Take it Outside: 4 Tips for Practicing Outdoor Yoga

This entry was posted on Jul 19, 2019 by Charlotte Bell.

Vrksasana

In spring, summer and fall, the outdoors beckons. Often when there’s a choice of taking a walk in nature versus practicing yoga in a studio, the former wins. Of course, this is natural. There’s nothing like stepping onto terra firma under the infinite sky. So why not practice outdoor yoga?

There’s a saying I love that relates to outdoor yoga: “The earth is the guru of the body. The sky is the guru of the mind.” It’s true. When you feel the solid, living earth underneath your feet, it’s easy to understand yoga’s balance between steadiness and comfort. The sky is the perfect metaphor for awareness. It is vast, infinite and does not lose its integrity no matter what kind of weather moves through it.

All that said, practicing yoga outdoors can be a challenge. The ground is not flat like a studio floor. Pesky insects can invade your space—a major challenge to anyone’s zen. And then there’s the dirt.

Practicing Outdoor Yoga

Despite the challenges, outdoor yoga practice can be very satisfying, if you prepare yourself for it. Here are some tips for practicing outdoor yoga:

  1. Prepare to get dirty. If you don’t like dirt, outdoor yoga practice is probably not for you. If you have an older yoga mat, bring that along. A mat can help even out your practice surface and protect you, at least somewhat, from crawling insects. When your practice is finished, spritz on some PureMat Gear Wash for easy cleaning.
  2. Choose a spot. A flat, level surface will give you the safest foundation. Look for a place where there aren’t a lot of rocks. Also, look for a place in the shade. Practicing in direct sun can be depleting.
  3. Find solitude. Yoga is not intended to be a spectator sport. Depth in practice comes from turning inward. If you’re feeling as if you’re being watched, your awareness will naturally turn outward. You’ll likely worry about the appearance of your pose. So choose a place where you can be with yourself and with the natural world.
  4. Let it all in. The outdoors is anything but a controlled environment. Unlike your home or studio, expect things to happen that could seem distracting. All your sense doors—seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching—will be taking in new and unpredictable sensations. Instead of trying to block them out, let it all in. Feel the breeze on your skin. Listen to the sounds of leaves rustling and birds singing, even cars passing by. See the colors and textures around you. Let all these sensations come and go. Simply be aware.
About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.