Benefits of Outdoor Yoga
A Harvard study from 2010 stated the benefits of getting outdoors for your exercise. Apparently even the greenery can lift your spirits. You also get drenched in Vitamin D which can increase happy vibrations and clarity of the mind. Regardless of life’s busy schedule, getting outdoors while doing yoga can be a powerful boost in your emotional well-being. It’s called eco-yoga and you get to do all those mood enhancing poses outside. Tree pose under the shade of a tree just feels better. Here are some of the benefits of doing yoga outside.
Let’s face it, we belong to nature so even stating that we’re happier outside seems fairly obvious. It seems as though it’s a forgotten idea. The Japanese practice known as Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) is a deeply nurturing practice for the soul. While it’s been used for centuries in Japan, it is now catching on in the West. The practice includes walking in nature so you can reconnect with your body existing in nature. The walking is slow and intentional as the yoga instructor will ask that you take in everything. Looking at the details, smelling the air, and listening to the rich sounds of nature is a way to speak and rejuvenate the soul from life’s craziness.
Taking the Mat out to Nature
Dr. Matthew Baral, led a lecture called, “This is Your Brain on Nature.” He says that nature is what connects us to our roots. Our roots are the forest, the ocean, the grass, and all the other fine details of the outdoors we tend to take for granted. We feel most at home outside because it’s where we’re meant to be. Before the industrial revolution and the technological revolution, we lived outdoors. We found caves for shelter. That was home. This is why we find ourselves again in nature. Taking the mat out to nature and doing the ancient practice of yoga just makes sense.
Many outdoor yoga classes will include a short walk to a quiet place. The walking through nature is part of your healing and rejuvenation. A necessary part of allowing yoga to really penetrate it’s benefits into every cell of your body. As you immerse yourself in nature, you are more capable of reaching in to find that part of you perhaps you have forgotten. The outdoors is a huge part of yoga’s roots. All of the realizations occurred outside in the beginning of yoga’s inception.
Benefits of Outdoor Yoga
Reactivating the Primal Self
When you spend time outside, you replenish depleted energy. This comes from the sun, which gives you Vitamin D but it also comes from the clean, unfiltered air you breathe. As yoga is based heavily on the breath, what kind of air you breathe is actually pretty essential. Our nervous system has evolved into responding to moments of stress with bursts of energy due to adrenaline. It was useful to us when we were hunters and gatherers with a need to fight or run to survive. Spending too much time inside causes us to lose this essential part of being human. Getting outside sends signals to your mind that you’re outside and it’s time to realign. This creates more energy, vigor, and a sense of peace.
Fighting off Disease
The nourishment of being outdoors for at least an hour while you do yoga brings on many health benefits. Studies are showing that nature increases activity of cancer-fighting blood cells because it relaxes you to the point of lowering blood pressure. You have better memory and a greater attention spam by up to 20% when you spend 2 hours or more outside. This is why many yoga teachers offering outdoor yoga will incorporate a walk in the beginning and at the end with a 1 hour class in between.
What Urbanization is Doing to Our Mental Health
The business of urban life and all that it entails to keep up is wreaking havoc on people. As those people become less connected to the natural world, they lose out on what it truly is to be human. Kids opt for playing video games because they’re bored. They become addicted and believe the gaming world is reality, this is a proven fact. If you’re a parent and you don’t promote the outdoors by doing it yourself, there is risk you’ll be sending your teenage son to rehab for a video game addiction. This is the reality of our society and because the majority lives in a certain way, it seems normal. Let me assure you, it isn’t. The next time you go out for even a small walk, really ask yourself how you felt before and how you feel now. Nature clears your mind. Yes, you have a lot to do but is that what life is about? It isn’t and when you start spending time outdoors, you’ll feel the shift. If you’re an urban yogi, check out one of the many “yoga in the park” options available around you.
The sound of rivers and birds, the simplicity of a tree shivering in the breeze, and clouds passing by above offer something for all your senses. Being outside while doing the sacred and ancient practice of yoga will change how you view life. It’s a beautiful way to practice your poses.
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali)