In an ideal world, every yoga class would take place on a Costa Rican beach. The birds would sing, the waves would tumble into the shore and everyone – including you – would look great in white yoga pants.
Reality, of course, is seldom ideal. More often, a yoga class will not include a stunning view of a beach or a mountain shrouded in mist. Instead, you’ll find yourself squinting at a piece of dirt on a beige wall and hoping you don’t fall over and inhale the scent of the mothball and garlic salad the man standing next to you so obviously ate for lunch that day.
Practicing yoga in a studio can be great most of the time, local yoga instructor Lanah Hake says. But, for me, I’ve done yoga in so many beautiful places outdoors – on the beach, near the mountains. There is such a different element to doing yoga outdoors. It really connects you to the Earth. There is nothing like it.
Two years ago, Hake, who received her yoga certification through the national Yoga Alliance in 2011, began offering outdoor yoga once a week at a park two blocks from her house. This summer, her classes have expanded to include four classes a week in three picturesque locations around the city – Lakeside Park Rose Gardens, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and Salomon Farm Park.
I didn’t expect to continue offering this, Hake says. But people really respond well to it. It’s grown, and I’m growing with it.
Hake, who operates both Fort Wayne Outdoor Yoga and the consulting agency LanahLink Social Impact Solutions, says outdoor yoga provides the aesthetic benefits of fresh air and sunshine, but the unpredictability of the outdoors – the sounds, the weather – can also increase a person’s ability to maintain focus.
It is very different than a sterile environment, Hake says. You might have cute kids laughing, dogs barking or even sirens going past. It’s a great opportunity to build that – that unpredictability – into your practice. Yoga is not supposed to be an isolated endeavor.
Things shouldn’t have to be perfect for you to learn how to stop and breathe.
Experts will tell you, when it comes to sticking to a fitness routine, the real enemy isn’t sugar-coated or loaded with fat. Boredom, not hot fudge sundaes, is what can really kill your workout.
The cure, of course, is variety. The same goes for a yoga practice, says Cara Hall, co-owner of Fort Wayne Outfitters, 1004 Cass St., which hosts a weekly outdoor yoga class on the Wells Street Bridge.
Doing yoga with the river flowing under you is a whole new experience, Hall says. You’re engaging your senses in a different way. While you’re holding a pose, you can see clouds floating by. And that’s just more fun than being inside a studio, trying to find a focus point on a wall.
Both Hall and Hake say outdoor yoga is less intimidating for beginners, which is why their classes have drawn larger and larger crowds already this spring. Using nature as a guide, the instructors don’t have to work as hard at creating a relaxing environment.
It’s impossible to control what happens outside, Hall says. And that creates a much more laid-back environment where people just have to go with the flow.
In fact, a small amount of chaos is good for your yoga practice, Hake says. It teaches you how to embrace change without allowing it to effect your sense of calm.
You’re learning how to react out in the world, Hake says. So, if you work in a stressful environment, and the people around you are getting worked up, you’ll know that you can always pause, take that breath, go internal and find peace.