Taking Yoga Outdoors to Connect with Nature
By Masie Barefoot-Judson
My last name happens to be Barefoot, and it is probably not too surprising, for those reading this article, that going barefoot to practice yoga felt very natural for me. Over time I began to understand the feeling I remembered from childhood is what yogis call “grounding” or pulling in prana; really feeling the presence of the earth through the soles of my feet, up to the palms of my hands, filling my cup and creating an abundance of prana within.
Have you ever felt the earth beneath your feet – I mean really felt it? Have you taken your shoes off and felt the cold soil or spread your toes wide to really feel the surface of your yoga mat? What I remember most about my childhood is the freedom of going barefoot — of playing without shoes and exploring wide-open spaces with my hands and feet. Although I have grown up, there is still a bit of this child in the way I practice yoga. My yoga mat may not physically be a wide-open space, but still… it gives me the chance to explore its textured surface on my skin with child-like delight.
“Connecting with your natural setting is grounding and playful, and with practice, often meditative.”
Perhaps you too have felt this connection with the earth moving into your practice. In my teaching style, the seasons often play a vital role in the sequences I use. On warm days, I may notice that my students seem more limber, but often feel tired by the end of the day; and on cooler days, I get requests to open the shoulders where we have cinched tension around the neck. Moreover, as we move through Spring, I create intense internal heat with long, slow movements, taking the time to linger and find ease within the movement. Spring is often the perfect time to take your yoga outdoors to bask in the sun or enjoy a nice shaded spot. Alternatively, forget your mat altogether and leap into nature as your yoga mat. I have rested my back against boulders in tadasana, connecting with the mountain. The options are endless – imagine yourself in bidalasana, alternating between cat and cow poses. Alternatively, you could rise into tree pose, while reaching out and resting your palm on a tree’s trunk. Connecting with your natural setting is grounding and playful, and with practice, often meditative.
If you would rather practice meditation instead of yoga outdoors, you can still practice outside and connect with nature. You can sit at the base of a tree and use the canvas of your mind to grow upward like the tree. Feel your roots growing down into the soil from the base of your spine. Expanding our consciousness, we dive deeper within our own connection to nature.
May Day approaches, and with it, spring, marked by the ancient celebration of Beltane. The season is a chance to invite abundance, growth and increase into your life. I invite you to roll your mat outdoors this May 1st, to explore your connection to Mother Earth and draw on the seasons as you expand your yoga lifestyle. I invite you also to play like a child and have fun in the process.
This article originally appeared on Art of Living Retreat Center's Website
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