May 4, 2011

If You’re Doing Yoga Indoors, You’re Cheating Yourself. ~ Sarah Stevenson

Taking your practice into the wild.

The sun is out, a cool breeze brushes against my skin, and it’s almost as if the air outside is giving me a personal invitation to breathe deeper. I sit cross-legged, looking out at 40 yogis with their eyes closed and the most serene looks on their beautiful faces. The warmth of the sun rests on my shoulders, the waves are crashing, the birds are singing, and it’s only 8:30 in the morning. How can the rest of the day go wrong when this is how I start my Saturday morning?

We humans tend to spend most of our lives indoors, breathing in recycled, processed air that stays at about 71 degrees, 24 hours a day. We trade the warm healing rays of the sun for synthetic lighting, not even realizing what we are doing to our bodies, both inside and out. So many problems can result from this never-changing indoor environment, which does not allow the body to prepare for the seasons of change that naturally exist for a reason.

These false indications are further reinforced by the standard high-sugar diet and the prolonged exposure to unnatural light that, in the natural world, only occurs in the late summer months.

When we step outside, we allow our body to know what time of day it is, and what time of year, so that it can fittingly tell us when to sleep and how to eat. The drop in temperature and feeling of cool air on our body during the winter, or warm sunlight on our face in the spring communicates important and suitable information to our genes so that our body can serve us better. Being outdoors for part of the day helps reset circadian rhythms, balances hormones and increases healthy weight loss.

One sure way to double the benefit of an exercise routine is to bring it to the great outdoors, and that is exactly what the city of Huntington Beach is beginning to offer the community with their outdoor yoga classes at the park and beach.

Exercising outdoors allows for an amazing sense of connection to the open-air environment. The benefits of the sun’s rays and fresh air provide not only improved physical health, but also spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Yoga practitioners around the world are stepping outdoors to let the sun and the wind enhance the benefits of the Indian healing technique.

People are finding a connection to a deeper place internally when they can actually touch the earth with their body. There is a close relationship between the natural environment and the practice of yoga. The sages named the yoga poses after animals, trees, mountains and crescent moons. There is an innate bond to the environment that begins to take place when the body is exposed to these elements.

Try and recall the feeling you get while watching the sun setting, taking a walk along the seashore, gazing at a bird soaring over a mountaintop or simply feeling cool fresh air brush across your face. A person starts to feel a connection between themself and the earth; it is both energizing and restorative.

Some common benefits of yoga, regardless of where one may practice, are the strengthening of muscles, the massaging of internal organs, the calming of the central nervous system, an ability to clarify thought processes, a lowering of blood pressure and a release of pent-up emotions. Add these benefits to an open space filled with birds, wind and the sounds of nature, and the possibilities are too many to number.

Life tends to slow down when there are no mirrors or walls in your way, and the ability to connect to yoga images is enhanced when they are right there in front of you. Pick up a yoga mat, take off your shoes and leave your worries at home. Release yourself to the open air and the outdoor world of health and wellness that’s been waiting for you.


Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, is a Certified Yoga Instructor
with a degree in Behavioral Psychology, serving Orange County
California through yoga classes and teaching life affirming workshops.
You can visit her here.

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