As any regular around here knows, I am a member at a local yoga studio. Obviously, the studio itself has been closed for a few months now, but they have tried to continue to make their classes accessible via Zoom. I personally don’t do yoga classes online because I just can’t get in that zen headspace in my living room, and I’ve missed yoga a lot. While I was happy to do away with many parts of my schedule (like commuting to work and wearing real pants), yoga is one piece that I wish I could’ve kept. I went from doing yoga 3-4 times a week to not doing it at all. As someone who hates intense exercising after (or before) a long day and who suffers from anxiety, yoga was really great for me.
Last week, as restrictions have begun to get a bit more lax, our yoga studio had yoga in the park, and I was all too happy to see the Monday night yoga crew again. Finally, I could actually practice yoga again and not in my house! Also, I could see people again in a structured environment. As I’m not used to seeing people any more, I become easily overwhelmed in crowds. I was excited for yoga because I would be able to still see and interact with people, but with a structure that would keep everything from being overwhelming.
Sure, outside isn’t my favorite place to be, but if that’s where I have to be to attend a yoga class, then so be it. Overall, I definitely think it was a success, and I was grateful to be able to get back to practicing yoga again. However, doing yoga in a public park had some challenges — some that I expected, and some that I didn’t! Here’s my experience doing yoga in a public park.
Before my friend Rachel and I signed up to attend yoga in the park, she warned me that the park we were going to would be covered in goose poop. And boy, she wasn’t lying. When I walked over in my cheap flip-flops carrying my cheap mat and water bottle with my mask hanging around my neck, it took me several minutes to find a spot close(ish) to Rachel’s mat that was not littered in poop. And to be honest, I’m not sure that I succeeded. Before I took off my flip-flops, I checked the bottom and made a mental note to clean off my shoes before going back into my house.
I sat down on my mat and immediately felt the rough terrain under my flimsy mat. While I would’ve felt the uneven ground through any yoga mat, I did miss using my nice, quality yoga mat. But there was no way I was risking getting dirt, goose poop, and bug guts all over my baby. I mean, my mat. Not my baby, my mat.
Throughout my practice, the ground continued to pose an interesting challenge. I hadn’t done yoga in months, and I was worried that my downward-facing dog wouldn’t be as strong, my form wouldn’t be as good, and I would no longer be strong enough to do a full chaturanga dandasana. Luckily, I could still chaturanga, and my form during down dog was still pretty good. But with the uneven ground, I kept dumping weight into my wrists to keep myself up.
The atmosphere was also really interesting. I don’t remember ever doing yoga in such a public place. My friend Stephanie and I did yoga at a farm a while back, but there were not nearly as many possible distractions at the farm. Also, the sounds at the farm were much more cow and goat noises rather than splashing water and cursing teenagers.
There was something so peaceful about watching the lake and hearing the wind rustle the trees while doing yoga. It’s hard to feel the discomfort of holding a long down dog when you’re caught up in the beauty of a lake! Plus, outside in nature, there’s no wall clock and no mirror to distract me from being in the moment. Instead of watching the clock and obsessing about the time or watching the mirror critiquing my body, I was able to focus on my movements and form. I was even able to do tree pose around actual trees. There was something really inspiring about that.
While there was no clock or mirror, the distractions that we did have were interesting. We were in a public park, so there were several people that came through during our practice. From cursing teenagers, to a mother and her toddler, to a group of joggers who, for some reason, said “oh look, it’s people doing yoga!” out loud. Between the people, the cars driving by, and the buzzing bugs, at least yoga in the park wasn’t boring!
At the end of class, I felt uncomfortable laying down for shavasana because of all of the bugs buzzing by and crawling on my mat, which I wasn’t super thrilled about, but it was a small price to pay for this almost spiritual experience. Even considering the cons of yoga in the park, I would still gladly go back and do it again. Hell, I would gladly do it weekly. Especially for someone like me who finds water to be calming and peaceful, I enjoyed practicing yoga near a lake. There’s just nothing like doing yoga and connecting with nature.
So, to recap:
- Yoga outside means no wall clock or mirror like in a studio, which enables you to really be in the moment and not overthink.
- You get to see people! And even better, it’s not like a gathering where you have to interact aimlessly and get overwhelmed. You get to see people and interact a bit, but you’re not forced to interact with them for long periods of time!
- Yoga in and of itself is a beautiful and spiritual experience — doing yoga in nature amplifies this and creates an entirely different yoga experience.
- You know that yoga mat that you spent a buttload on and you named and you treasure it like it’s your first child? Yeah, leave that at home in the shrine that you built for it, you don’t want to use that outside.
- Bugs. Bugs galore. If you’re not a fan of bugs, park yoga may be a challenge. It can be difficult to fully relax and want to lay on the ground with bugs whizzing around you.
- Uneven ground. If you’re used to doing yoga in a studio, it may be difficult to get accustomed to doing yoga on a bumpy surface. Be careful not to compensate for the ground and sacrifice your form.
- Bug spray or sunscreen depending on what time of day you’re practicing and your comfort level in the sun/with bugs.
- Extra water/sports drink in case it is extremely hot outside.
- Bring a mask with you — even if you don’t need it while practicing, you’ll want to have it in case you want to chat with people (at a distance!) after.
- Bring a cheap, flimsy mat with you and wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. It’s not ideal, but let’s be honest, you don’t want your expensive mat being rubbed in the dirt and poop.
- When you get home, disinfect your shoes and mat before going in your house to make sure that you don’t track anything inside.
- Ideally, have a buddy at home to check you for ticks and other bugs!
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/