees and a lake performed better on the test than those who couldn’t see the view [Source].
3. Increased focus on the present moment.
It’s true that there’s a lot going on around you when you practice outdoors—there’s the scenery, there’s usually noise, and sometimes there are people walking around. One might think this would be a distraction to your yoga practice. But being outside in a natural setting can also help you to be present in your own body. Feel the breeze, the warm sun on your skin, the earth under your feet—this is what it feels like to be in the present moment.
Photo by tiarescott
4. It reminds you to have fun!
As a yoga teacher, I try pretty hard to make sure my students are having a little bit of fun and laughing whenever they do yoga with me. But no matter how funny I think I am, and how many polite chuckles I get from my students (thanks for throwing me a bone every now and then!), we all sometimes take our yoga practice too seriously. Sometimes all we need is a change of venue to remind us that we do yoga because we really enjoy it, not just because we think we should. It feels good to move our bodies, to stretch, strengthen, and breathe. It can be as simple as that. What a better way to remind ourselves that yoga (and life in general) can be fun and light-hearted, than heading to the park or the beach!
Looking for some great local teachers to lead you on your next ourdoor yoga session? Check these out!