Updated: May 24
By Jake Panasevich, E-RYT
Taking an outdoor yoga class in pleasant spring weather can be a very zen and memorable experience. The outdoors inspire a sense of openness and freedom to move and feel attuned to your body, mind and spirit. It is also a great way to meet like-minded yogis and build community.
If you are going to take your practice outside for a yoga fest or outdoor event, it is helpful to be prepared for the elements and unique circumstances that come with it. To get the most out of your outdoor yoga experience, keep these tips in mind first:
1. Respect Boundaries.
Yoga is a very intimate experience during which you willingly put yourself in vulnerable positions, both physically and emotionally. When practiced with respect in a safe environment, it gives you confidence and inspires trust and compassion for your body and those around you. An outdoor practice can compromise that safe environment and the growth that comes from it. I suggest that when you practice outside, much like a yoga studio, listen carefully to the teacher and be mindful of your gaze. Maintain a respectful amount of space between you and your fellow yogi. And wait until after class to strike-up a polite conversation.
2. Dress for dirt.
Part of the fun of practicing yoga outside is to let go of your inhibitions, get into the open air and your body on the ground. No matter how careful you are to stay clean, inevitably your hands, knees, feet, yoga pants and mat may get some dust or grass on them. Either use an old yoga outfit and mat, or accept the fact that your newer gear will get a little dusty. Still, you can take a few precautions to stay as clean as possible. For instance, check your surroundings before putting down your mat. Especially in urban environments, choose an area that is clear of debris. Examine the ground to make sure it is not wet, and choose a grassy area to avoid dust. Pack hand sanitizer and a towel to use after your class.
3. Place your mat wisely.
You might assume nature will provide a calming soundtrack to practice yoga to. But if you are near a busy street or a popular hangout, the background noises may completely drown out the teacher's voice. Also, large, wide-open spaces make it difficult for sound to travel. If you cannot hear instructions, you may get confused, frustrated and eventually be forced to look at the other students to try and understand what is going on. To avoid this, place your mat close to your fellow yogis so the teacher can communicate to the whole group easily. If you cannot decipher the instructor's cues, politely ask him or her to speak up. Otherwise, do your research before you enroll in a class, and make sure it will facilitate a calm and quiet atmosphere.
4. Perform a safety check.
Before you take your yoga practice outside, there are some safety concerns to address. Be mindful to set up your mat on even ground and test your footing with a couple warm-up poses. Make sure that the ground underneath you is clear of rocks, sticks or any other obstacles. For rough terrain, keep your shoes on while you practice. Bug spray is also good to have on hand to help prevent bites and insects on your skin and mat. If you have allergies, take the necessary precautions before class. Make a mental checklist of all the tools you need to have a comfortable outdoor class.
5. Check the weather.
Observe the weather forecast thoroughly before you brave the elements for yoga. Plan accordingly and consider the appropriate clothing for unfavorable or severe weather like rain, thunderstorms or cold temperatures ahead. Besides extreme weather, strong winds will have a major impact on your balance and alignment. Powerful gusts blow grass and dirt off the ground and could obstruct your vision. Find a spot in the shade to protect yourself from direct sunlight. Bring sunscreen and sunglasses in case you have to be exposed to the sun. Soften your gaze or close your eyes when you are asked to look up toward the sun. Be aware of the changing climate and, if it gets threatening, do not hesitate to pack up your belongings and take shelter.
6. Mind your mindset.
While practicing outside, have a positive perspective. If you approach the class as an event that brings people together to have fun, it makes it enjoyable. It is a great way to socialize, make new friends and have an interesting experience. There is always something positive you can take away from any yoga practice, no matter where it is. When you decide to take an outdoor yoga class, be prepared and have fun.