I'm going out on a limb and say most people don't even consider doing yoga in their backyards. Even among yogi friends, it's a rare bird that takes a mat outdoors to soak in the treasures summer serves up on the lawn. Sure, we may BBQ, grab some rays or do a cartwheel or two out there. But why not turn your green paradise (even if it's just a patch of grass) into your own private outdoor studio?
For those with ogling neighbors or living it urban-style with no space, fear not. These same reasons apply to yoga at the city park, a spot off the trail or even turf at the local community center. I recommend getting up early to beat the heat or downward doggin' with the setting sun. Either way, close your eyes, follow your breath, and here's what you're going to get:
You're in your body because everything around you is pointing you there. It's a sensory field trip: breeze on forearms, the warmth of sun, buzzing insects, bird symphonies, shades of yellow, red and green, sweat trickling down the neck.
Prolific mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn points out, "The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing." Outdoor yoga gets you there. Witness the miracle as you go from listening to your thoughts, to hearing man's busyness (cars, generators, planes) to actually feeling your body.
Arianna Huffington quotes neuroscientist Gregory Berns in her book, Thrive, "Only when the brain is confronted with stimuli that it has not encountered before does it start to reorganize perception. The surest way to provoke the imagination, then, is to seek out environments you have no experience with."
Most of us can't fly to Curaçao, but we can shake things up with unpredictability. You can't control the outdoors. You never know who is going to drop in on you; bird, bugs or dragonflies. Your mat may have lumps underneath it, from anthills to clumps of marigolds. Maybe you stop to admire a butterfly or let a beetle cross your mat on his own time, (it happened to me). Maybe you lose your balance in a standing pose on the uneven surface. Who cares? It's a game; it's play. It's glorious you, and you're thrilled to be alive!
Everything in nature is fluid. There's a dance that happens around you when you're completely still, taking it all in. Cycles and rhythms reveal themselves; changing forms, shifting lines, moving this way and that. A reminder that life is ever-changing.
Maybe you catch the way light dabbles along tree branches while in triangle pose. Perhaps you witness frothy white clouds silently expanding. Or it could be an updraft of wind, darting birds, or tiny caterpillars inching along. But something clicks: we humans also, are never the same. Our feelings, our circumstances, our bodies are continually dying and being born again in each present moment.
As Mary Oliver says, "And that is just the point... how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. "Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?"
This is where it gets awesome. Did you ever stop to think about how solid the earth is, making all you do possible? I love lying on my mat, contemplating the firm strength it offers, while my eyes soak in the wonders of the sky.
Being on a yoga mat outside, you can't help but feel supported, grounded and in unison -- body, mind and spirit. When you connect to all that is alive, within you and around you, gratitude is the inevitable outcome (which researchers have proven boosts your immune system and reduces stress). So why wait? Summer has just begun. Grab your mat and experience the world in your backyard, for the very first time.
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