The benefits of al fresco yoga

‘Asanas keep the body healthy and strong and in harmony with nature.’ BKS Iyengar.

I’ve always been an outdoor girl, so it’s no surprise that I love doing yoga outside, feeling the sun on my skin and a gentle breeze in my hair, birdsong in my ear, blossom nectar tickling my nostrils.  And there’s no better time for this than spring – nature is joyfully celebrating being out and about again after the long, dormant winter and there is a playful, fun energy in the air.

I remember feeling a bit put out when I was told in India last year by one of the teachers I studied with that yoga should always be done inside, in order to minimise variables and, therefore, distractions.  I couldn’t relate to this – it seemed so stern and serious. I feel most connected to my practice when I’m outside, yet nature isn’t serious, nature knows how to play and laugh – I can hear it in the duck’s ridiculous quacks and the trill of the blackbird.

But, nature works hard too.  There is a thrilling busy-ness and industry, a ceaseless, purposeful movement in the toing and froing of insects, birds and animals.  Even the plants are busy spreading their scent into the air and straining ever upwards towards the sun.

Perhaps it’s this combination of industry and joy that appeals to me.  Nature positively vibrates and thrums with life whilst getting on with its daily chores, and that inspires me and makes my heart sing.  I seek to embody this balance in my practice.

And, my connection with nature has only grown over the years.  I think one of the outcomes of pursuing yoga or indeed any inner path of positive transformation is heightened awareness. It starts with enhanced awareness of the inner workings of your body and mind, but sooner or later it spreads outwards to a deeper connection to and more subtle understanding of the natural world, and a growing appreciation of the blurred boundaries between all living things.  We are all thrumming with the same vital energy and so, in nature I feel at home.

Yet, I know this is just my story, and I’ve heard other yogis say they dislike outdoor practice for various reasons – the uneven ground makes alignment more difficult, the wind throws you off balance etc – all valid distractions. But, over the years, I’ve come to realise that yoga is inherently a deeply personal journey, and we have to find our own expression of it, and follow that expression with our own stamp of authenticity.  Of course, like with any endeavour, there needs to be discipline and routine in place in order to progress, but I feel there’s also room to find freedom and playfulness in the form, just like nature does. So, if the birds and the bees lure you outside with their stirring chorus this spring then maybe try answering the call and rolling out your mat in the garden or a park and see how it feels to you. Happy spring everyone… 🙂


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