There are many reasons why being outdoors is good for us, but it can be even more beneficial if we also do our yoga practice outdoors. Research has found both emotional and medical benefits of yoga. We all come to yoga for different reasons, for some of us it’s about the connection between mind, body and breath, for others it’s to improve strength and flexibility or to help heal or simply to just have some time and space for ourselves.
One of the many beauties of yoga is that it can be practised anywhere and whatever inspires you to come to yoga, it turns out that being outdoors in nature enhances a yoga practice in an entirely different way to being indoors done. A recent Swedish study found looking at nature, especially the patterns in tree branches plant leaves can increase relaxation and internal focus, which are two really beneficial parts of a rewarding yoga practice.
Nature connects us to our roots. Every activity outdoors has its own benefits but with yoga you will feel a real connection both with yourself and the environment you are in.
If you are feeling low in energy, outdoors allowing you to replenish depleted energy and to regain vigour and vitality. In addition, being outdoors all of our senses wake up—scent, sight, and touch, in particular, activate parts of the brain that make us feel more present and grounded. Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that looking at beautiful scenery releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that bring us pleasure. There’s an added bonus too as practising on an uneven surface engages and strengthens your core.
Practicing outside for the first time can feel very strange; it’s easy to feel self-conscious when we are not inside a room that we are used to practising in. However, challenging ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones can allow us to experience yoga in an entirely new way. If you do try it, why not try sun salutations in the early morning sunshine or practicing a tree pose while focusing on a real tree instead of a spot on the wall.
The lives we live and the uncertainty presently can lead to us feeling stressed or anxious. Interestingly though it has been shown that people who spend time outdoors, particularly in woods or other areas where there are lots of trees, have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. One thing that really struck me as I was writing this was that many of the ancient yogis didn’t practice inside, so they must have seen the benefits of being outside both to themselves and to their practice. Perhaps it is time to om outside.
Even if going outside feels odd, spending as little as 20 minutes a day can really help reduce stress, heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety and can increase vitamin D production and improve our eyesight.
So how can we do this? Some easy ways that I’ve found work are to:
- Eat meals outside.
- Take work breaks outside.
- Do yoga outside, particularly first thing in the morning as the fresh, clean air can be really uplifting.
- Play with your children outside.
- Grab your laptop and do some work outside.
- Take phone calls outside.
- Or just relax.
So, give it a go and hopefully you’ll see the benefits and even start to crave the boost in mood and energy that being outside can bring. A quick yoga practice outside can take the place of a cup of coffee (seriously). See you out there!