OK. I get it. You hate bugs! It’s hard to balance on an uneven surface. And it’s not completely quiet when you try to meditate. The sun gets in your eyes and the temperature isn’t perfect. Why on earth would you want to venture outside and leave behind a climate-controlled yoga studio?
My answer is: all of the above. And here’s why.
Never before have people lived and worked in such controlled environments as we do today. Many of you may work and play in spaces without windows or, if you are fortunate to have a window, it likely doesn’t open. The surfaces you come in contact with every day have been sterilized with antibacterial cleansing agents. The air you breathe has been recirculated, filtered and temperature-controlled. You are bombarded with constant background noise. There is an absence of greenery, unless it’s a paint colour. Your time in these places is often spent sitting and staring at a computer which, ironically, probably has a forest or a beautiful park as a screensaver. We have chosen to lock nature out and now we’re paying the price with our mental and physical health.
It’s time to get outside and embrace nature!
Take your yoga mat (or not) and lay on the grass under the trees by the river. Ahhh! A breath of fresh air; the grass tickling your toes; the leaves quivering in the wind; the birds singing and the river gently flowing by. This simple act has already begun to heal you. Notice how unlike the surfaces you’re used to, even at your yoga studio, the ground is soft, uneven and filled with life. Instead of listening to the hum of machines, you’re hearing birds, squirrels, chipmunks, beavers and a plethora of insects all stimulating your brain in a healthy and calming way. Your mind and body feel as if they have returned home. Thanks to all the trees, the air you’re breathing helps to cleanse your lungs and boost your immune system. As you lay by the water, the cortisol levels in your body are dropping and your stress levels are diminishing. Your yoga practice has just been taken to a new level. Every move you make, every breath you take, you are healing.
When I look back, my fondest memories of practicing yoga are always outside. I’ve had a chipmunk come and nibble on my bum; a blue heron glide through the air above me; a humming bird hover in front of my nose. Every time something like that happens, I feel honoured that these amazing little creatures filled with curiosity have chosen to mingle with me. Come and mingle with nature. Open your arms and your heart to all the special gifts it offers. Yoga is always best outside!
Top 3 Spots Worth the Grass Stains
Want to give outdoor yoga a try? Follow Gail’s advice and head to one of these four spots in Ontario’s Highlands.
1) Holness Yoga, Haliburton
Nestled in the forested Haliburton Highlands on the shores of Burnt River, the rippling sounds of water will act as the calming backdrop for your outdoor yoga session with Gail Holness. Catering to just four guests at a time, you’ll find a quiet, intimate experience here, free of distractions and perfect for your mindful practice. If you’re arriving by yourself, Gail says it won’t take long before you feel welcome and like you are among friends – in this cozy environment, how can you not? We especially love that this serene escape comes with the option of staying overnight; the facility offers accommodation, healthy meals, massages and plenty of private nooks and crannies for some quiet reflection: all the things that make it a true hidden gem.
2) Chetolah Pottery, Dorset
A timber frame pavilion sits behind the restored barn that serves as residence, pottery studio, gallery and café. It’s called The Open Space, and in that covered spot among the rocks, the sturdy landscape inspires you as Caitlin Hutt leads your yoga session amid rustling trees and the restorative scent of earth. Caitlin designs her classes for different capabilities, so you’ll come away as refreshed by the exercise as by the feeling of fresh, sun-lit air.
3) Grail Springs, Bancroft
Reconnect with the healing power of nature during a morning yoga session near the spring-fed Chalice Lake when you stay at this holistic retreat. Take in the smell of pine-scented breezes, the sounds of rippling water, and bird choruses. With a focus on wellness, meals are crafted to be healing and the staff’s purpose is to give you the best of care; bring a few friends with you, and your renewal is complete.
You won’t miss a moment of enjoyment wherever you choose your outdoor session. When the beautiful scenery releases endorphins, and the stress hormone cortisol is reduced, you’ll return to your regular routine feeling more alive than ever.
Storyteller: Gail Holness. Hometown: Haliburton, ON
Gail is the co-owner of Holness Yoga in Haliburton and loves being surrounded by everything nature. If you don’t find her in her garden she’ll likely be out for a hike or kayaking a new stretch of river with her friends. She loves eating and cooking, believes that food is our medicine and she looks forward to shopping at her neighborhood organic farm every summer. When she’s not covered in dirt from the garden she’ll be covered in paint with a tape measure in hand as she can’t resist the urge to repurpose, recreate or create something new.