Walking this obscure little path through the woods I take in the distant sound of the stream bubbling across the stones. A perfect spot to stop and connect with my yoga practice. I've already taken off my shoes, so feeling the earth beneath my feet I am connected and grounded. As I step my feet apart I extend my right hand to the earth's floor, straightening both legs as my left leg lifts parallel to the ground, coming into ardha chandrasana, one of my favorite poses. I float, look up toward the sky, listen to the sounds of the forest, and breathe in the freshness of spring's breeze. Two more poses call me into action before I pull myself away from this secret spot and move on down the trail.
Forest asana is a deep felt blessing during the busyness of the week. Very different than my practice in my home space or class. Sometimes I hike, stop and do a full practice and other times make sporadic plunges into poses, finding quiet places where I am alone, hike some more and plunge in again, planting the feet to find stability. I love the feel of the earth beneath my feet; sometimes damp and cool, sometimes spongy and soft, or at times needing to find spaces among the roots.
Because of how deeply beneficial I've found practicing yoga outdoors to be, I decided to offer a class once a week that meets in an open grassy area looking onto the stillness of a pond. The forest edges the field and bird life is active. It is early enough in the day that the pond is peaceful and quiet. Mats are unfurled and folks are encouraged to connect standing poses directly with the grass beneath their feet. We catch the morning rays of sunshine as it crests above the trees, so by the end of class lying in savasana, we are bathed in the sun's warmth.
Yoga means union and what better way to find union with our earthly bodies than to root the feet solidly into the ground. Practicing yoga outside intensifies the experience. It brings us closer to the elements and connecting with nature. The air is fresh and the lungs are supported as you connect more deeply to the breath. It focuses awareness to your surroundings, expanding the senses to sights, sounds and smells, taking you out of your thoughts and bringing intention to your body.
The benefits expand when the shoes are removed and your bare feet connect with the earth. It feels like a full body massage as it stimulates the nerve endings and reflex points, builds muscles in the feet, strengthens ankles, calves, knees and core. The negative ionic charges help to detoxify the body, reduce inflammation and support a sounder, more restful sleep.
So take advantage of the warmer weather and get out into open air to renew and revitalize your yoga practice. Have fun with it and let the elements take over, finding union with the Mother.