Back To Nature: How The Outdoors Can Enhance Your Yoga Practice

Yoga is a powerful tool we can use to help us connect. After all, the literal translation of yoga is “union”. In a world full of noise and distraction, the ability to connect with yourself is key to thriving. This is why when we practice yoga, we practice being present. We practice stillness, self-awareness, and finally self-acceptance. When we are able to connect deeply with ourselves on this level, we find that the connections we share with our family, friends, partners, colleagues, acquaintances, and all living things around us become much more authentic and meaningful.

Practicing yoga offers us a way to incorporate seemingly simple ideas into a world which has complicated itself. While yoga is one of the tools we can use to help us connect, connection with nature can offer many similar effects. Studies have shown that being out in nature can offer one of the most reliable boosts to your mental and physical well-being. Here are some ways incorporating nature can enhance your yoga practice.

Practicing outside can challenge you.

Within the confines of a studio, the aromas, soft lights, pleasant sounds and even the floor your lay your mat on, is controlled to set the ambience for your practice. When you take your practice outside, however, you become vulnerable to what nature has to offer you. Whether it’s the slight breeze of wind, the heat from the sun, the sounds from the animals around you, or the uneven earth beneath you, taking your practice outside means allowing yourself to embrace all that is happening in your surroundings while still remaining true to your practice. It challenges your focus, balance, and ability to stay present. Instead of battling the elements, let the elements of nature deepen your practice. Allow the breeze from the wind to remind you to deepen your breath, the sounds of the animals around help you practice stillness, and the uneven surface of the earth at your feet challenge your balance. 

You can take your practice anywhere

When you learn to embrace nature in your practice, you are learning how to embrace all external conditions that may affect your practice. Whether you are practicing in a studio, on a beach, on top of a mountain, or in a bustling city, learning to embrace all conditions means being able to practice anywhere. Being able to accept and embrace the conditions around you as you practice can help you build a solid internal practice. Having a solid internal practice will allow you to find peace even in the most chaotic scenarios and situations. 

You become more aligned with nature

Nature drives many of the poses we practice in yoga already. Whether its finding balance in tree pose, embracing the sun in sun salutations, connecting with the core in moon pose, or walking in downward dog, nature naturally inspires our practice. Connecting with nature is ultimately having a greater connection to everything beyond yourself.

“When we embrace nature in your practice, you can evoke a sense of harmony, connection, and timelessness with the universe.” 

By learning to embrace our inherent oneness with nature, we can start our connection to the greater things around us.

Diana Ratana
Hot Feet Fitness Yoga & Barre Instructor

Momentary Encounters with Balance

This past week, the Vernal Equinox came and went -- the first day of Spring, when we experience that half-and-half balance of daylight and darkness. The sense of equilibrium between the seasons on both the Spring and Autumn Equinox is a lovely invitation to explore balance in our day-to-day existence.

Striking a balance in a hectic life -- whether that’s a balance of effort and ease, of chaos and calm, of obligations and options -- can sometimes seem like an impossible task. Achieving a lasting state of perfect equilibrium sounds unachievable with the on-going pressures of family, career, bills, responsibilities, ad infinitum.

But perhaps that doesn’t need to be the goal. A beautiful reminder of this is the yin-yang symbol. It’s a familiar representation of balance, with light on one side and dark on the other, but my favorite part is the small bit of light that inhabits the darkness, and the small bit of darkness that occupies a patch of the light.

Let’s view the balance of effort and ease through the lens of the yin-yang symbol. Poses that may on the surface seem the very embodiment of ease (such as savasana or “corpse pose”) in fact require a fair bit of effort because it takes work and practice to quiet the busy mind and fully experience the restorative offerings of the posture. On the flip side, in poses that require more physical effort (for example, arm-balances like crow, or inversions such as headstand or handstand), one can find surprising pockets of ease. I find it is easier to let go of my to-do lists, worries, grudges, and other distracting thoughts when engaged in an asana that calls for greater effort from my physical body, and therefore it’s easier to be fully present in the moment.

It can be so helpful to remember that there is often effort within the ease, and ease within the effort. And once I open up to applying this yin-yang metaphor to more aspects of my life, the more achievable a sense of balance seems. Perhaps there will always be a little chaos in my calm (in the form of children’s toys strewn about or unfinished tasks on my to-do list when I pause to relax and read), and that’s okay. It encourages me to also seek (or create) rays of calm in the chaos.

Returning to the recent passing of the Equinox: its fleeting nature (only two days a year!) is also a much-needed reminder that a sense of balance isn’t necessarily a “destination” we can work toward and then settle down in permanently. Rather, it’s something that we may pass in and out of, periodically and momentarily, perhaps many times over the course of our lives.   

May you seek and find the interplay of yin and yang in your life, and may your momentary encounters with balance come more frequently than twice a year!

Kat Stein-Ross
Hot Feet Fitness Instructor