Advice

Outdoor Yoga: 5 Ways to Find Your Zen in Public Places

There is nothing more uncomfortable than being stared at. Add yoga to the mix, and there’s a whole new level of pressure from onlookers.

You want to savor this beautiful summer day, so you throw on shorts and a sports bra, grab your mat, and step out into the world. The park, the beach, and the pool all seem like wonderful, open spaces to practice yoga, but there are ALWAYS people around. Unless you head out at the crack of dawn, there is sure to be a crowd of people waiting to watch you bust out your yoga moves. How can you possibly get your zen on while people are staring intently as you practice?

A million and one thoughts rush through your head: Are my butt cheeks hanging out of my shorts? What if I lose my balance? Will people laugh at me? Am I sweating too much? Do these people think I’m gross? Oh, no. Please don’t talk to me. Is that person taking a picture?

If you’re like me, I have totally felt like I’m being judged when I practice yoga in public. It is possible to get past that and get your zen on, though! Here are a few tips on how to feel more comfortable practicing yoga in public places:

1. Bring a friend

It is incredibly comforting to have a friend practicing alongside you. Stand next to each other and gaze out over the ocean, at the park’s public fountain, or across the pool; or face each other so you are the only people each other sees as you practice. Not only does having a yoga partner help you stay calm and focused, it’s so much fun! Try partner postures and laugh throughout your practice!

2. Play music

Wear headphones or bring a portable speaker with you to listen to your favorite music as you practice. I often practice with my eyes closed and headphones on my head as I soak in the sun. Music brings you to a space of comfort and joy and helps you remain focused on your practice, rather than the people around you. Play music that gets you pumped up and energized and you will slowly feel your reservations about public yoga melting away!

3.  Bring a laptop or tablet

I have a hard time guiding my own practice, so one thing I usually carry with me is my tablet. I can set it out in front of me and have my very own private class at the park. Having the online class playing in front of me keeps me focused on my vinyasa flow and helps me tune out the people around me.

4. Focus more on nature and less on voices

Begin your outdoor practice with meditation. Listen to your breath, tune out your thoughts and the crowd of voices, and soak in the beautiful, natural sounds. Listen to the wind, the ocean, the birds, the trees. Take in deep, refreshing breaths of clean, crisp air. Feel the cool salt spray on your face. Just be.

5. Embrace it

I know this one seems a little difficult, but this is actually how I finally became comfortable practicing yoga outside where people can watch me. I say, “the heck with it! Let them stare!” Having an audience pushes me to work harder, but at the same time, allows me to listen closely to what my body needs. I don’t want to embarrass myself, of course, so I let my body lead my practice into what feels best and most comfortable. I also really enjoy the sounds of people laughing and playing, the water splashing as people run into the ocean and jump into the pool, and the squeal of the swing-set as a daddy pushes his three year old princess who is yelling “higher, higher!” To me, the heart of summer is in the people who enjoy it. Eventually you’ll notice that not too many people are actually watching you. Maybe one or two people, but they’re not judging. They’re genuinely interested, even amazed by what you’re doing. I’ve even caught myself pausing in my practice to stare at a fellow yogi, appreciating her graceful movements as her husband photographed her.

6. Skip the crowds

If you want to practice outdoor yoga and feel an incredible sense of zen with calming waves that wash over you, practice on a mountain top! The peaks of most mountains (at least in the Northeast of the United States) are generally pretty flat, and honestly, there are less people. BONUS: You get a killer workout hiking to reach your yogic destination!

headstand at whickham park april 2016

Do you have any tricks for finding your Zen during your outdoor yoga practice? Share with me in the comments below!

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