This article was published in Yoga Magazine's August 2021 issue.
Summer is here and we can all go out again. Next time you are going to the park, why not bring a yoga mat and take your practice outdoors?
What’s great about outdoor yoga?
1. Fresh air, the smell of the nature. Your pranayama exercises will be much more powerful and enjoyable, simply because we breathe better and there is more oxygen than in a confined space like a yoga studio.
2. Connecting with nature though all the senses: feel grounded through the touch of the earth, indulge in the beautiful scenery, let the breeze brush on the skin, and birds chirp in the background.
3. Feel freer in your movements. There is much more space to explore movements and connect to yourself as well as nature. Don’t forget, yoga comes from India, where it was mainly practiced outdoors.
4. It’s free! It’s safe for COVID-19 as long as you keep the distance!
What if it rains?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions by new students to my outdoor classes. My answer is simple: we’ll go ahead anyway. As long as there is no fundamental health concern, it’s generally safe to practice yoga in the rain. You will get to explore a refreshing experience and appreciate different weather. You will also be surprised how strong you come through at the end of the practice. Of course, I would recommend wearing a waterproof and keeping warm, which nicely leads to the tips on preparation in the following section.
Get ready with me
1. What to wear: layer up so there’s flexibility to wrap up warm if needed. Like going hiking, always bring a waterproof outer jacket, you never know how the weather will turn. It’s also a good idea to bring a waterproof bag in case in rains to keep your belongings dry. Anti-slippery socks are nice for when it’s cold. However, it’s perfectly fine to practice with shoes on for safety and comfort reasons.
2. Mat or no mat: It’s entirely up to you. Generally it’s safer and more comfortable to have a mat but if you don’t want to bring a mat, just focus on standing poses where you don’t need to get on your hands, knees or back.
3. A quiet location with some shade: Yoga practice is a intimate experience and some people might not be comfortable practicing in front of random spectators. Pick a quiet spot away from the crowd that feels safe for you, and find somewhere in the shade so the sun is not too distracting and you are less likely to get burnt.
4. Safety checks: find a grassy area and check that the ground is reasonably dry and flat, pick out any sharp tree branches and stones and avoid any nasty surprises. Wear insect repellent if insects are particularly active in the area or at that time of the day.
5. Hand sanitizer and tissue paper: last but not least, pack a hand sanitizer, tissue paper and a bin bag to pack away any rubbish after cleaning up your hands and mat.
5 yoga poses for practicing in the park
Stay in each position for a few breaths then transition to the next.
I. Crescent High Lunge Pose [Ashta Chandrasana]
- Start from Mountain pose (stand up tall) and step your right foot back and bend your left knee.
- Left knee is on top of the ankle, come on the right toe and lift the heel up high.
- Engage the right glute, feel the left front hip opening.
- Lengthen the spine and draw the shoulders down.
- Reach up into the finger tips.
II. Warrior II [Virabhadrasana II]
- From High Lunge ground the right foot to the floor, open the arms and arrive in Warrior II.
- Make sure left heel is in line with the right instep, keep the left knee bent.
- Press down the outer edge of the back foot.
- Keep the torso in the centre and draw the shoulders away for the ears.
- Reach the fingers away from each other and gaze towards the left hand.
III. Warrior III
- From Warrior II step the right foot in half way, then transition into Warrior III
- Standing balance on the left leg, take the right foot back, point the right toe back.
- Bring the chest parallel to the floor hands in prayer.
- Slight internal rotation in the right thigh to square the hips.
IV. Goddess squat [Utkata Konasana]
- Gracefully take a big step back with the right foot.
- Turn both heels in with toes pointing out 45 degrees.
- Bend the knees drop the hips arrive in Goddess squat.
- Lengthen the spine towards the sky and gently tuck the tailbone.
- Hands out in a cactus shape squeezing the shoulder blades back and open the heart.
V. Side lunge [ardha malasana]
- Hands in prayer, drop the hip towards the left heel extend the right leg.
- Right heel on the floor flex the foot to connect with the hamstring stretch.
- Long spine shoulders down, gaze towards the right foot.
- After a few breath push back to a squat on an inhale and exhale drop the hip towards the right heel and stretch the left side.
- A few breaths here before coming back to a squat, then step the right foot to meet the left, returning to the Mountain pose.