Have you ever taken your yoga practice outside? Yoga in nature is a fun way to reinvigorate and revitalize your routine. While yoga classes at studios and health clubs are popular, many family-friendly yoga classes are popping up in a variety of outdoor venues such as parks, beaches, community centers, and farms. One online community organizing service, Meetup, has an Outdoor Yoga worldwide search feature, making it easy for you to find yoga classes in nature in any country. 

While practicing yoga inside offers climate control, security and privacy, there are plenty of reasons to take your mat outdoors occasionally. Consider that experts in psychology claim that humans are happiest when we have eight elements in our daily lives, many of which come from our connection to the natural world 

The first three elements, exercise, fresh air and sunshine, are part of any outdoor yoga class, unless of course, it rains. Speaking of rain, water is fourth on the list of eight elements we need for optimum happiness and health. Be sure to have an extra water bottle with you during your outdoor yoga experience. The fifth element is proper nutrition consisting of a diet rich in plant-based foods.

What other elements do humans need to be happy in addition to exercise, fresh air, sunshine, and water? No surprise here, the sixth element is a key component of yoga: temperance, or balance. We all know that practicing yoga leads to an increased sense of tranquility and increased physical balance, but practicing yoga outdoors, especially when the weather is right, is sure to provide a connection to the external world and the natural environment needed to promote balance. The sensory experience of being outdoors can heighten our mindfulness practice, or our brain’s ability to let thoughts pass and instead focus on the stimuli of our environment. Some examples of natural environment stimuli are weather patterns such as a warm summer breeze or a bright sunlight, sights such as a scenic vista or a tranquil lake, sounds, such as birds chirping or waves crashing, and smells, such as the fragrance of wildflowers or the salty scent of the ocean. In our ever-increasing technologically reliant world, taking some time away from indoor environments and technology present the opportunity for a restorative yoga practice. A yoga class outside has the potential to offer a heightened sense of understanding of our place in nature as peaceful, calm and happy yogis. In addition to traditional seated outdoor meditations, many outdoor yoga classes offer walking meditations. Try a walking meditation on your own with this tutorial and video

Exercise, fresh air, sunshine, water, nutrition, and temperance are important, but of course, the seventh element, getting enough sleep is another crucial component of maintaining homeostasis. Although most yoga classes do not offer naps, the effects of deep relaxation techniques, such as yoga nidra, can help promote not only stress reduction, but also improved relaxation and decreased anxiety leading to better sleep at night.

The last and probably one of the most vital aspects of our happiness according to science, is our sense of purpose, our trust and connections to both family and friends, as well as our belief in ourselves and even a higher power. By practicing yoga in nature, we can renew our own sense of purpose. We can make yoga a community effort by inviting friends and family to practice with us. Strangers and onlookers to outdoor yoga events are often intrigued and want to learn more, leading to community interest and increased acceptance of yoga as a path to well-being. 

So, are you interested in taking your mat outside? Yoga is fantastic anywhere, but practicing yoga outdoors is a unique way to connect with all the elements of our humanity that keep us healthy and make us happy.

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