August is around the corner. British summer has…sort of arrived. Even if it is only for a few days, this is time to be getting a bike out, getting the running shoes out, getting a picnic blanket out, getting out! Simply getting out.
Aren’t we just great at making the most out of the lukewarm days, let alone those warm, balmy evenings? Sitting in a garden, going for a walk and taking a more scenic route or simply doing anything out there in the open space that gives us an opportunity to breathe fresh air, to catch some sun rays…or Pokemons, whatever you are into.
I love my yoga, and I love the idea of practising yoga outside. I sometimes find myself surfing on a wave of enthusiasm and thinking of taking my yoga mat as I’m off for a walk! But then standing there in the hallway, with not necessarily the most lightweight of mats in my hand and contemplating the length of the walk, I know I’m in danger of re-thinking my plans (that mat is definitely not a lightweight one). I might re-evaluate my enthusiasm (perhaps just a stroll will do?), maybe even retrace my steps (mat back on the shelf) and give up that lovely, perhaps slightly romanticised by media, idea of al fresco yoga. Simply because there is no perfect, quiet, flat and cushy, welcoming space for my yoga out there!
But since yoga is not about perfection, why would the whole set up have to be?
The reality is that the space doesn’t need to be remote, the surface doesn’t need to be flat and there certainly doesn’t have to be a calm blue sea and the setting sun in the background. All it takes is for the space to accommodate your stillness or your movement, whatever your yoga practice is about. All it really takes is YOU to be there!
Simple outdoor yoga practices
- If you’re a runner, try integrating a short yoga practice before or after your running routine.
- Pause during your walk and find a spot where you feel in tune with a space, a tree, a view, a patch of grass and slip your shoes off. Standing there barefoot, root down with all four corners of your feet to feel that primal connection with the body of the earth.
- Lie down on a patch of grass and practice “Sleeping Tiger”.
- Practice being still in a quiet spot.
If you are actually off for a quiet and tranquil holiday, there are endless possibilities of spreading your yoga mat and facing the sea, the sunset and all things beautiful. If like many others, a part of your holiday involves negotiating transfers, airports, checking in, checking out, and you are there with your whole family, you may need your yoga burst more than ever before.
Whether your al fresco/garden/beach/park lawn yoga is a full and dedicated practice made of gracious and elaborate sequences or a short, emergency one, perhaps you can make room for one more element, quite suitably named the Sunburst Breath:
Stand long and tall, with the spine straight and arms by your sides.
Inhale slowly as you raise your arms forwards and up, lifting from the waist, rib cage and armpits. Arms and shoulders are soft and palms facing each other.
Exhale through the mouth, sighing that breath out, while stretching back. This is just an extension of the upward stretch, so keep thinking “up”.
Inhale as you stretch up, coming back to the centred, upward position.
Exhale and lower your arms forward and down by your sides.
Repeat 3-5 times.
Stretch gently, concentrating on lengthening and focusing on the upward stretch, without going too far back. Tune into the openness that the stretch offers.*
Opening up and slowing down
The summer, however short, however long, however peaceful or hectic, is very much about opening ourselves up to the sky, to the sun and to the warmth out there. It is about opening the windows and inviting fresh air, thoughts, attitudes into our homes, heads, lungs. Regardless of circumstances, it is about the spaciousness and energy that we can accumulate from that symbolic notion of opening.
And if you do gradually and gently slow down enough to see the process of such opening and see what trickles in, rather than focusing on the end result, everything that you do will be an opportunity to practice yoga.
Sea waves and sunset optional but as it appears, not necessary.
A patch of grass will do just as well.
* This is a heart and chest opener as well as back extension, so to protect and support your lower back engage the buttocks and stretch down through the back of your legs as you ease your hips forwards on the exhalation. Ensure that the heads is between the arms, and thrown back.
Marta Swiezynska is a British Wheel of Yoga certified yoga teacher and the founder of The Yoga Project, a platform that specialises in designing yoga practices for individual and corporate clients. Her teaching focuses on offering her students a toolbox of yogic practices that can help to overcome the stresses of modern life. Marta has been fascinated with Eastern philosophies and yoga since her teens and her other interests include psychology and alternative therapies. To read more about Marta click here
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