Summer in Portland is… unbeatable. When the sun comes out, the streets fill with smiles, exposed flesh and the smell of backyard BBQs. An open patio seat is hard to find and bodies lay strewn about in parks- victims of the Vitamin D assault. We even seem to forget the 8 months of incessant rain that only just stopped yesterday. It’s on these glorious days that it can sometimes be a challenge to take our bodies out of the sun and into the studio. So instead of compromising one for the other, why not take your practice outside? Yoga is, after all, about unity. When it’s practiced in nature, your connection to the universe may feel more readily available and your sense of awareness will have room to grow and evolve.
Outdoor yoga exposes the senses to external stimuli that otherwise may be missed while indoors. Rather then letting the elements become a distraction, try using them to enhance your experience- a light wind can bring you back to your breath, the feel of the sun on your face may inspire you to open the heart just that much more, and a newly opened flower can provide the perfect focal spot while you invite stillness in.
One especially difficult aspect of practicing outside is uneven terrain. But instead of getting frustrated or disengaging, is it possible to use the challenge to cultivate patience and acceptance? Experiment with grass, sand and soil, mat or no mat, and feel the different muscles engage with each. Enjoy the elements between your toes.
Being outside can also help you connect with your poses on a deeper level. “By putting your body into the shape of a tree or a stretching cat, by exploring the graceful wingspan of a bird or the fluidity of the Sun Salute, by breathing with the same cyclical sense as the tides or with an ocean sound, you evoke a sense of harmony, timelessness, and connection to the universe,” says Jane Jarecki, a Kripalu Yoga teacher at Evolution Physical Therapy and Yoga in Vermont.
There are several options for taking your practice outside. Perhaps you start alone, doing a few simple poses in Laurelhurst park while taking your dog for a walk. Maybe that evolves into a group of you and your friends meeting at Mt. Tabor for a sunrise session and picnic breakfast. Or maybe you go for the ultimate outdoor yoga experience and sign up to join Yoga Union on their epic adventure to Wanderlust this July (http://squaw.wanderlustfestival.com/home)!
Speaking of Mt. Tabor, we plan to meet on the top of the hill for a rejuvenating hour of yoga in the park. Bike, drive, walk or roller skate yourself and your mat to the top of of Mt Tabor at 3:00pm on Sunday, June 26th. We will be up on the hill with light refreshments (with $5-$10 donation) and open hearts, as we bring yoga out into the community for the first time this summer.
Whatever way you choose, enjoy the experience and revel in the beauty nature provides us. And don’t forget your sunscreen!