5 Tips for Your Outdoor Summer Yoga Practice

by Amanda MacMillan


photo by Kyle Ericksenphoto by Kyle Ericksen We've been saying it for weeks but it's finally official: Happy Summer! Now that the sunny season is finally here, we're psyched for lots of new outdoor workouts over the next couple of months -- including plenty of al fresco yoga. Here in New York, rooftop classes are all the rage right now (Not to mention the 15,000-person "class" held in Times Square last week to celebrate the solstice!), and all over the country, yogis are headed to local parks, beaches and even mountaintops to get their outdoor om on.

But an open-air yoga class isn't exactly like an indoor one, says Brigitte Bourdeau, instructor for Serene Social's morning rooftop classes at NYC's trendy James Hotel. Here are her tips for what to bring, what to remember during class and how to best enjoy your surroundings, no matter where you are in the great outdoors.

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Pack sunscreen, bug spray and plenty of water. This should go without saying, but if you've got a regular yoga bag that doesn't include these things, you may grab it on your way out the door without thinking about what else you might need. And depending on how remote a location your class is being held at, you may not be able to buy H2O or fill up at a fountain like you can at the gym.

Swap your mat for a towel or blanket. "I personally think that we should use whatever nature makes available to us," says Bourdeau. "There's nothing better than doing yoga in the sand, for example, where your feet can sink in and you can get even deeper into your stretches." Practicing on concrete or rocks? Bring your mat if it will make you more comfortable, but know that you can always use a blanket or towel for padding, too. (Keep another towel or layer of clothing handy to put over your eyes during Savasana, too, so you won't be blinded by the sun.)

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Make the wind your friend. "You can see the wind as your friend or your enemy -- but accepting it and deciding to enjoy the challenge can also make it more possible for you to accept challenges off the mat, as well." Think of it as extra resistance and balance training that will only make you a better yogi.

Gaze outward but focus inward.
Think about how far away and how broad the sky and the horizon are, and use that to think about how it can help you broaden your own horizons off the mat, says Bordeau. But at the same time, bring your concentration inward and focus on your breath; this can help drown out distracting sights and sounds around you, like traffic or gawking onlookers.

You don't need an official class. If outdoor yoga classes aren't offered near you or you can't fit them into your schedule, grab your mat and some girlfriends, or head out alone the next time you have a few hours of daylight to kill. Aim for as early in the day as possible, while the sun is still rising and not too strong overhead. (Sunset will work, too.) Download a yoga app to your iPad or smartphone (we love Yogify) and stream a class through a portable bluetooth speaker (like Switch). No instructor needed!
What's your favorite part about outdoor yoga?

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