It’s spring and the sun is shining in through your window. It’s time for your yoga practice, but you really aren’t feeling like being shut up in another building—even your favorite yoga studio or home practice space. But, rather than giving up your practice today (not that there is anything wrong with a walk in the sunshine), change the setting. Grab your sunblock and your YogaPaws and head out the door.
You don’t have to be in a national park or a flower garden to use the outdoors to enrich your practice. Just being outside of the place you usually practice gives you a new perspective on asana. The feeling of grass or pavement under your feet or the sounds of animals or people adds a new dimension to your experience of a pose.
It’s also good for you sometimes to be out of your regular setting because it shakes up your view of your limitations. Poses that seem impossible in a class setting might lose some of their fear when you are practicing on your own and enjoy your surroundings.
The challenge of practicing in this environment is the distraction. Your senses are stimulated more when you are in an unfamiliar environment, so use this as an opportunity to focus on the inner feelings of your practice. Think about your body’s alignment if you are on an uneven surface. Feel the sensation of warmth on your head or back. Be conscious of the breeze as you control your body against its force.
Here are some poses to try anywhere. Be creative!
Ardha Adho Mukha Svanasana (Half Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Benefits: This a great pose to do outside with a support, such as a tree or a wall, since you’re connected with your whole body to the world around you.
How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) about three feet away from your support. Hinge forward from your hips to form a 90-degree angle with your body, firming the abdominals to keep your torso straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then release.
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose)
Benefits: Because this is a balancing pose, it’s a great opportunity to focus on aligning your body on an uneven surface.
How to do it: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Bend into Uttanasana (Forward Bend). Step your left leg back into a high lunge. Lay your torso on your right thigh. Bring your arms forward, parallel to the ground and to each other. Lengthen your left leg through your heel and lift it off the ground until your leg is at a 90-degree angle. Feel your hands and feet stretching in opposite directions. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, then release back to a lunge. Bring your left foot forward to meet your right, then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: This is a “challenge pose” for many yoga students. Trying it out on the sand or in the grass can help you feel more stable.
How to do it: Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose).Bring your left foot far out ahead of your left arm. Bend your left elbow, bringing your left arm as far under your thigh as possible. Walk your left foot forward, allowing more weight to come onto your left arm until you have to straighten and lift your leg off the ground. Then push your body forward over your hands to lift your right leg. Bring your gaze forward. Hold the pose for 20 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.
Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
Benefits: Trying this pose on a soft surface eases the fear that many students experience about falling out of it.
How to do it: Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) with your hands about two inches from a tree, wall or other smooth, stable vertical surface. Bend your left leg in, leaving your right leg extended. Kick up with your left leg. This might be as far into this pose as you can go right now. If you can, bring your right leg along with your left as you kick up. If it’s available to you, engage your core muscles and kick your legs up against your support. Remain in the pose 10 to 15 seconds. As you progress, you can lengthen your stay to one minute, then release.
Malasana (Garland Pose)
Benefits: Doing this pose outside let you feel the strength of the earth reenergizing your body.
How to do it: Squat down with your feet as close together as possible. Place your arms next to your sides and press your upper arms and thighs against each other. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and come into Uttanasana (Forward Bend).
Being outside will make some of the more challenging poses easier. Having a soft surface under your hands adds to your comfort level in arm balances and inversions. Focus on the sense of strength and security you feel coming up from the ground. Enjoy the freedom you feel.