Yoga studios are wonderful, but have you ever thought of taking your practice outside? Practicing yoga has so many benefits on its own, but bringing the elements of nature can truly elevate your experience.
I have always loved bringing my practice outside. To me, there is nothing better than feeling the sun against my skin, the wind playing with my hair, and the earth beneath my feet and hands. After all, we spend so much time inside, on our devices, and sucked into social media that it's easy to feel disconnected. I am completely guilty of this but, I’ve become more aware of how these habits impact me. I’ve found that when I start to feel a disconnection from myself and my gut instincts, I simply need to take more time to get present. Maybe you feel the same way?
Throughout my years of practice, I’ve discovered that the quickest way to bring myself into the present moment is to be in nature. The second way is through my yoga practice. And combined, I feel like I am leaving my practice on cloud nine. Since I love bringing my practice outside, I thought I would share the benefits that I have found to encourage you to do the same.
It wasn’t until college that I learned about earthing, also known as grounding. Earthing is the concept of receiving free-radical-busting electrons from the Earth’s surface through the connection of your body to the ground. Earthing calms our sympathetic nervous system and is a powerful antioxidant that can improve your sleep, enhance your wellbeing, reduce inflammation, and more. As I could drive, I started going to the beach almost daily to listen to the waves, collect shells, feel the sand between my toes, and gaze at the moon and stars. There has always been something soothing about being present in nature. It offers a connection to something greater than yourself.
By bringing your yoga practice outside you are inviting the opportunity to ground into your connection to the earth. Also, practicing on an uneven surface helps to strengthen your core and the muscles of your feet. I like to practice with my mat when I am out at the beach because the sand is soft but, when I meditate, my hands are buried in the sand, feeling the earth between my fingertips.
Prana - Breath
Take a moment to think about how it feels to take that first breath of fresh air when you arrive at the beach, lake, mountain, or wherever your nature destination might be. It feels invigorating, doesn’t it? Breathing in fresh oxygen is a great way to bring your awareness into your breath. To really notice how you are breathing and where you are sending your breath. I love to emphasize breath awareness in my classes and when I teach outside I notice how much easier it is for my students to become more present using their breath.
Feeling the sensations of the elements around you is a great way to find presence. If you are in the mountains you can imagine yourself embodying their strength and grounding through your practice. Perhaps you’re able to feel the stones beneath the soles of your feet or the wind playing with your hair. Whatever the physical sensations around you are, let them draw you into the present moment by the mere joy of their presence. The wind is a wonderful reminder to pause and enjoy the cool feeling of it, bringing an awareness to your breath and reminding you to flow freely in your practice. Maybe you are near water and the sound of the waves is your anchor. Let it wash away what needs to be let go and leave you feeling cleansed.
When you bring your yoga practice outside you’re inviting every moment to draw you into the present moment. To distance yourself from worrying about the past or future and to begin to feel connected to your intuition. It can be challenging to bring your practice outside when you live somewhere very cold, but having a view or lots of natural lighting is still a great option that can increase your internal focus and feeling of a wakeful relaxation.
Boost Creativity and Confidence
When you bring practice outside instead of the confines of a studio, you're stepping outside of your comfort zone. You're trusting your own intuition of what you should do next in your flow and you're allowing nature to inspire your practice.
Studies have shown that even a small connection to nature can calm the mind and body. You don't really need evidence to give you proof of how being in nature or having a view of nature is calming and reduces your feelings of stress.
When you allow yourself to feel connected to the life that is around you, to play outside and feel in sync with all of the energy around you, you are allowing your awareness to expand. It feels soothing to just let yourself be present. To embrace the joy of feeling connected with all that surrounds you.
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