If you’re a yoga enthusiast, you’re probably used to doing Downward Dog in a yoga studio or in the privacy of your own living room. And while both of these scenarios have their benefits, there is nothing quite like practicing yoga outside in nature.
When I was recovering from breast cancer treatment in early 2013, my husband and our carpenter friend Jim planned a surprise for me. While I was on a business trip, they built me a 12 x 12 yoga deck in the backyard — my husband said, “I know you haven’t been feeling well since your treatment, and I’m worried that you’re inside so much. So I built this for you to encourage you to get outside more.”
It was the gift of a lifetime.
We’ve since created a tropical garden around it with cannas, ferns, split-leaf philodendron, elephant ears, and crotons — and for me, practicing yoga in this space gives me an added layer of healing and restoration.
Whether it’s on a deck, a patio, or on the grass, yoga in the garden offers many benefits that just can’t be experienced indoors. If you’re interested in moving your yoga practice outdoors but need some convincing, I’ve got you covered.
Garden yoga engages your senses. Studies show that when two or more of your senses are engaged, relaxation follows. The feel of the sunshine on your shoulders, the scent of the flowers, the chirp of the birds all work together to release tension and dial you into your practice.
It challenges your practice. Any time you change up your routine and remove yourself from your comfort zone, there is an opportunity for growth. Practicing yoga outside on slightly uneven ground challenges your core to fully engage, for example. And getting into Tree pose underneath the leafy canopy of an oak tree just may open up a new way of experiencing your body, mind, and spirit.
Outdoor yoga creates mental alertness. As much as nature relaxes us, it also creates heightened awareness. While practicing yoga outdoors, your brain is reminded that it’s in its natural (and originally native) environment, and begins to reset itself to be more alert, leading to feelings of energy and vitality. I’d say that feeling relaxed while being alert and energetic is the definition of balance.
It can positively impact your brain and hormone levels. Feeling stressed? You can thank the stress hormone cortisol for that. But the good news is that levels of this hormone decrease when you expose yourself to an outdoor environment rather than a concrete-clad urban one. And if that didn’t convince you, consider this: Research shows that meditation and other activities like yoga that have a meditative quality actually decrease your amygdala, the part of your brain that does the fight-or-flight thing.
Less stress, increased relaxation, a strengthened yoga routine, and mental awareness — who knew yoga in the garden had so many benefits? Now, you do!
About the Author:
Jenny Peterson is a landscape designer and urban farmer living in Austin, Texas. She comes from a family of gardeners and her gardens include drought-tolerant plants, herbs, veggies, and a wildflower pollinator garden. As a breast cancer survivor, Jenny specializes in gardens that heal from the inside out.