And so I packed my family up for an outing at the beach and a family yoga session. Despite the threats of rain all day, the skies cleared up and we were left with sunny blue skies and breezy wind blowing at our faces. Bliss!
As a group, we practiced a short 45-minute Vinyasa yoga flow. Yoga at the beach is rare in Malaysia, so naturally, we acquired curious onlookers. But it didn’t deter our practice. Interestingly, practicing outdoors made us feel more connected to our body and mind. Inhaling salty air, with sand on our feet and hands connected us to the earth. The sound of the waves in our ears and the rays of the sun over our eyes made us more present than a confined space with four walls can. Never have we felt more alive than we did during that practice.
If you’re considering practicing yoga outdoors, here are some tips to make your experience a memorable one!
Pick the Right Spot
Estimate the size of your class and then find an undisturbed area that will give you ample space. Also consider the ground that you are working with. Beaches are often uneven and at an incline. While it won’t be possible to find a smooth surface, look for an area that is most leveled. Avoid crowded and noisy spaces, which will potentially distract you from your practice. If you are practicing alone, always keep safety in mind and find an area that is easily accessible and not secluded. Keep your belongings within your line of sight and your phone within reach.
Protect Your Skin
While it is true that your body can benefit from the Vitamin D that comes from the sun, you only need 600IU per day, which can be fulfilled within 5 to 30 minutes outdoors. As a yoga session may take up to an hour each time, do protect your skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation by wearing high quality sunscreen.
When buying sunscreen, choose one that is labeled as “broad spectrum” as it protects the skin against both UVA and UVB rays. Pick one with at least an SPF30 and remember to reapply frequently.
You can also protect your skin by choosing to practice yoga outdoors when the sunrays are less harsh – typically before 10 in the morning and after 4 in the evening.
When at the beach, remember to drink plenty of water! The heat from the sun and dryness of the air can cause dehydration. This, added to the yoga practice that you will be doing will cause your body to shed more water than if you stayed home. So before you head out, pack a few bottles of H2O with you. Your body is made up of 60% water. Keep your organs functioning properly and get the most out of your practice with adequate amounts of drinking water.
Realign Your Balance and Grip
Beaches are sandy, which makes for compromised grip and balance. But removing grip also strengthens your practice, as you now have to depend on the strength of your muscles as well as your core. It helps you identify weak spots in your practice and helps your body learn how to correct them. For example, if you distribute too much weight on your hands during Downward Dog, practicing this yoga pose on a sandy mat will have you uncomfortably sliding forward. To correct this, try engaging your lower abdominal muscles and work on your core. Press your heels down to shift the weight back – evenly distributing them.
Your body will take time to get used to this new surface, so do practice a few asanas as a form of warm up before beginning your actual class. During session, approach each pose with caution, slowly working into them instead of jumping right in. This gives your body time to acquaint itself to the poses and to find balance.
Stay Longer In Meditation
As I came into a headstand, I found that my surroundings brought my mind to peace. I was no longer thinking about the headstand, or the soreness of my arms. Instead, I focused on just breathing and being. Ironically, I found meditation while doing an asana that has challenged me the most in years of practice. It was the first time that I was sure that I could stay here in this pose for a long time without feeling my energy drained.
While you can always find meditation in asana, you can also meditate effectively while sitting down. In fact, the great outdoors is the perfect place to stay in meditation longer. The sounds of the waves crashing in, and birds chirping make for great meditation music that is certain to calm your nerves and your mind. What better way to be in the here and the now than to surrender your senses to nature around you? To be one with the outdoors is the best way to connect to the present moment, so take your time.
Involve the Family
My two-year-old knows when mama goes out to teach a yoga class, but he has never seen it for himself. Taking him to the beach with me allowed him to see what mama does, as well as encouraged him to follow suit. The outdoors is a great way to include the family into your yoga practice. If you have children, practicing outdoors can make them more excited about yoga and would be more interested to join in. Yoga outdoors makes for great family time too, as we leave the distractions of our modern day technology behind and simply just engage in play.
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