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Yoga Alfresco: Take Your Practice Outside

by Laura Beans

The summer weather beckons, so why not take your asanas outdoors?
With its foundations rooted loosely in nature, taking yoga out-of-doors is an obvious extension of the practice and can profoundly enhance your everyday routine.
Open space offers a freedom that simply cannot be found within the confines of even our most favorite yoga studios. Nature invites you to let go and expand your mind.
To avoid the heat of mid-day, plan for practicing in the morning or evening. Bring your ear buds just in case—as hard as we try, it may be impossible to drown out the noises of traffic or raucous conversations.

Connect With Nature

Meditate on the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Use all five senses to explore your surroundings; the grass underfoot, the warmth of the sun, the calls of songbirds. Perhaps through the waves of the ocean you can match your breathing to its lulling rhythm.

Flow with the Weather

Plan for the elements—but also, allow for the extra challenge of stabilizing against the wind and weather to intensify your practice. Pick a place in the shade, and use nature’s accessories (a tree trunk could offer a hand during Lord of the Dance or other balancing poses) to your advantage.

To Mat or Not to Mat?

When it comes down to it, personal preference and physical comfort rules in yoga; no pose should be pushed until painful, the scope of which is different for each individual.
While some may find the natural, uneven terrain too difficult to achieve stability, others might like the challenge and focus of practicing without the mat.

The Right Stuff

Be sure to pack plenty of water as not to dehydrate if you pick a sunny spot. Equally as important is a proper sunscreen offering broad spectrum, SPF 30 (+) protection. A towel is also handy, as always, for mopping up distracting sweat as well as blocking sunlight during the final savasana—lay the garment across your closed eyes to achieve total relaxation.

Poses to Play With

Mountain Stand with your feet parallel and hip distance apart, spread your toes to create a firm base. Raise your arms toward the sky, keeping your shoulders down and palms open, facing one another. Gently lift and stretch. Imagine the energy from the earth traveling up your feet, strengthening your pose
Tree Concentrate on a distant, steady, eye-level object. Plant your right foot firmly on the ground and place the sole of your left foot on the inside of your right thigh. Once balanced, use your breath to raise your arms overhead, clasping your hands and pointing your index fingers.
Fish Begin by lying on your back with your legs extended and your arms resting alongside your body. Move into Fish pose by pressing your elbows and forearms into the ground, lifting your chest to create an arch in your upper back (your shoulder blades should also be lifted off the ground). Tilt your head back, placing the crown of your head on the ground.

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