In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (one of the key Yoga texts) we find a description of the place of practice : "The room of sadhana [practice] should have a small door, without windows, holes or cracks , not too high , not too low. It should be spotlessly clean [...] and free from animals or insects. Outside there should be an open platform with a thatched roof , a well and a surrounding wall( fence). The appearance of the hermitage should be pleasant."
Although written over 2,000 years ago when living conditions where different , this verse highlights the importance to practice in a clean environment with very little in the way of possible distractions , it also suggests that an outdoor practice is desirable in the Summer months.
Practising outside has its challenges , first of all the challenge of our senses. Stepping outside awakens the primordial safety systems that are designed to keep us from harm. On a bright Sunny day birds sing louder, the smell of flowers or maybe freshly cut-grass fills the air, if practising at the seaside you may catch a whiff of that seaside smell you find near the beach. And how about the sense of touch , we become aware of the un-eaven floor, the wind brushing passed our skin, the odd insect joining-in , the sand getting into our toes and everything else ? All this makes for a very busy mind and extra effort to remain present with the poses and the breath will be required.
It took me about a week to get used to practising outside and yet once I did I found that practising outside can be far more satisfying then the indoor experience and here are a couple of reasons why.
You learn that you cannot control everything
Being closer to nature takes us out of our comfort zone. I am sure we live a much more sanitised life than they ever did in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika times and yet they already seemed to have the concept that we need a clean and almost surgical environment to practice. The truth is no matter how much we try and control our surroundings, the world around us is beyond our control. You cannot tell the butterfly not to hover or the ant not to cross your path , or the wind not to blow. We can isolate ourselves from the world but it cannot be forever and so learning to enjoy your practice surrounded by a less controlled environment can help give you a different perspective on your ability to control things.
You learn to practice contentment ( Santosha)
Outdoor yoga is a great picture opportunity. So many glossy brochures depict yoga classes on the beach, in a meadow, up a mountain. What you cannot see is the flies, the mosquitoes, the humidity, the difficulty in holding a warrior two whilst sinking into the rather hot sand ... Yes it may not be perfect , but what if that was exactly what makes it perfect ? What if we accepted that things are just as they are meant to be and that by making the most of what we are given we can stop pursuing that "perfection" that keeps eluding us and start enjoying things as they are rather than as we think they should be!
So the next time the sun is out, roll your mat out, say hi to your neighbour mowing the lawn and do some outdoor yoga with an open heart .
Cherry Yoga students practice outside during the Summer months at the Cherry Yoga home studio , for class times click here.
Love and light Marzia