Hey friends, virtual studio manager, Kristin here, and I have a confession to share with you. I’m a studio junkie. I love the whole experience, the heat panels, rushing to change in the bathroom, and hanging by the cubbies with my friends catching up...I love it ALL! It’s the in person experience that used to get me to class ALL week long. Online classes have thrown my routine and my practice for a loop.
Just to keep you up to speed, in the midst of the pandemic, and in pursuit of my best life, I up and moved across the country to Portland, Maine. Crazy, right? Nothing in my life resembles what it used to. And I have to stop expecting things to go back to “normal”. We are all in the process of defining something so much bigger than normal. After a recent conversation with a friend, he reminded me I was feeling out of sorts exactly because I’m no longer doing what I used to. I’m leveling up. YOU ARE TOO. Taking your practice out of your comfort zone is part of the work. If practicing outside in the heat of the summer doesn’t seem like your thing, consider that this article is just for YOU.
The first time I did an outdoor yoga class in Maine, I ended up with this wacky thing called brown tail (oak trees + poisonous caterpillar + yoga mat = OUCH). This is why I practice inside ok?! After four months of teaching and practicing on Zoom, I’m learning to embrace nature and find solace in teaching yoga outside. As New Orleans and Free To Be adapt to the ever evolving COVID-19 mandates and take classes into the great outdoors, I’m here to share some insights on how practicing outside can give you an even deeper access to the 5 pillars of your practice.
“Set your gaze.” How many times do we hear that during a yoga class? I know I definitely had a section of the wall at the uptown studio memorized. That’s how much I looked at it. When I first started practicing yoga, I was laser focused, I used my gaze as a way to glaze over or tune out. Eventually that evolved as using a focused gaze to distract myself from the practitioners around me and to focus on what was going on internally. As I transition to practicing outside, I feel like the 2nd grader version of me the very first time she saw the world through her glasses: like I’m actually seeing leaves on trees for the very first time! When I practice outside I’m really looking. I still use my drishti to focus- but I’m taking it all in.Trees. Sky. Dirt. This intentional seeing holds me accountable and keeps me present in the practice. It took getting outside for me to truly experience this pillar.
With new mandates requiring masks to be worn at all times inside, we invite you to breathe easy outside. And by “easy” we mean controlled breaths in and out of the nose! This style of breathing not only powers up your practice, it can even your heart rate and calm anxiety. With the guaranteed 6 feet of space in an outdoor class paired with outdoor breeze and air circulation, you are also safe to breathe deep!
With your drishti set and your ujjayi engaged, you can build tapas (aka heat). The etymology nerd in me totally geeked out when I recently learned the root of this word comes from the sanskrit “tap” which means to burn. If you practice at Free To Be, I have a hunch that Tapas is a regular part of your practice and one of the things that keeps you coming back! In fact, since moving to Maine, tapas is the thing I miss the most - it takes a really hot day or turning my heater way up to get anywhere near an in-studio sweat. I know, I know, I live in Maine and you’re in the midst of a heat advisory - not FAIR! However, you have the opportunity to meet the fiery discipline of your practice outside. We’ve selected specific locations for each time of day to ensure you can continue to build tapas safely. Make sure to hydrate before class and enjoy the purifying sweat, it is an intentional part of the practice after all!
Bandhas are the foundational locks of your practice. Anytime your teacher talks about hugging the pit of the belly in and up, grounding through your hands and feet or engaging the pelvic floor, they are speaking to the bandhas. By engaging your hands, feet and core you are intentionally creating the physical foundation of each pose. One of the things I love most about practicing outside is that the ground, the earth we stand on, is imperfect. The grass, rocks and bumps are part of the experience. When you “ground down like earth” outside, you have an opportunity to connect deeper and to use the four corners of your feet to create balance, even if your foundation is a little rocky.
When’s the last time you did a sun salutation as the sun was rising? When you practice outside, not only do all five pillars of your practice have a chance to flow together, you have the opportunity to move in harmony with the rhythms of nature. Feel the breeze on your face, listen to the birds chirping, feel the sweat trickle down your neck, and swat that mosquito off your back! All of this is part of the flow you are creating. And if you can create flow and ease in your practice OUTSIDE in NEW ORLEANS in JULY, I know you are up to some big things and creating ease in other areas of your life!
If you’re a studio junkie like me and you’re struggling to redefine your new “normal”, maybe practicing outside will be just the thing to break you out of your rut. And don’t worry, all of this is only temporary! (When’s the last time you heard Janae say that in a class while you held warrior two for what felt like forever?!) We promise, we’ll have you back in the studio as soon as we can safely do so! Don’t forget your water bottle and your bug spray and we will see you on the mat outside in Laurence Square, Pontiff Park, The OM parking lot and the Downtown garage. Click here for a full list of our outside offerings!
Sending my love (and hopefully a cool breeze) all the way from Maine,