Connect with your natural forest environment with yoga stretches
People can be put off from doing yoga outdoors for several reasons; they may feel self-conscious, uncomfortable about the thought of getting dirty or sandy, are fearful of insects or animals or feel that the weather isn’t reliable. But with a little planning and a sense of adventure, outdoor yoga can be extremely rewarding.
Gerry Broom has been practicing yoga for over 12 years and became a qualified instructor in 2006. Now an expert in Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga, Gerry shares with Forestipedia how and why you should get stretching in the forest.
The Physical Benefits
Yoga has many benefits; increased flexibility, strong muscles, healthy joints and better posture. It also helps prevents diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Yoga will increase serotonin levels which set the body’s internal clock and regulates metabolism, this effect is boosted by moving outdoors so a double win here! Sunshine is the body’s main way of synthesising vitamin D which keeps teeth and bones healthy just be careful not to burn and use sun cream.
The Wellbeing Benefits
With no air conditioning or traffic fumes to worry about you will be more able to enjoy each breath of fresh air. Yoga outdoors has no walls so enjoy the sense of freedom, plus stepping away from your normal routine and embracing something different will give you a sense of achievement for moving outside your comfort level.
It only takes a short time to reap the benefits from an outdoor yoga session. If you haven’t got long, enjoy a few sun salutation sequences, focusing on loosening your muscles and your breathing. After all it’s much nicer breathing fresh air than stuffy air from a sweaty studio packed with other people. Start and finish with the easy pose for a few moments to take in your surroundings.
Sun Salutation Sequence
1. From standing inhale and raise the arms overhead.
2. Exhale and fold forwards, softening the knees if needed.
3. Inhale and look up to a flat back.
4. Exhale and step back to a plank.
5. From here bend the elbows and lower down until the upper arms are in line with the ribs (place the knees on the floor during this stage if needed).
6. Inhale and rise into upward facing dog (stay low with the knees on the floor if needed).
7. Exhale and press back into downward facing dog. Remain here for around five breaths. Press into the hands to move the weight out of the wrists, suck in the lower belly and relax the heels towards the floor. The back should be straight (bend the knees if it is rounding).
8. Inhale and step back to the hands looking up as in step 3.
9. Exhale and fold forwards.
10. Inhale rise up and raise the arms overhead. Lower the hands to the sides.
Repeat 3 – 5 times or more if you wish!
Easy pose (begin and end)
Take a comfortable cross legged position. Place the hands on the knees, gaze out at the view and just breathe. Take in the sounds and smells around you. Remain here for a few minutes to start and end your practice.
- A Yoga Mat will protect your feet and give you a good base for poses.
- Take earphones if you are not comfortable practicing without music.
- Sun cream / waterproof jacket Be prepared for unpredictable weather.
- Take water to stay hydrated, even on a cool day.
Travel light and try starting your practice with a mindful walk to your chosen spot or a moment in silence and stillness to take in your surroundings so you can enjoy the sights and sounds around you.
- You can enjoy your outdoor yoga practice in the forest using a natural clearing, in a grassy field or by the water. The best place I found for my yoga practice was on the deck behind the cabin as it was quiet and the trees shaded me from the sun without blocking out all of the natural light.
- Choose a quiet spot and time to avoid too many passers-by or dog walkers if you are feeling self-conscious. The cabins are spaced out so you feel private and secluded and the forest is beautifully peaceful - I could have stayed there all day!
- Early mornings can be very special as the world wakes up around you, there are hardly any other people and the air is still and fresh. Position yourself and your mat so you can avoid looking directly into the sun in your poses but make sure you have a good view.
- You could also venture onto the forest floor and as well as the space behind the cabin there are some clearings long the walking trail which is marked around the site. The forest is completely natural and there is vegetation on the floor and insects which come to investigate when you put the mat down!
More about Gerry Broom: I love flowing forms of yoga and teach Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow classes. Taking my yoga practice out of the studio and into the great outdoors is always refreshing and is something I particularly enjoy. I started experimenting with yoga poses on a stand up paddleboard 5 years ago and now teach stand up paddleboard (SUP) yoga classes on the open water. www.supyogabrighton.co.uk