We live in a fast-paced, busy world - fast cars, tight schedules, constant external stimulation - from smartphones to social media and information overload. Although from the outside it may appear that we are becoming more efficient, on the inside we are getting more and more disconnected from ourselves and the nature around us. We often miss the present moment where real life, as we know it, takes place. Instead, we spend the majority of our time inside our minds - planning, analyzing, reflecting, stressing. But what if you were to make space in your busy schedule to dedicate to the present moment? Movement, breath, sensory perceptions, connection to nature, and yourself, as an integral part of everything you experience around in that one moment? Can this single action create a change in the way you feel, think and perceive the world, both externally and internally?
Well, the scientific research seems to confirm that practicing yoga outside yields tremendous benefits on all levels of our being and I want to encourage you to try, at least once this summer, to practice yoga with your bare feet in the grass or in the sand.
So, without further ado, let's delve into the benefits of outdoor practice!
IT HELPS EXPERIENCE UNION WITH NATURE
The meaning of the word yoga is union. To me, this is the union between our ego and the higher self but on a more dualistic level, this can be a union between our external and the internal worlds, the understanding that the functioning of the body is the direct result of the perceptions and interpretations of the mind and the level of connection, and alignment, with our spiritual self and our life's purpose.
Embodying yoga in nature helps us to re-establish this union and connection with our environment. Practicing outside in nature, especially surrounded by trees, on the beach, or in a forest, can help you become calmer, more present, and more aware. It heightens your senses and self-awareness and it helps you feel more connected to your body, your senses, and your breath.
IT INCREASES PRANA
Yoga in nature connects us to the sky, the air element, and to the sun’s life-giving energy. Sun energy is a major component of yoga practice because it’s regarded as a major source of prana (vital energy).
Prana is the invisible life force that flows through our body’s channels (nadis) and energy centers (chakras). When prana flows freely and without blockage, we experience optimal physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness. Blockages and low flow currents of prana create dis-ease and dis-comfort in our body, mind, and moods.
Yogis created an entire sequence of postures to honor and acknowledge the sun called Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar). Practicing a few rounds of Sun Salutations in nature builds heat in the body (Tapas), and helps to create healthy energy flow and a fresh infusion of prana.
IT INCREASES THE PRODUCTION OF VITAMIN D
Multiple studies have shown that Vitamin D, the only vitamin our skin produces in response to the sun’s rays, is crucial to our physical and mental health and well-being. Did you know that about half of the global population experiences low Vitamin D levels? Low Vitamin D levels are linked to compromised immune function, autoimmune issues, increased inflammation, heart disease, bone loss, muscle pains, depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, slow wound healing, diabetes & poor sleep.
Having a regular yoga practice in nature can help your body produce more Vitamin D, although you may still need additional supplementation. Optimal Vitamin D levels help the body become stronger and more resilient and play an important role in lowering depression and insomnia, reducing anxiety, developing stronger immunity, better brain health, less inflammation, stronger bones and muscles & stronger heart function.
IT GROUNDS YOU
Now, this one is super amazing, and is the reason I now encourage all of my students who practice outside with me to forego the yoga mat and practice bare feet.
Practicing yoga in nature, especially with bare feet helps the body to connect with the Earth’s healing frequency. Since we spend so much time indoors we don’t take advantage of this simple yet powerful opportunity to strengthen our bodies and minds. Research says that the act of placing your bare feet on the ground helps you to absorb the Earth’s electrons and balancing electromagnetic energy. You become like a sponge soaking it all up, and this translates to improved immune function, reduced inflammation, improved sleep, reduced anxiety, more inner calmness, more mental clarity, increased creativity, lowered risk of cancer, higher white blood cell count, less muscle soreness and stiffness.
So, next time you decide to do a yoga practice, leave your mat at home, get outdoors and see what happens when you move in rhytm with the earth itself