Practising Alfresco Yoga in 7 Simple Steps

Want to feel the breeze on your skin as you flow through your vinyasa?

Feeling like the studio/your living room is just too hot for yoga? (This happens in the UK, sometimes?)

Want to be outside but not wanting to sacrifice your practice?

Take yourself, your yoga leggings and your yoga mat outside. You don’t even have to have a garden – find a park, anywhere you can fit your mat really [Londoners, I don’t suggest too close to a road – not only will point (2) be particularly difficult, but the air quality will be awful – inhaling exhaust fumes isn’t what we’re trying to achieve.]

Below are 7 tips for getting the most out of your alfresco experience ……

(1). You are going to get dirty. Accept it..

Select your attire appropriately, have you mind open, and your mat-cleaner ready for your return. Your mat will roll over a bird poo. Your mat will suddenly magnetise all little stones beneath you too. Your leggings will suddenly attract everything and you’ll go home with enough grass clinging to you to make a birds nest. And as much as you think your hands are only going to touch the mat, somehow, when you wash your hands afterwards, it looks as though you’ve been trying your handstands in a bog [which you probably haven’t]. Think yoga-ing on the patio/concrete area outside your house/flat/office will make a difference? Then look at the bottom of your feet. Get dirty. It’s fun.

(2) Accept that people will look at you.

You’re making funny shapes in a park that regular, non-yogi folk come to too. The difference being that they come to the park to exhaust their children/get some air/have a run/drink cider with their under-age friends. Yoga isn’t yet considered ‘normal’, sadly. In some countries, I dare say it is, but here, it still feels a little somewhat…inaccessible? Don’t be deterred! Just because people may not instantly link your shapes to  ‘oh yes, that’s a warrior 2, (s)he’s practising yoga’. That’s ok. More realistically they could be thinking ‘what they hell are they doing?’, ‘why is she sticking her bum in the air?’ ‘I wonder where she got those leggings from’ (ok, ok, ignore the last one) Just be prepared. Ignore nosey people. Forget them. Focus on the breath, and get the hell on with your lovely, wholesome, alfresco yoga practice. Give it 3 years; everyone will be doing it.

(3). Be prepared to share your air-space. With bugs.

Little ones, big ones, annoying flying leggy ones, hovering ones, and not forgetting, the really loud buzzing ones. Bugs live outdoors. Technically, it’s their patch. You’re on it. You’re breathing their air, in their space, and if it’s an evening impromptu yoga-in-the-park you’re going for, well, sunset is a prime time for the tiny little flies to buzz around you. They love a sunset too. You’re way more interesting than their usual dog poo (and let’s be real here – you’re excreting urea in the form of sweat – so they are going to love you….). I’m not saying be put off by insects… [As an arachnophobia-sufferer myself, I hear you], I’m just saying take a deep breath, realise it’s not as bad as your imagination, and just be prepared to accept a flapping-of-the-arms in your Tree if you’re targeted by a sudden in-flight arachnid.

IMG_7938It was huge and it came for me?

(4). Be prepared for the elements – SPF, socks, jumper.

If, like me, you like to practice towards the end of the day in the local park, or even your garden, know that we’re in England and the weather will change. Starting your sun salutations in the gorgeous evening rays means your skin needs protecting from harmful UVA and AVB rays so wear your SPF. Ending your lovely alfresco sequence means the sun may have hidden behind the clouds (or in London, a huge building) so by the time savasana comes round, you might wish you’d brought a long-sleeved t-shirt and/or socks to take your savasana in. Bring one along so you can enjoy the whole lot without sacrificing the most satisfying bit 🙂

(Londoners, if you’re in a public park, just make sure your valuables are underneath you so that you can fully enjoy this bit – safety first).

(5) On grass? Take advantage of the soft earth you’re standing on and invert yourself! 

If you’re new to inversions or still learning and using a wall for confidence, that’s ok. There are no rules. But outside, you’re much less likely to have that sturdy wall to help you push up into Headstand/Handstand/Forearm Balance. But why let that stop you? The ground is more likely to absorb any impact, so although I’m not saying you won’t get injured [I’m not – be careful!] I’m saying you might get your confidence up whilst using the softer ground as your cushion. Don’t fling your entire body over your shoulders; remember the instructions from your teacher/friend/article, and walk to body inwards so that the body stacks on top of the shoulders, and use the legs as levers ~ remembering that just doing the prep is working the right muscles. But if you’re feeling adventurous, go for it! Just like when you were in kid – realise your inner child and give those inversions a go. For this, you’ll obviously need to have nailed number (2) 🙂

Oh, also, one-leg balances such as Tree, Warrior 3 and Eagle – your base-leg muscles will never be so challenged…Go for it – push through, nail that wobbly one-legger, you can do it!

(6) Drishti? Remember, the sky moves.

We know that the earth itself spins. We know that the earth also moves around the sun, still spinning. We went to primary school didn’t we? So, the sky moves. Of course it does. If there are clouds in it, they will move to. Remember this if you usually use the studio ceiling as your gaze point, especially in balances. As you take your strong Parivrtta Parsvokonasana/Tree/Eagle, your gaze point may be the sky, and you may rely on that gaze point to balance. But the sky moves. Oh god, I’m going to fall over……………. Accept the challenge!

(7) Breathe & enjoy the views.

If you accept all of the above, you are ready to really appreciate and experience outdoor yoga. Just remember to enjoy the view.

Breathe it in. Appreciate a gorgeous sky. Maybe the sea. A lake. A mountain top. Hills. Fields. The possibilities are endless. It might just be your back garden, or the local park. Take it all in. Enjoy the smell of freshly-cut grass/flowers/BBQs (!) (avoid the air vents Londoners). You’re outside – in nature, in the elements. The view in handstand has never been so interesting! [And yes, I’ve tried to capture it… #instagramfail!]

Enjoy the air. Appreciate it’s freshness, newness. Inhale deeply. Feel energised as cool un-conditioned air enters the lungs, the body, the muscles. Exhale, empty the lungs, the tension… Appreciate it. Use it. Fuel your body. Calm your mind. Take big full-belly breaths – go against society and push that belly button out – your body will thank you.

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Enjoy the great outdoors, safe in the knowledge that you’ve overcome many boundaries just to be on your alfresco-mat today 🙂 Go forth and tantilize your senses.

You might just love it as much as I do….

#OutdoorYoga #AlfrescoYogi #YogaInTheSun

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PS. I adore teaching Alfresco yoga – so if you don’t feel comfortable enough in your practice to take things outside yet, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to arrange a 1-2-1, 1-2-2 or small-group Outdoor Yoga session. Nothing would please me more 🙂 See Kate Oates Yoga for more details.


If you’re interested in ad-hoc Yoga-In-The-Park(s) locally – N4, N8, N10 – please email me to receive class emails