Whether on grass, sand, or water, yoga outdoors is one of the best ways to practice and enjoy the discipline. And particularly in San Diego, where the weather permits year-round outside activity.
Just ask the yogis and their pupils.
“I have been teaching a donation-based yoga class on Sunset Cliffs on Saturdays since 2009,” said Jennifer Diamond of Jenergy Yoga, who holds classes there on weekday evenings as well as Saturday mornings. “Originally I started it as a way for my friends to be able to come to a class. Then the movement caught on and many others also began holding classes up here.”
Heather Gjerde teaches outdoors on a paved surface facing Mission Bay on Fridays and Saturdays at 10-11 a.m. at Paradise Point Resort & Spa (free to guests or $15 drop ins). She also teaches “Powerful Yoga Lunch Hour” on the grass at the end of Saratoga Avenue in Ocean Beach on Tuesdays noon-1 p.m. Her schedule also includes donation-based “all-levels flow yoga” there as well on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-5 p.m.
Of her OB space, Gjerde noted, “They just leveled the sand dunes, which gives us a wonderful view of the ocean while we flow. There is plenty of space to socially distance and practice safely.”
Gjerde 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.”
Lack of public restroom facilities at Sunset Cliffs is one of the biggest challenges of holding yoga classes there, according to Diamond. “Additionally, there are now so many people doing it that a few of us keep it organized on groups on Facebook so that we don’t have time and space conflicts.
“We all try to be a community and support each other in teaching these special classes. We also support our students, our community, in having classes they can attend outside in nature with this glorious ocean view,” Diamond added.
“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.
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 yogis all teach the discipline a bit differently outdoors.
“Outside you have limited time frames,” explained Gjerde. “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,” said Gjerde, noting 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.”
Instructor Nicole Turner teaches SUP yoga for hotel guests and locals every Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-noon at Paradise Point, with more classes to be added in spring and summer.
“With major physical, mental, and emotional benefits, SUP yoga can enhance any other exercise or sport you play or take your land yoga practice to the next level,” said Turner. “SUP Yoga is also a great activity for a group of people and can be a true bonding experience.”
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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