Not everyone has the luxury of a nice roomy living space or a tranquil yoga studio, so some of us have to improvise and now the evenings are getting lighter, this challenge becomes a lot easier. Whether it’s your garden, the beach, or a local park, you’re sure to find somewhere nearby where you can roll out your mat and switch off your mind.
I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of Dartmoor National Park, so I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful outdoor yoga spots. There’s something wonderful about being immersed in nature, the sounds, the smells, it takes relaxation to a new level where you can really zone out and leave your day-to-day worries behind…or at least push them aside for an hour or two. I often find myself going from one day to the next not taking a minute to stop and appreciate all the beauty that’s around; time spent outdoors is hugely important for our mental health and general wellbeing, so moving your practice outside could have a big impact.
I struggle to remember the entire ashtanga yoga primary sequence, so tend to start with a few sun salutations, which are a much shorter selection of movements intended to strengthen and build body heat, followed by a few of my favourite poses. Try not to get too caught up in the accuracy of your sequence or the depth of your fold, being outside clearing your mind should be your focus, so do what feels good. Breathing is also a huge part of yoga, and what better place to breathe than outdoors surrounded by infinite oxygen and away from the increased levels of carbon dioxide that inevitably build up in an enclosed studio.
The addition of a yoga mat is completely down to personal preference, depending on where you’re choosing to practice, the terrain could vary from the winding roots of a forest floor to a grassy hilltop. Some people find that going matless actually adds to their experience as different muscles are used to maintain balance. Personally, I prefer to leave the mat at home as it gives me more freedom…and it’s just a bit of a pain to carry. Try a blanket if you don’t fancy abandoning the mat altogether.
It’s important to be mindful of your location, as some poses may not be safe to attempt in certain spots. So perhaps avoid any of the balances if you’re perched on top of a tor or near a cliff edge…no matter how ‘instagrammable’ it might look! The beach can be a perfect place to practice headstands if you don’t feel confident attempting it in class, or during your home practice; the sand acts as a fantastic cushion and you don’t need to worry about toppling over into your coffee table or a fellow student.
If you attend a yoga class, why not suggest taking it outside, weather permitting, obviously, no one wants to be striking warrior pose with an umbrella in hand. I was lucky enough to turn up to my class one week to find that we were locked out of our usual space; we decided to do it in front of the building facing the ocean, the warm sun beaming down on us, waves splashing in the background, it was wonderful. Practicing outdoors adds a whole new dimension to the experience, taking relaxation to the next level.
So, when it reaches five o’clock and you’re gazing longingly at the sunshine out of your office window, why not make the most of the evening and go and find a new yoga space. Just grab your mat (or blanket), a bottle of water and a warm layer for when the sun goes down, you might find somewhere really special.
I’ve taken a few snaps from some of my favourite yoga spots, hopefully, they will give you a bit of inspiration.