Whether on grass, sand, water, or a hard surface, yoga outdoors is one of the best ways to practice and enjoy the discipline. Especially now in the midst of the pandemic. And particularly in San Diego, where the weather permits year-round outside activity.
Just ask the yogis and their pupils.
“I just love outdoors and nature,” said longtime yoga and meditation instructor Corie Bordieri-Seibert, who teaches weekdays at Kate Sessions Park. “I much prefer to be outside than inside.”
“You’re in a less perhaps intimidating space because you can leave and you can come, whereas when you’re in a studio with a closed door, you’re stuck there,” noted Susan Harris, who teaches weekly meet-up morning yoga classes at Mission Beach.
Heather Gjerde, who teaches outdoors on a paved surface Fridays and Saturdays at Paradise Point Resort & Spa, pointed out there are advantages – and disadvantages – to practicing yoga outside rather than indoors.
“Obviously, some things are a little harder outside,” she said. “Outside I prefer not to do a lot of things on knees. The beauty of a studio is sensory deprivation. But for people now looking for yoga, outdoors has given them their chance.”
Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines that originated in ancient India as far back as 3,000 years BCE. Outside India, it has developed into a posture-based physical fitness, stress-relief, and relaxation technique.
Yoga has eight “limbs,” or facets. They are union, integration; external disciplines; internal disciplines; posture; breath control; withdrawal of senses; concentration; and meditative absorption.
Why do yoga outside?
“For me, nature helps me meditate,” answered Angel Franquez, a surf instructor and a student of Gjerde’s. “Yoga, naturally, helps me ground more, open up more. It helps me relax as I’m trying to do certain poses because they’re a little more challenging.”
The three yogis all teach the discipline a bit differently outdoors.
“Outside you have limited time frames,” explained Gjerde. “You can’t teach after 5:30 p.m. this time of year. No one wants to do dark yoga outside when it’s cold. Outdoors we want to spread out to socially distance and simplify. I like to vary the routine, focus on strength one time, balance the next, breathing or stretching other times.”
“When you’re outside you’re working with the elements,” pointed out Harris. “You’re learning how to partner with the elements and silence your mind from the distractions (sounds, passersby, etc.). It’s a little more inviting to go inward and just be in your own space.”
“I like to be more heart- and mind-centered with yoga,” said Bordieri-Seibert, noting participants have to wear hats and sunscreen protection outdoors. “At first I was a boot-camp teacher. But my classes have mellowed. Yoga should be accessible to everyone. There is no room in my classes for egos. This is not a competition. This is a gift of health and well-being to yourself.”
There are newer and more innovative ways to do yoga outdoors these days, like on a stand-up paddleboard.
“The SUPs are extra big and wider than a surfboard and have anchors in the sand so they aren’t moving,” noted Gjerde, adding SUP yoga is offered at Paradise Point and in Mission Bay. “You have to adapt your (teaching) style on a board. You typically practice closer to the board, on your hands and knees, and lower to the water.”
Bordieri-Seibert employs crystal quartz singing bowls in her yoga classes.
“I like to add little tidbits of the philosophy,” she said. “These bowls are the superhighway to meditation. Just listen and open your heart and mind, and you will get into a state of meditation. They’re a great tool. I do these after the workout when everyone is relaxing lying on their backs.”
Outdoor yoga, to teacher Harris, is not so much a trend as an alternative to more standard, indoors instruction.
“It’s just a different option to be in a different type of space,” she said, adding it’s helped broaden her teaching skills. “I have to practice using my voice (talking over the background ocean). It helps you become a different kind of teacher because right now you can’t be hands-on.”
The best part of outdoor yoga, according to Gjerde, is that it’s a way during the pandemic to promote and foster togetherness.
“What I love about yoga is it is bringing people together in community, which is something we’re all craving right now,” she said. “It gives you a dedicated time to show up and see some like-minded people who have similar values, and are coming together looking for that community.”
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