We have seen the picture of the yogi practicing sun salutations outdoors, with nature's beauty as the perfect backdrop.
Her hair is blowing in the wind, the sun's soft morning rays are casting ethereal highlights on her body and the peaceful look on her face hints that she's entered samadhi, or the state of bliss. She is glowing.
This was not my experience when I first took my practice outdoors.
It was a sweaty, slippery and itchy struggle.
3 Mistakes I Made During My First Outdoor Yoga Practice
- I had sunscreen on my palms
Before heading out, I put on sunscreen, paying attention to exposed areas to prevent sunburn. What I forgot -- the lotion from the sunscreen makes the hands slippery. When I rolled out my rubber mat, I could not grip in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) and was sent sliding in all directions.
- I chose the wrong time of day
I went out during my lunch hour and the sun was unbearably bright and uncomfortable. Aside from sweating profusely, it was difficult to keep my drishti, or focused eye gaze, relaxed and focused. My eyes were scrunched and stressed.
- I used the wrong type of outdoor yoga mat
After slipping in the first pose due to the sunscreen on my palms, I tried to see if I could fix the situation by cleaning off my hands and flipping the mat over. The mat was filled with grass and dirt at this point and had lost its grip.
That first outdoor yoga practice lasted less than 10 minutes before I rolled up my dirty, grass-filled mat and went home. Washing and cleaning the mat with coarse sea salt to get the sunscreen off was another messy production.
Feeling defeated, I did not try practicing yoga outside again until the pandemic shut down the local yoga studio and I no longer had an indoor place to practice yoga. Practicing inside my home, with all the distractions and (now) work from home clutter, I decided to make another attempt at bringing my practice outdoors.
Practicing Yoga Outdoors Has Many Benefits
Taking our practice outside can help us in many ways. In addition to the boost in serotonin levels that gives us that natural happy feeling, we can also have better sleep at night.
In a recent study done by the National Institutes of Health, it was shown that doing a physical practice outdoors, in the morning hours, can help us with bringing our circadian rhythm back on track.
Benefits of having a morning outdoor yoga practice include:
- Better nighttime sleep quality and duration
- Reduced stress levels
- Benefits from Vitamin D exposure
- Improved mood
How To Practice Outdoor Yoga
After a few more attempts, I figured out 3 tips that will help with any outdoor yoga practice. Practicing yoga in nature doesn't have to be difficult, if we take a few steps to prepare ahead of time.
Tip 1: Use the right mat! Using an eco-friendly yoga mat made out of cotton, is immensely helpful (on all outdoor surfaces -- sand or grass) and preferable over a rubber mat. Even if you forget to wash the sunscreen off your palms, the mat still provides grip throughout the entire practice. The cotton fibers work better in the natural environment. They are easy to wash and prepare for your next practice. Read more: How to choose an Eco-Friendly yoga mat.
Tip 2: Go in the morning
Choosing the right time of day to practice can help with comfort level. In addition to providing a great way to set the intention of the day, a morning practice will provide a more comfortable temperature for your practice.
Tip 3: Take a few minutes to set up your spot
Before rolling out the yoga mat, take a few minutes to clean out your practice area. Pick a spot that has a relatively flat surface and clean out the rocks and debris. Clearing the area will create a safer space to flow through your sequence.
Connect With Nature
With these tips, don't be afraid to take your yoga practice outside. Practicing in the fresh air on an eco-friendly yoga mat can be a relaxing experience, beneficial for your health and a great way to enjoy the great outdoors.