byA renowned yoga instructor—and avid outdoorsman—helps you turn the park into your own personal studio…
Tired of scouring Groupon for yoga classes you can actually afford? Try taking your practice outside. “Indoor yoga is a pretty recent phenomenon,” says Eoin Finn, an internationally renowned yoga instructor who spends up to 15 hours a day outdoors. “Yogis originally did yoga outside in beautiful places.”
Not only is limbering up in nature totally free (more money for super-cute yoga pants!), it’s incredibly revitalizing—and brings you a little closer to the original purpose of yoga: achieving unity. “A yoga studio is such a controlled environment,” says Finn. “But when you do yoga outside, you’re forced to interact with all these other forces—you’re honoring your interconnection with all life.”
Ready to stake out a spot in the park? Follow Finn’s advice for achieving bliss, no matter your surroundings:
Seek Some Shade
In theory, stretching out in a sunny area is invigorating. But in reality? You’ll probably be sweating—and totally miserable—by your second sun salutation. “Direct sunlight gets a little draining since yoga can already be a hot and vigorous practice,” says Finn. He suggests finding a spot with full or partial shade—or simply heading outside during the mildest parts of the day: before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
Look for a View
You’re in the park, yes, but what’s in your direct line of sight—buildings, a playground, roads? Not exactly an escape. To get the most out of your outdoor surroundings and really connect with them, orient your practice toward as natural a view as you can find, suggests Finn, even if your only option is cluster of trees or a manmade garden.
Ditch Your Mat
Take advantage of nature’s yoga mat: grass. “I call it ‘grassana,'” says Finn. “Grass feels great under your feet—it’s so grounding.” He’s referring to the recent “earthing” movement, which claims that electrical currents from the soil may help normalize your body’s circuitry. “A rubber mat is actually an insulator, not a conductor, of that current,” says Finn. Even if don’t buy the benefits of foot-to-earth contact, you can enjoy the laid-back vibe of a mat-free practice: “Grass is soft, forgiving, and playful,” says Finn. “It can bring a more free-spirited energy into your practice.”
Cue Up Your iPod
Outdoor yoga may sound peaceful—but the truth is, you’ll likely be listening to the clatter of traffic, kids playing, or people walking by. “If you’re in Yosemite, it’s a different story,” says Finn. “But if you’re in Central Park, having headphones really helps you find your own little private world. And it makes you less concerned with what people think of you.” His tunes of choice: down-tempo lounge music—but really, anything that helps you focus will work, he says.
Pack a Sweatshirt
No, not to wear—unless, of course, you want to practice Bikram outdoors. During savasana—the final resting phase of your session—Finn suggests placing the sleeve of a sweatshirt over your eyes to block out sunlight and help you relax. “Relaxation is tricky when there are people’s dogs around or you feel self-conscious about lying in the middle of a park,” he says. Covering your eyes is a surprisingly easy way to tune out the world.
Bring a Book
The first few minutes after any yoga class—especially indoor ones—can be a little jarring: You’ve been lying totally still in the darkness, only to be ushered into the fluorescent glow of the gym. So much for relaxation, right? But in the park, you can linger—and relish the relaxed state you’ve worked so hard to achieve, says Finn. “Fight that habit—that you’re done so you have to pack up and go,” he says. “Allow yourself to stay and read a book or have a smoothie.”