We are embarking on week five of shelter in place and your restlessness and anxiety may be bubbling up during this unprecedented moment. Many of us have turned to yoga and meditation as a way to relieve pandemic related anxiety. Maybe you have set aside a place in your home to serve as a fitness area, but by this point in time you’re looking for something different.
Nothing is more zen than practicing yoga outdoors. If you are lucky enough to live near a park that is still open maybe you bring your yoga mat there, but you can still experience the benefits of outdoor yoga practice from your backyard, your balcony, or even your driveway. Practicing yoga outside adds a new dimension to your practice, connecting you with the nature that surrounds you.
Tips for Starting an Outdoor Yoga Class
Plug In to Unplug
Find a yoga class that works for you and play it on your phone. You don’t even need a screen to watch. Usually the instructors’ cues are good enough that you can just listen to the audio on your phone. Here are some suggestions for finding an online yoga class:
- Just getting started with yoga? Start with a few Yoga With Adriene classes to learn more about the basics of yoga and establish a routine.
- Ready for a good flow? Gabrielle Cardoza teaches donation-based zoom classes weekly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. All donations go to local COVID-19 related relief work. Follow her on Instagram for her complete schedule.
- Rachel Goldman teaches a weekly Sunday class and has a whole selection of inspiring classes with innovative sequences online so you can practice at your own schedule. Follow her on Instagram for her live class schedule.
- Support local small businesses! Many local studios such as Hot Spot Yoga and Left Coast Power Yoga, vinyasa yoga studios in Oakland, are offering a multitude of zoom yoga classes and zoom class package deals.
Choose the Time of Day That Feels Best
Find a spot on a warm day with some shade, or maybe seek out the sunshine on a cold morning. Pick a place where you feel safe and you’re guaranteed to not come within six feet of anyone else.
Ditch Your Mat
If you can, take advantage of nature’s yoga mat: grass. Grass is soft and forgiving and unlike your mat practice, you likely will not have to pad it with a blanket to spare your knees or your back. Perhaps use a towel instead of a mat. If you’re practicing on cement outdoors you can put a towel down on top of your mat to soften the ground slightly.
Bring What You Need Outside
Pack a sweatshirt, water bottle, a yoga block (or something to use as a block), and headphones. It can be disruptive to have to run back inside for something while you’re practicing.
Yoga is about being in the moment and being present with what you are experiencing. Practicing outdoors can help you notice a slight breeze you were not aware of or the birds chirping in your neighbor’s yard. Just like being in a heated yoga shala, the warm sun can deepen your poses by making your muscles pliable. You learn to tune out the distracting noises that surround you and focus on your own breath. The more we practice, the more aware we become of our surroundings and the world around us. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time, and memory.
Benefits of Yoga During Shelter In Place
Relieves Stress and Improves Breathing
Yoga has been proven to reduce the physical effects of stress on the body. Most yoga classes end in savasana (corpse pose) which further reduces stress. Yoga typically includes breathing practices which can be effective for further lowering our cortisol levels and reducing our stress response. By changing our pattern of breathing, we can significantly affect our body’s experience of and response to stress. This may be one of the most profound lessons we can learn from our yoga practice.
Eases Pain and Improves Circulation
Practicing yoga is an incredible way to get your blood flowing after a full day hunching over your desk on zoom meetings. Studies have shown that practicing yoga can result in decreased pain from both chronic conditions as well as short term physical ailments from decreased activity during shelter in place. Yoga also helps to improve circulation by moving oxygenated blood to the body’s cells. Even a gentle yoga practice can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering your resting heart rate, increasing endurance, and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.
Improves Strength and Flexibility
Yoga can improve flexibility and mobility and increase range of motion. Over time, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity. Yoga asanas use every muscle in the body, increasing strength literally from head to toe. A regular yoga practice can also relieve muscular tension throughout the whole body.
Header Photo: Mor Shani via Unsplash