Yoga’s ancient tradition is a modern-day treasure. The goal of the practice is to balance the body-mind connection. Yoga was developed in nature and through the observation of nature’s laws and by observing animals, plants and the elements.
We are well aware of the many benefits that yoga provides for our physical and mental health and wellness. We also know that spending time mindfully in nature is beneficial. Why not put the two together? Keep reading for the top 8 reasons to practice “eco-yoga,” plus a list of what to bring and other important logistical considerations and precautions.
8 Amazing Reasons to Practice Yoga Outdoors
What does yoga in nature offer? Well, it is arguably the most effective way to deepen our practice. “It makes sense to practice inside during inclement weather,” according to Amos Clifford, director of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. “But, when did we forget to take our practice outside on a glorious day?”
Here are 8 great reasons to inspire you to do just that!
1. Reunite with nature through your senses
Did you know that nature deficit disorder is a thing? Time spent in nature produces naturally occurring, highly beneficial chemicals called phytoncides, which have been shown to lower blood pressure and improve immune function. Most people do not spend enough time outside. Instead, most of their waking hours are spent inside the house, car, shop or office.
When you leave the four walls of a building, your senses wake up, making you more present and grateful. Even better, Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that looking at beautiful scenery releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that bring us happiness. Reconnecting our bodies with the earth offers many other benefits, such as reduced pain and better sleep.
Being in nature enables us to develop awareness and awaken our senses. The scent of flowers, the movement of water, the view of the endless sky, the colors of the trees—all these experiences have a relaxing effect on our nervous system. Our eyes can see long distances and natural colors, rather than the blue-light screens our eyes are so often glued to. We can hear birdsong in the distance and feel the gentle breeze blowing. Our skin absorbs the warmth of the sunshine.
2. Develop environmental consciousness
Urbanization is associated with increased levels of mental illness. Our modern sedentary lifestyles are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Going for a walk is yet another task on our to-do-lists. Eco-yoga is nature’s prescription to cultivate more calm in your life. Create an interdependent relationship of love and care with nature.
Eco-yoga is about exploring our connection with nature. Studies have shown that being in nature has many benefits, from increasing the activity of cancer-fighting cells to lowering blood pressure. According to a 2012 study, memory and attention span increase by 20% after being outside for two hours or longer.
3. Breathe fresh air
Fresh air heightens breath awareness. Through the simple act of conscious breathing outside, we bring pure oxygen directly to the lungs, heart and brain. By using mindful breathing techniques in nature, we can release toxins, tension and negativity.
4. Connect with Spirit
The power of natural surroundings is alive and present and offers inspiration. Nature calls us to experience our true selves more deeply and, ultimately, to feel at one with our true nature. By taking our yoga practice outdoors, we can cultivate a deeper spiritual practice.
5. Create a new experience, changing old patterns
By weaving yoga and nature together in a manner that dissolves the boundaries between them, we create a novel experience. Practicing yoga in the nurturing embrace of sunshine, wind, flora and earth sharpens the concentration.
Yoga teachers often cue students to, “reach your hands for the sky,” or to “feel your feet touching the earth” while practicing indoors. However, when we take our practice outside, these cues become literal. When you reach your hands down, you touch the earth and feel the grass between your fingers. When you turn your gaze up to the sky, notice the clouds floating by in the breeze and the birds gliding through the air.
6. Find natural balance
Practicing yoga outdoors helps us improve our balance. The naturally uneven ground of grass, dirt or sand forces us to make more effort than a smooth, flat indoor surface. A slightly uneven surface also engages and strengthens your core. This helps you increase your sense of proprioception—the feeling of positioning your body in space.
Lots of yoga poses are named for things in the natural world. Practicing yoga outside allows the yogi to embody the sense of the pose while actually looking at what inspired that pose. Here are a few to add to your eco-yoga lineup:
- Tree pose
- Eagle pose
- Crow pose
- Butterfly pose
- Mountain pose
- Frog pose
- Pigeon pose
- Fish pose
7. Gain vigor and vitality
When we are in nature, away from the city, the mind quiets easily so we can cultivate inner peace. We are in harmony with the environment. Our nervous system has evolved in a way that punctuates moments of stress with bursts of energy. Spending time outside sends signals to the brain that the body is back in its native environment and recalibrates itself to stay alert. So, spending time in the woods is a great way to cultivate vigor and vitality.
8. Connect with your true nature
Physically moving our bodies and engaging with nature as it surrounds us inspires a sense of grounding, and appreciation for the beauty and wonder of nature. It’s a nudge to remember that we don’t are never truly isolated—we are part of the great web of life.
Buddha wasn’t in a meditation hall; he was in the forest. By practicing in nature, we open a relationship with Mother Earth and Great Spirit that forges our connection to our true self. Witnessing how easily yoga translates into the fresh air inspires us to integrate the practice into other aspects of our life. Most of all, it reminds us of our deep and timeless true nature.
What to bring?
- Yoga mat or bamboo mat
- Towel or blanket to fold and sit upon
- Water bottle
- Candle or incense, if desired
- Healthy snack for after the practice (fresh fruit, granola, or yogurt, for example)
Things to keep in mind
- Avoid practicing during the middle of the day. It’s ideal to do yoga at sunrise and/or sunset.
- Avoid practicing directly under the sun.
- Use sun protection and bring a natural insect repellent.
- Be mindful of trash. A true yogi leaves the place in a better condition than they found it.
Enjoy your newfound practice in nature, remembering that yogic perfection is achieved when we are not affected by external conditions. Take your practice to the next level; practice yoga in nature!
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