What I Learned from Teaching Outdoor Yoga (in Iceland, in November!)
Last July, I started my own outdoor classes, for free, in a local park.
It was July, so it felt reasonable. People would probably like doing yoga in the nice weather.
From the start though, I wasn’t expecting many people to show up. Creating a name for myself and letting people know about my classes was the most challenging thing.
First class came and 12 showed up. And from there it grew, hitting the peak of 42 participants in the warm, sunny weather.
The correlation between the weather and how many showed up was obvious.
The most diligent students though, showed up in all kinds of weather. And I would always teach, even in the cold and the pouring rain.
I always showed up. And then I decided to keep going. To keep teaching for as long as I could. In all weather.
I taught outdoor yoga till the middle of November. And every time, I would expect nobody to show up. And every time, I’d be wrong.
I kept teaching till the day became so short that my 5 pm class was in complete darkness. And it became as cold as -1°C/ 30°F.
In a world were people warm up the rooms for yoga, why would I decide to teach yoga, outside in the cold and rain?
Well, this is what I learned from this experience.
People like outdoor yoga
I think in some cases, that they were as surprised as I am. In general, people really liked my classes, talked about the benefits of being outside and were often surprised of how they did not feel the cold after class started.
It is wonderful to connect with nature
As we were in the park, I connected my classes to nature. Before it got to cold, I encouraged people to be barefoot in the grass. I focused on mindfulness, paying attention to the earth beneath us, the sounds around us, the smell of the grass and the wind or rain on our skin.
At the end of each class, we would thank nature for allowing us to do yoga right there, and then.
And moreover, committing to these classes helped me connect with nature each week, which I wouldn’t have done without the outside obligation. I loved every single walk to the park and am grateful for the external motivation provided by the classes I scheduled.
Teaching outdoor yoga requires flexibility and adjustment
Every single class would be different and there were so many factors that influenced them. I would always adjust my class structure depending on how many people showed up, the temperature, the wind/rain/snow and the time we had. It was a very educational experience for me as a yoga teacher.
So many yoga poses can be done standing up
When it got colder, I moved most or even the whole class to standing. I learned that I could adjust many sitting poses to be done standing up. It was both challenging and fun to change a class that is often taught on the mat, to a class done without touching the ground with your hands.
Yoga classes can be short
I, like many others, am used to yoga classes being 60 or 90 minutes (or even longer). When it comes to being outside, in the cold, that is not an option. Especially, if everyone is wet through their clothes. As it got colder, my classes grew shorter. And I understood that you can get a lot of benefits in with half an hour of yoga.
Showing up is all I needed to do
Scheduling and advertising classes on my own was a big challenge for me, and about half way there I realized that I had this deep fear of nobody showing up to me classes. It was completely irrational, both because people always showed up, and because even if they didn’t, it would still be okay.
I learned to detach my worthiness from the number of participants. Instead, I learned that I was worthy, no matter if two people or forty-two showed up. And that, all I ever needed to do was to show up, ready to teach. Everything else was outside of my control.
I learned to love the rain (and all other aspects of the weather)
People sometimes asked me if classes would be cancelled if it was raining. And the answer was no.
During my first outdoor class, the weather changed every few minutes, either raining, wind blowing or the sun warming our skin. As it was my first class, it was scary to make my students keep going when the rain was pouring down on them. And then I changed my attitude. I made them stand in mountain pose, move their face towards the sky and enjoy the rain falling on their face. Feeling the rain, instead of avoiding it like we usually do.
I understood that it would be okay if they were wet or a bit cold during the end of the class. Everyone was able to go home and shower afterwards. Everybody showed up to outdoor yoga, knowing that it was supposed to be outside! And worst case, if anyone didn’t like how the weather turned out, they could simply quit and go home.
I at least, brought my joy and gratefulness to whatever weather we got.
Teaching without walls has its benefits
When it came to outdoor yoga, keeping an exact time frame wasn’t as crucial anymore. Especially when it got cold, people would show up last minute. Without the walls, and the sounds of opening and closing doors, people were free to come and go like suited them.
Therefore, it was perfectly okay for people to sneak in after class had started. Or sneak out before it had finished. Being outside allowed for a much more relaxed atmosphere.
The weather changed. Every class was different. Every class was an adventure.
So the point is this: Outdoor yoga is awesome!
You can learn a lot, both by participating in, and teaching outdoor yoga.
My deepest gratitude goes to all of those that showed up to my classes and made this a reality.
Outdoor yoga helped me expand as a yoga teacher, and connect with nature at the same time.
It was a wonderful time, and I am looking forward to starting outdoor yoga classes again.
Have you ever practiced (or taught!) outdoor yoga? How did you like it?