Why You Should Take Your Yoga Practice Outdoors
Taking your flow in the fresh air comes with some big benefits. These tips and gear recommendations will help you move your routine outside.
By Michele Ross•
No matter how advanced your yoga practice may be, there are endless ways to switch things up and incorporate something new into your routine. This could be as simple as taking classes with different instructors, getting on your mat at a different time of day from your norm, or even practicing yoga outdoors.
On this last point, I only began to find my flow in Mother Nature about 10 years into my own practice—but I wish I’d done it sooner. Some of my fondest yoga memories include guiding friends in vinyasa flows overlooking the Mediterranean Sea back when I lived in Tel Aviv. It was scenic, of course, but it also introduced unique challenges and opportunities to expand my practice in ways I hadn’t been able to in a studio setting or in the comfort of my home. That said, whether you have the chance to engage in a yoga flow near a glistening beach, in a local park, or even in your own backyard, I highly recommend doing so.
Ahead, you’ll discover a few major benefits of practicing yoga outdoors, plus a few tips and gear recommendations to facilitate your flow in the fresh air.
3 Benefits of Practicing Yoga Outdoors
An outdoor yoga practice will yield the same benefits as your standard sessions—but it also comes with a few bonuses. Here are some of the most noteworthy perks you can expect.
1. Doing Yoga Outdoors Introduces the Healing Powers of Nature
The unfortunate truth is that many of us don’t spend enough time outdoors, which can take a toll on our well-being in a myriad of ways. If you’re committed to moving your body on a consistent basis (whether through yoga or any other fitness modality), doing so under open skies will inevitably double down on health benefits.
“Fresh air, sunshine, natural light, and sounds of nature help us really feel connected to nature in such an amazing way,” shares Peloton instructor Kristin McGee. “We are more in touch with how we are all one, and [practicing yoga outside is] a beautiful way to soak in the outdoors.”
Moreover, a review in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health shows that “earthing”—or having direct physical contact with electrons on the Earth’s surfaces—may be a simple yet profoundly effective strategy to combat issues including but not limited to:
Poor quality sleep
For that reason, practicing yoga outdoors and making direct contact with the earth—say, with your hands and feet in downward dog, or on your back in corpse pose—has the power to amplify the benefits of your standard yoga practice well after your session ends.
2. Outside Yoga Invites Unique Opportunities to Advance Your Practice
Practicing yoga on natural terrain can enhance your practice in unexpected ways. “I love practicing at the beach, but sand is not always the ideal surface. I feel the same way about an uneven lawn or grass,” Kristin says. But this is far from a bad thing.
First, Kristin notes that it may even be easier to not have a yoga mat to worry about. This can allow you to make direct contact with the ground beneath you to feel fully rooted in nature. And while an uneven (or unfamiliar) surface presents a special challenge to overcome, it can remind you to be even more grounded and tuned into your body.
Second, practicing yoga outdoors will inevitably introduce new factors into your flow. Think: the presence of passersby, sounds from the environment, the glare of sunlight, and being surrounded by animals ranging from ants crawling nearby to birds soaring in the clear skies above. You won’t be able to control these potential distractions in your surroundings, but they each create the perfect opportunity to put the non-physical aspects of yoga—such as patience, staying present, and observing but not judging external stimuli—into practice.
3. An Outdoor Yoga Practice Can Help Alleviate Anxiety
As we nodded to earlier, feeling connected to nature is positively associated with health and well-being—as is, of course, staying physically active. Paired together, these make for a potent, all-natural antidote to stress and anxiety.
In fact, a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that participants who engaged in physical activity outdoors reported “significantly lower somatic anxiety levels” (i.e., bodily manifestations of anxiety) compared to those who worked out indoors. Moreover, yoga was noted as a fitness regimen most likely to support low somatic anxiety. This finding complements existing research on yoga’s efficacy to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
“Being outdoors also reminds us to be grateful. So much of [a yoga] practice is cultivating an attitude of gratitude and being present in the moment and with our breath,” says Kristin.
Simply put, practicing yoga outdoors can be a serious game-changer for those in need of a mental health boost. It’s truly one of the simplest and healthiest ways to ease your mind and body, feel your best, and reconnect with Mother Nature and your own self.
Everything You Need for Your Outdoor Yoga Practice
By now, we hope you’re ready to reap the benefits of practicing yoga outdoors. Here are a few things you’ll want to have in tow to set your new and improved practice up for success.
1. Yoga Mat and/or Towel
Depending on where you practice, you may (or may not) want to have a separate, outdoors-only yoga mat (and yoga props) in tow. If you want to practice earthing, you may not even need a yoga mat at all, and perhaps a towel alone can suffice. Yet some surface areas may require a thicker mat than usual.
“If it's cement or a boardwalk, you'll definitely need a mat and maybe even a little extra padding,” Kristin says. “You can experiment with what your mat works best on, or find the most level area where you are outdoors.”
2. Sun-Safe Gear
If you plan on practicing yoga during the daytime, sunscreen is non-negotiable. Work up a sweat while you flow? Prioritize sweatproof sunscreen, and make sure to apply it 15 to 20 minutes before venturing out.
“The elements are also something to consider if the sun is in your eyes,” Kristin adds, so don’t forget to pack your sunglasses to protect your eyes and minimize discomfort from UV exposure. (Speaking of the elements, she also notes that spending more time outdoors can make your allergies act up. If applicable, don’t forget to take your allergy meds—and perhaps a pack of tissues—so you can finish your flow sans sneezing and sniffling.)
3. The Peloton App
In most cases, having your phone nearby is a no-go while practicing yoga—that is, unless you're following a guided yoga class. The Peloton App makes it easy to practice yoga outdoors no matter how advanced your practice is, how crunched for time you are, or what style of yoga you’re in the mood for on a given day.
“I love using the app outdoors. It reminds us to listen more than watch,” Kristin says. Instructors will provide all the cues you need, so you can simply listen instead of feeling the need to watch or mimic the instructor. “It's your own practice, so you can listen to your body, breath, my cues—and also soak in the elements,” Kristin adds. Just don’t forget to set your phone to Do Not Disturb mode so you can enjoy your outdoor yoga class to the fullest.