Saturday, June 18, 2011

Off the Mat, Into the Wild

The summer solstice is days away, so our Green Yoga Sangha group trekked into the woods for alittle rock-top yoga.  For me, there is nothing better than standing in mountain pose on a big, flat expanse of stone, looking out over the tree-tops or, as I did today, over a lily pad covered pond.  I like to be barefoot in the dirt. Once, in Warrior II, a dragonfly landed on my hand.  Besides, if you saw my last post you know I need all the sunlight I can get.

If you'd like to practice yoga outside, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Go anywhere.  Yes, an asana practice on top of a mountain is amazing, but you can have an equally amazing practice in a town park, on the beach, even in your own backyard.  Just get outside.
  • Leave your mat at home.  Mats are a must-have for yoga studios and on your slippery home floor, but when you head outside take a break from your mat and discover what earth feels like.  Unless you're planning to down dog in a parking lot.
  • Scout out your spot.  Before you put your bare feet down, make sure the place you've chosen for your practice isn't covered with sharp rocks or, worse, broken glass.  Unfortunately many beautiful places get ruined by those who don't know enough to...
  • Leave no trace.  You wouldn't walk out of a yoga studio leaving all the props you used scattered on the floor, would you?  Show the outdoors the same respect and carry out any trash you make.  Better yet, do what we do and carry an empty bag to pick up what others thoughtlessly left behind.
  • Find a natural insect repellent that works and use it.  I've got nothing against bugs in general, but it's hard to hold a pose with mosquitoes biting every inch of exposed skin.  Mosquitoes and ticks can carry diseases that will bring your asana practice to a halt if you contract them, so protect yourself when you're outdoors.  I also like to show them dead bug pose, just to give them a warning. 
Once you've found a place to practice, here's some poses to try:

  • Tadasana (Mountain). The most natural outdoor pose there is. Close your eyes, feel the earth under your feet, the breeze brushing your skin and the warmth of the sun. Then just breathe.
  • Moon Side Bend.  Reach overhead, interlace your fingers and bend to one side, then the other.  Imagine yourself swaying side-to-side like a tree in the wind.
  • Uttanasana (Forward fold).  Bend your knees really deep and put your hands flat on the ground.  If you're lucky a bug will crawl over your hand.  Embrace the sensation.
  • Standing up, clasp your hands behind your back, roll your shoulders together, and look up.  Open your heart to the sky.
  • Utkatasana (Chair).  Just because you should.
  • Crescent lunge.  High runner's lunge with your arms overhead, hips sinking toward the earth.  Find two rocks the right distance apart and this gets really fun.
  • Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II).  You never know when a dragonfly might need a place to land.  Beside, the view past your fingers is great.
  • Reversed, or Proud, Warrior.  For another look at the sky.
  • Vrksasana (Tree).  Enough said.
  • Airplane (Virabhadrasana III variation).  Fly in the breeze.
  • Balasana (Child).  Yup, put your forehead in the dirt.  Get really close to nature.
  • Sirsasana (Headstand).  My favorite pose anywhere is especially gratifying when my head's in the grass and my feet feel the sun.  If headstand isn't available to you, take another inversion or rabbit pose to get the top of your head on the ground.
  • Savasana. Let the earth support you, absorbing all of your tension and doubts.  Feel yourself being cradled by the ground beneath you, relax and breathe deeply.
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