Updated: May 27, 2022
The springtime is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s a feast for the senses. Temperatures are milder, bare branches burst with richly textured leaves, and a variety of new, vivid colors dot the landscape.
With the sun rising earlier each day, it’s also the perfect time to take your yoga or mindfulness practice outside. Just being in nature can be a grounding, stabilizing experience that can help reduce stress and instill a sense of peace. In fact, a 2019 literature review of 25 scientific studies revealed that nature-based mindfulness practices had positive effects on mental, physical, and social health.¹
These are a few of my favorite yoga and mindfulness practices to take outside that can help you feel calmer, more grounded, and centered.
Sun Salutations Facing East
Gather more energy and stamina for the day by stepping outside for your morning sun salutations. Facing East, generate some heat by practicing as many rounds of a full Surya Namaskar sequence as you like. Or, calmly face the rising sun in a standing or seated position. Bring hands to heart center. Set your intention for the day and send thanks to the sun, the source of all life.
Walking Meditation Try this with or without shoes. Carve out a walking path in your backyard or meander along a nature trail. Pick a foot to start with. Mindfully notice your foot slowly lifting, moving, then placing. Proceed to the next foot. Lifting, moving, placing. You can say these words to yourself as you go. As your weight shifts, notice the muscles at work and the sensations in your legs and feet as you move across the earth. You may feel wobbly bringing this much focus to a process that’s often unconscious. Your mind may wander too. Bring your attention back. It may wander again. Bring your attention back without judgement. Notice any effects the walking meditation has on you.
Sensory Awareness Take a comfortable seated or reclining position on a chair or blanket. As you tune into your senses, do so with curiosity, openness, and acceptance without feeling pressured to change anything about your current experience.
Sight. Slowly scan your surroundings with your eyes. Take a few moments to notice visual contrast, colors, shapes, movement of plants and trees in the breeze.
Sound. You can now close your eyes or keep them open if you prefer. What do you hear? Notice sounds in the distance versus sounds up close. Birds, rustling of leaves, trickling of water?
Touch. Now become aware of the texture of the ground below you, the feeling of the wind on your skin, the temperature and humidity of the air, the weight of your clothing.
Smell. Next bring the same focused attention to your sense of smell by gently sniffing the air.
Taste. And finally, become aware of any tastes in your mouth.
Savor this experience as you connect with the natural world around you.
Dig Your Toes In
One of the last things you might think of when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation is to take off your shoes and dig your toes into the earth. But this could be just the thing you need to disengage from daily stressors and to embrace the present moment. Sand, soil, or grass—each of these surfaces will exhibit different textures and temperatures and may remind you of more carefree days. So, take the shoes and socks off and play.
Hug a Tree
If you can, find a tree you can wrap your arms around large enough that your hands don’t touch on the other side. Trees this wide can be hard to find these days! Hug the tree like nobody’s watching. And that’s the thing, you might feel silly at first thinking someone will judge you for hugging an inanimate object. If you can get past that for a moment or take a buddy to join you (safety in numbers!), hugging a tree can be a soothing, rewarding experience. A towering tree has weathered many storms, provides protection and shade, the Oxygen we need to breathe, and is very much ALIVE. Try it and see what happens.
About the Author: Rebekah Conrad is a trauma-informed, certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT) based in Fredericksburg, VA. Contact Rebekah for more information on how to incorporate nature-based yoga into a yoga therapy practice tailored to your unique physical, mental, and emotional needs.
1. Djernis D, Lerstrup I, Poulsen D, Stigsdotter U, Dahlgaard J, O’Toole M. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature-Based Mindfulness: Effects of Moving Mindfulness Training into an Outdoor Natural Setting. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019; 16(17):3202. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173202