The Magic of Outdoor Yoga

Well yogis, summer is coming to an end. I’m definitely a warm-weathered creature and the long days just leave me feelin’ some kind of way.

Needless to say, I’m pretty content in life and in my yoga practice these days.

While the warmer months have always been a favorite of mine, it was only recently that I discovered one of the best perks of the summertime heat…

Outdoor yoga!

Seriously though, somehow it never really occurred to me to grab my mat and practice outside (perhaps it’s the whole living in a dirty city thing?).

Nevertheless, I finally taught a Vinyasa class outdoors (in arguably one of the prettiest spots in the city) and damn…was it magic.

Somehow doing sun salutations under the rays of an actual sun is just so much sweeter than the ceiling of a studio or my apartment. The cool breeze on my skin is so much more powerful than typical pranayama. Basically, it’s yoga the way it was meant to be enjoyed in its most pure sense.

So, how do you start practicing outside? It’s a fair question, in large part because I’m asking myself the exact same thing now. I loved teaching outside, but doing my own awkward, modified home flow in the middle of Central Park…? Yikes.

Luckily for you, I’ve already endured the awkward glances and sheepish feelings to try out the best ways to build your own outdoor practice. Without further ado, here are my top tips for bringing your yoga and meditation practices out in the good ol’ sunshine:

#1 Pick Your Spot

This sounds simple enough, but honestly…this was the hardest thing for me to tweak. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with your own private outdoor space (a yard, a deck, a balcony) – disregard this rant and roll out your mat. It’s that simple, and I’m super jealous.

But if you live in an urban environment like me (or some place where privacy is a little tougher to come by), then picking the best place to set up shop gets more complicated. Personally, I just can’t build up the nerve to practice in Central Park. I feel like I’m on display all the time, and the distractions of bikes, rogue jazz bands & fried pretzels aren’t exactly zen-inducing.

Thankfully, New York is home to much more green space than just the iconic park seen on TV. I’m fortunate enough to live near Riverside Park, a much smaller stretch of trees and grass overlooking the Hudson River. It’s more of a local hangout than a tourist hot spot, so I automatically feel at ease there. More often than not, this is where I practice outside.

Here’s what you need to remember when searching for the perfect spot: it needs to be somewhere that you feel comfortable. Are you a beach person, or do you love feeling the grass beneath your toes? Do you like practicing with the sunrise, the sunset, or neither? Come up with a place or two that you can try out & go for it!

*Note: My second favorite outdoor spot is the literal meditation garden in my parents’ apartment building (they spent years working super hard and are much fancier than me). It is arguably one of the most serene places I’ve ever been in New York, and I would practice there every single day if I could. Moral of the story? Make friends, love on your family & unapologetically take advantage of their swankier real estate whenever possible.

#2 Dig Out Your Beach Towel

God I wish someone had told me about this one. Apparently three years of law school and a freaking doctorate degree weren’t enough for me to put together that a rubber yoga mat + grass (or worse, sand) just don’t mix.

Dig out that gnarly beach towel from the back of your closet or grab a cheap one on Amazon. Not only does this protect your mat, it also provides a much needed cushion on uneven terrain!

#3 Listen To Your Mother & Put On Your Sunscreen

One of the worst sunburns I’ve ever had in my life happened last summer when I took an outdoor class at Pier 17. Overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, the entire skyline & the river…I completely forgot sunscreen.

I was a peeling lobster for two weeks.

Learn from my mistake, Young Grasshopper. Bring SPF 50 or higher with you & apply it before your practice and afterwards if you’re planning on hanging out for a while, trust me.

#4 Decide On Music or No Music

One of the perks of practicing outside is that you can hear, ya know, actual birds and shit.

For that reason, I usually choose to practice without music. That said, I know plenty of yogis that need a little quiet meditation music to zen out, so no judgment here.

My only requirement? If you do choose to add some tunes to your practice, please wear headphones. Don’t be that dude. Nobody needs to hear your Tibetan singing bowls on their way to work.

#5 Avoid Certain Essential Oils

Again, this tip comes from firsthand knowledge…

If you enjoy incorporating aromatherapy into your practice, you should know that some oils are what we call “photosensitive.” This means that they react negatively to UV light and wearing them in direct sunlight can cause irritation and even burning.

Avoid these oils for outdoor use:

  • Bergamot
  • Cumin
  • Grapefruit
  • Kumquat
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Tangerine
  • Wild Orange

That’s it! All that’s standing between you and the bliss of outdoor yoga is a nice day, a decent beach towel, and some sun-safe aromatherapy (I love Lavender, personally).

Here comes the sun (do do do do)…

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