This article was originally published on The Informant.
Any yoga session offers substantial benefits for the body and spirit. But some are better than others. Russell Jack, Southland Yoga Founder, truly believes a practitioner can receive even more from the discipline if they take their mat outdoors from time to time.
As you might already know, yoga was traditionally practiced outdoors in the forest. It’s a unique combination of exercise and artistry that encourages practitioners to look inward. However, when we’re surrounded by four walls and still air, tapping into that piece of ourselves that connects to our breath and our true nature can be difficult.
While you should certainly avoid any dangerous outdoor situations (no cliff-side yoga or stretching in the snow, please!) or distracting outdoor spaces like crowded beaches, taking your yoga practice outdoors can have transformational benefits. Below you’ll find my top six most powerful reasons to take your yoga outdoors.
1. Physical Benefits: Find Healing
Beyond simply feeling good, there are genuine health benefits to spending time outside. Taking your yoga practice outdoors allows you to soak in the benefits of exposure to the sun, like the body’s intake of vitamin D. In addition to being a mood booster, our bodies need vitamin D to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients, in turn, keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy and strong.
2. Practical Benefits: More Space
How many times has yoga practice resulted in you accidentally kicking a chair, table, lamp, or pet? Taking your yoga practice outside lets you stretch your limbs and feel comfortable in your unlimited space. This sense of freedom can truly do wonders for practice.
3. Relaxation Benefits: Truly Unplug
For so many of us, taking sacred time away from the constant barrage of distractions in our indoor world has become a seemingly impossible goal. We are so connected to our devices that sometimes even our yoga practice relies on them. Take time to step into your most peaceful state, away from the constant overstimulation of our indoor distractions and electronics. Write down your flow instead of watching it, and take as much time in the posture as you need.
4. Spiritual Benefits: Reconnect with Nature
We all have a personal connection to nature, but we are often separated from a greater sense of reverence. Embracing the cool breeze and sound of birdsong instead of the AC and music we might be accustomed to in our homes or studios allows us to return to that sense of belonging in the natural world.
5. Emotional Benefits: Newfound Confidence
While the yoga studio is meant to be a place of comfort and self-care, you can challenge your practice by moving outside. It might be out of your comfort zone to practice on grass instead of a carpeted floor. You might struggle with your balance at first in a new environment. However, your ability to push yourself will allow you to grow in your practice and find a new confidence to carry into other areas of your life.
6. Mental Benefits: Lower Stress
Exploratory studies have shown that spending as little as 20 minutes a day outside can significantly decrease cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. The most effective decrease in stress occurs within 20-30 minutes of being outdoors. The benefits only increase, even if at a lower rate—additionally, the more “natural” your setting, the stronger the benefit. While a nearby soccer field might be a great option, a nature park where less human manipulation has occurred has even more significant benefits.
About Russell Jack
Russell Jack, Southland Yoga Training Founder, left environmental sciences studies at the University of Otago to pursue his passions as a mindfulness and yoga teacher. He enjoys learning and writing about spirituality, meditation, and vegan lifestyle and sharing these valuable insights with his clients. Russell is devoted to living in harmony with himself and with nature and conveying these skills to others.