In a world where technology is king, it Is vitally important to spend time away from screens and distractions and enjoy the peace and calm of the outdoors. Nature is magical with all its subtle beauty and endless adventure. Its peaceful sounds have a way of making stress melt away. In some way, a yoga practice can have a similar effect. When we are focused on the mat, intentionally breathing with calm and ease, nothing else seems to matter. When you take time to incorporate both the outdoors and yoga practice into your life, the mind and body benefit greatly. Summer is a great time to incorporate nature into your daily life and enjoy all your favorite outdoor activities. Outdoor yoga is often praised as a special treat, but it can also add a whole new array of challenges to your practice. Even if we are taking care of ourselves the heat can wear us out pretty quickly. It can also take a major toll on our body’s hydration levels. Here are some tips for staying cool during your summer yoga practice!
1) Pack sunscreen and bug spray:
If you are practicing outside, be sure to protect yourself from the sun goddesses’ glares! Sun lotion is essential for all outdoor practice. If you find you are slipping during your flow, consider a dry finish sunscreen and switching to a cork yoga mat, which is naturally sweat absorbing and slip resistant. Bugs can also be problematic depending on the location you’re in. It is always good to shove a little natural bug repellent in your yoga back when you take your practice outdoors.
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2) Wear light clothing:
When it comes to your practice, it pays to dress cool. Yoga crop tops and shorts are on high alert during the summer-simply because they’re so much cooler when you’re on your mat. In addition to being stylish, crop tops and muscle tees also help a yogi beat the heat, allowing more airflow to reach the body. Also, try to go for lightweight, breathable fabrics in light colors. In addition, headbands are a great way to keep sweaty hair off your face and neck.
3) Keep your water bottle handy:
Don’t forget to keep your water bottle nearby and filled with your favorite hydrating drink during the hot summer months! This might seem like a no-brainer but its easy to lose electrolytes when you’re sweating a lot! Something such as coconut water can be the perfect post-yoga beverage when it’s hot outside since it is full of electrolytes. I love to boost my water with supplements such as magnesium or vitamin C. You can even add a few slices of lemon or cucumber so that it tastes great too. On the hydration front, its smart to start drinking water well before the time your class starts, so that you’re hydrated before you start moving and sweating, versus starting your practice in a water deficit and trying to catch up.
4) Eat more water-based foods:
It will probably feel natural, but make sure you choose water packed foods after your summer yoga practice. Fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, and papaya are made up of 90 percent water and can make for a delicious post-class snack. Vegetable such as cucumber, celery, and zucchini are also packed with water, so green smoothies make another great choice for a post-class snack.
5) Incorporate more pranayama (breathing):
If you’ve dressed to stay cool and kept yourself well hydrated, but you’re still feeling overheated, try adding some breath work or pranayama to your summer yoga practice. Sitali breath is a cooling breath that adds moisture to your system. Begin by rolling up the sides of your tongue and breathing in and out, as though your tongue is a straw. In addition to being cooling, it’s known to increase energy and soothe the fiery pitta flare-up, which is common in the summer months. When all else fails, laying down in legs up the wall pose is a wonderful way to slow down, chill out, and come back to center.
**Expert tip! – Essential oils such as eucalyptus and mint have uplifting and cooling properties. If you tend to feel hot all summer, it’s nice to keep a few essential oils on hand when you begin to feel depleted.
6) Don’t forget a towel:
It is summer, you will inevitably sweat during your outdoor yoga practice. Keep a towel handy so that you can wipe off the excess sweat and keep your flow going.
7) Let it all in:
The outdoors is anything but a controlled environment. Unlike your home or studio, expect things to happen that could seem distracting. All your sense doors—seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching—will be taking in new and unpredictable sensations. Instead of trying to block them out, let it all in. Feel the breeze on your skin. Listen to the sounds of leaves rustling and birds singing, even cars passing by. See the colors and textures around you. Let all these sensations come and go. Simply be aware
Now that we went over some summer yoga tips, lets talk briefly about the benefits of doing outdoor yoga.
1) You’ll boost your mental well-being:
By simply being outside, your psychological wellbeing, mood and self-esteem will get a boost and feelings of anger, confusion, depression, and tension will all subside, according to studies. Add this to the mental health benefits of several yoga poses and you’ll find that time on the mat in the great outdoors will serve up one great big dose of happy feelings.
2) You’ll up your vitamin D intake:
Sunlight is the largest single resource of vitamin D for most people. A deficiency of vitamin D can increase one’s risk for diabetes, muscle and bone pain and certain types of cancers. Getting more of this vitamin into your system can lower chances of a heart attack, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis. While we don’t want to overdose on the sun or sunburn, practicing yoga with a full coverage sunscreen and stretching out in the shade will work wonders on your vitamin D levels. And if you live in the northern part of the USA or in Canada, be sure to get plenty of sun exposure in the summer months, as your body will suffer lower levels of vitamin D in the winter.
3) Added benefits to your mediation practice:
Currently, there are so many ways to make meditation accessible whether you’re at work or about to go to bed. But if you are looking to take your meditation to the next level, you must take it outdoors. Scientists have found that meditation helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the body and being outdoors vs. in an urban setting helps to reduce these levels more. It also might help you stay focused if your mind tends to wander.
4) Increase your balance and flexibility:
When you practice yoga outside, you dramatically increase your balance and flexibility. If you perform yoga inside, the floor is perfectly flat. It removes some of the challenges. If you are interested in pushing yourself further, you need to practice your yoga poses on uneven terrain. Even though you should still use a yoga mat to prevent the ground from cutting your feet, the uneven terrain will force you to improve your balance and flexibility.
5) Pump fresh air into your lungs:
If you want more energy throughout your day, you need to get some fresh air into your lungs. That is exactly what will happen if you perform yoga outside. You may not realize just how many toxins and pollutants you are exposed to when you spend all your time indoors. With better oxygen capacity, you can take care of your other organs as well, including your heart.
6) Improve your concentration and focus:
Even though you might be used to doing yoga in a studio, it cannot match nature when it comes to serenity. You will automatically improve your concentration and focus when you take your yoga practice outside. You will have an easier time paying attention to the instructor, and the quiet, relaxing sounds of nature in the background make it easier for you to focus on what is going on.
7) You will feel revitalized:
Finally, you should bring your yoga practice outside because it can help you feel revitalized. When the session is done, you will have significantly more energy. This should make it easier for you to focus on your personal or professional obligations when you return to your to-do list. If you want to give yourself more energy, consider practicing yoga outside.
However you choose to practice yoga through the warmer months, remember that it is a journey and experience – not a chore! Keep switching up your yoga routine until you find one that works in perfect harmony with your life.
Written by Allie O'Kane