It seems a natural combination, practising yoga outdoors. After all, yoga teaches us to pay attention to our surroundings, reactions, thoughts and energy – all of which are often heightened by being surrounded by nature.
But what are the specific effects of practising yoga outside, or even just being outside? There are a number, as outlined below:
Getting Grounded with the Earth’s Energy
When we allow our bare hands and feet to make contact with the earth (or sand, rock, grass or any other natural material connected to the Earth), we benefit from its stabilizing energy. Just like an electrical outlet needs to be grounded, we too need grounding, which is especially beneficial to fight the effects of free radicals. This concept is known as Earthing or grounding and has been shown to optimize physical, mental and emotional health. Our hands and feet contain many acupressure or reflexology points that are the start or end of energy pathways known as meridians. Similar to how an acupuncturist uses needles to stimulate the flow of energy through these meridians, we can stimulate the flow of the Earth’s grounding energy through our meridians via direct contact with the earth. That’s why you feel so great after a walk on the beach in bare feet!
Another reason why we feel great after being in nature has to do with natural chemicals. The Japanese have been fans of “forest bathing” ever since the 1980s. Known as shinrin-yoku, it refers to a kind of nature therapy to restore well-being, energy and balance. It seems to work because time spent in nature (particularly an evergreen forest) allows us to interact with phytoncides, natural compounds that have been shown to reduce blood pressure, cortisol (the stress hormone), and increasing natural killer cells, thus improving immune function.
We know that the animal kingdom – including us – exhibits play behaviour because it just plain feels good. Witness baby animals playing with their littermates – they’re not just learning key survival skills. They’re doing it because it’s fun. Similarly, we can and should get outside to play in nature. Hiking, outdoor yoga, paddleboard yoga – being playful is great for decreasing stress and fostering creativity. It also leads to great neural connections and supports empathy.
Nature Deficit Disorder
Not only is being in nature good for you, the opposite – not being in nature enough – has negative health connotations. Dis-ease – referring not only to physical ailments but conditions affecting emotional and mental health, like stress, problems sleeping, depression and ADD – could be the result of nature deficit disorder. Quite simply, not getting outside enough can make us unwell.
We all need to indulge in a bit more nature therapy. Check out our free Yoga at the Lake class on Friday June 10 from 7-8 pm and experience the pure joy that is practising outside by the shores of the lake. Keep an eye out for regular weekly classes to be offered at Island Lake, along with a Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga workshop.