Outdoor Yoga: The 4 Best Ways to Use Nature as Props
What could be better than a warm, sunny day? Add Yoga to the mix, and that already perfect summer day becomes absolutely magical. There’s just something about practicing Yoga in the fresh air with the sun shining down on you. The weight of the world seems to lift, and there is finally clarity. Finally… peace.
Let’s take that magic even deeper. Use the Earth to assist your practice! I love to get down and dirty in my Yoga practice– to feel the grass, dirt, sand, water, even the rocks between my toes. If you’re up for a challenge (and maybe a little dirt in your hair), use your environment to enhance your practice!
Trees are great tools for balance postures! They are nature’s number one support system. Whether you want to balance on your hands or find stability on your feet, trees will definitely hold you up.
Tree Pose – It’s ironic, isn’t it? This is a pose where you can feel one with your environment!
Dancer Pose – Whether you’ve practiced Dancer for years or you’re taking your first stab at it, utilizing trees is a great way to stabilize AND get deeper into the posture. As you reach back and lift your right leg with your right hand, stretch your left arm forward and place your hand flat against the tree about shoulder level. For advanced practitioners looking for a deeper stretch, slowly move the left hand down the tree, lifting your right leg up further.
Handstand – I don’t know about you, but I am no handstand expert. I love inversions and I dream of gracefully walking around with the Earth between my fingers, but until that day, I need support.
- Option 1: Face away from the tree and place your hands on the ground. Slowly climb your legs up the tree until your hips are comfortably over your shoulders. Stay here for a few breaths, or move one leg and then the other away from the tree for a couple breaths each.
- Option 2: Face the tree and place your hands on the ground about 6 inches from its base. Position yourself in Three Legged Dog. Walk your standing leg a little closer to your hands, generously bend the knee, and float that leg up to meet the other. Both feet should land touching the tree. Stay here for a few breaths.
- Option 3: With your feet already overhead and touching the tree, slowly lower your back creating a slight arch. The backs of your thighs and your bottom should now rest on the tree. For a deeper stretch, walk your hands in closer to the base of the tree. For less intensity, walk your hands away.
PLEASE HAVE A SPOTTER! Although trees offer a lot of stability, they will not catch you if you fall.
Hills challenge you to find new balance and offer a deeper stretch with their natural decline.
Balance postures – Chose your favorite balance posture and position yourself facing the decline of the hill. You will feel yourself wanting to lean forward, but do your best to hold yourself upright! Now try turning around, facing the hill’s incline. Keep yourself held upright, and do not lean backwards. You will feel an incredible stretch in your calves and hamstrings while your ankles, core, and back get fired up!
Wheel and Camel Postures – Face the incline of the hill, and slowly descend into your posture. Your arms will work double time, and you will feel a deeper stretch in your back.
Bridge Pose – Prepare yourself for Bridge with your feet higher on the hill than your head. Keeping your palms flat on the Earth, slowly lift your hips and press your shins forward. For a deeper stretch, clasp your hands behind your back, rolling your shoulder blades together beneath you. Bridge on a hill will work your core, buns, chest, and legs in ways you never knew possible!
Balancing on sand is much more challenging than on the hardwood surfaces most of us are accustomed to, so practicing on sand, alone, is great to improve your strength and balance.
Want a more restorative practice? Build the sand up to create supports that you would normally use blocks and bolsters for!
(photos by Zachary Reddix)
Standing in the shallow end of a pool or thigh deep in the ocean, practice some Vinyasa Flow! The resistance of the water will slow down your practice, allowing you to experiment with the postures and to develop strength throughout your body. The weightless feeling water gives will allow you to move deeper into your postures. To test your breath control, try holding postures while under the water!
Share ways you use the environment to enhance your practice in the comments below!