Why Should You Go on a Yoga Retreat in Nature?
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Yoga has always encouraged us to reconnect with ourselves and nature. But our busy urban lives often compel us to attend classes in indoor studios.
How about a change of scenery? It’s not at all difficult to take your mat outside and practice yoga amidst nature, absorbing the beauty of your surroundings and returning to your roots.
Just imagine how powerful your Sun Salutations could be when performed right under the sun instead of a ceiling. How balanced and centered you could stand in Tree Pose while focusing on a tree, not a wall. Or how tall and strong your Mountain Pose can be while gazing at an actual mountain.
Infuse new life into your yoga practice and foster a deeper connection with nature by joining a yoga retreat in a natural setting. Read on and find out what to expect, what are the outdoor activities you can partake in to complement your practice, and the outstanding benefits of taking your yoga outdoors.
Why opt for a yoga retreat in nature?
The word “retreat” means to “withdraw” or “drawback”. This is why many retreats are held in beautiful, healing locations, in the rolling countryside, in the mountains, or near the beach, and offer numerous opportunities to connect with nature.
Nowadays, there’s an abundance of yoga retreats in nature to choose from, offering a variety of programs tailored to your needs. You can choose to follow a slightly stricter regime if you wish, attending sunrise and sunset yoga every day for example. Alternatively, you can also skip some classes, opt for other activities, or simply do nothing. After all, this is your precious time off.
On a yoga retreat held in a natural setting, you can truly relax during your time away. There’ll be plenty of time to rejoice in the beauty of nature through walks, hikes, or other nature-based activities.
The healing surroundings, welcoming community, and healthy meals will encourage you to be in harmony with nature and yourself.
What can you expect on a yoga retreat in nature?
Some retreats are easy-going and only offer yoga and meditation in a natural setting, with plenty of free time to use as you wish. Others go the extra mile and provide exciting outdoor activities as well. Of course, these are highly dependent on the retreat’s location.
» READ MORE: 10 Thrilling Adventure Yoga Retreats
Strike a yoga pose right on the beach, against the soothing sound of the crashing waves, feeling the cool breeze in your hair.
Yoga retreats near the sea typically offer yoga classes right on the beach or on rooftop terraces with stunning panoramic views.
If you’d like to add even more fun and excitement to your yoga holiday in the sun, try some water-based activities during your stay. You can combine yoga with surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, SUP, snorkeling, diving, sailing, dolphin or whale watching, and more.
There’ll be plenty of time to chill at the beach, swim, sunbathe, and take in the sights as well.
Strike a mountain pose right on a mountaintop or against jaw-dropping scenery. These retreats are held at the foothills of the mountains or right in the heart of them. They hold the yoga classes on panoramic sun terraces or in their garden, and can also take participants to practice in a meadow, forest, on a clifftop, or peak.
You can combine yoga with mountain activities, such as hiking, nature walks, skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting, or kayaking. Take part in various guided tours that will take you off the beaten path and into the wilderness.
On certain retreats, you may get the chance to go on foraging tours, where you can learn about wild plants and pick wild flowers, berries, and mushrooms. Wild foods are packed with nutrients, and you’ll get to enjoy them in scrumptious meals back at the retreat.
Image credit: Polwaththa Retreat
If you’re also interested in green living, go on an eco yoga retreat and practice your asanas while becoming one with your surroundings and learning how to make more responsible choices.
By joining a yoga retreat held at an eco-lodge, you minimize your impact without sacrificing your comfort.
In addition to the outdoor activities that other nature-based retreats can also offer depending on their location, eco retreats often offer therapeutic gardening sessions and the opportunity to learn about permaculture. Stimulate your senses as you connect with the soil while weeding, digging, planting, and harvesting. Plus, you get to enjoy your harvest (depending on the season).
» READ MORE: Fun Outdoor Activities to Spice Up Your Yoga Holiday
Benefits of practicing yoga outdoors
By taking your yoga practice outdoors, you boost its benefits while experiencing a deeper connection with the earth and your surroundings.
Here are some of the main benefits of practicing yoga in nature:
Reconnect with nature
When reaching down to the earth, you literally touch it. When you raise your hands up to the sky, you can actually see the sky. This creates a sense of connection to the Earth.
What’s more, on a yoga retreat held in a natural setting, you’ll have the opportunity to do barefoot walking. Lots of it. This may sound simple enough, but its benefits are complex. So, take your shoes off and feel the smooth grass or sand under your bare feet.
Earthing, also known as grounding, is a therapeutic technique that involves connecting with the Earth’s surface electrons. Emerging scientific research shows that the free electrons in the subtly negatively charged ground can neutralize free radicals, boost the immune system, reduce pain and inflammation, relieve arthritis and aid depression, as well as improve sleep.
Be more present and focused
Nothing supports our mind and soul to open up like a natural setting. The usual distractions are far away, and your attention and focus are directed towards what’s in front of you, quieting the mind and simplifying your thoughts.
Being in nature awakens your senses – touch, scent, sight – and you cannot help but become more aware of what’s around you and start to appreciate the little things you might usually take for granted.
The smell of morning dew and flowers, a simple bird song, a gentle breeze in your hair, touching the grass or sand, provide stimulation and make you more present. You become more in tune with yourself and the world around you.
More room to move and breathe
Practicing yoga in nature is a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively.
Even though most studios do their best to create a Zen décor and keep the place well ventilated, nothing compares to the stunning vista and fresh air you get when being outside.
Indoor yoga classes often get crowded and touching fingers with strangers is not something to look forward to. Not to mention that in nature you have enough space to stay at a safe distance from others.
By taking your mat outdoors, you have more space to move freely, stretching deeper and wider. The fresh air will heighten your breath awareness and the slightly uneven ground will engage your core even more.
Boost your mood
The sun kissing your face, a gentle breeze on your skin, fresh air filling your lungs, birds chirping…it’s not hard to see how being outdoors can make you happier.
Spending time in nature has been proven to have positive effects on our physical and mental wellbeing. Research shows that simply looking at beautiful scenery releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain.
On most retreats held in nature, you’ll have the opportunity to do some forest bathing. Also known as Shinrin-yoku, this is the practice of making contact with and taking in the forest atmosphere to receive mental and physical healing.
By spending time in forests rich in conifers, we are exposed to phytoncides (aromatic volatile substances emitted by plants). These reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone), lower blood pressure and pulse rate, improve parasympathetic nerve activity, lower sympathetic nerve activity, decrease tension, anger, and depression.
Replenish your energy levels
Spending time outside sends signals to the brain that you are back in your native environment. You become more alert, while the fresh air stimulates the blood flow and muscular performance.
Therefore, nature can improve your overall performance, infusing vitality into your yoga practice. Can you think of a better setting for a Vinyasa yoga flow?
Soak up some vitamin D
From late March/early April to the end of September, our skin can produce vitamin D naturally when exposed to direct sunlight without sunscreen.
Vitamin D, also known as sunshine vitamin, is essential for healthy bones and muscles, improves your mood, fights depression, boosts immunity, fights cardiovascular disease, improves concentration and memory, and facilitates hormone regulation.
So, get out there are soak up some vitamin D while going through your favorite yoga sequence!
*Cover image credit: Exhale Yoga Retreats
Taking some time off to reconnect with yourself and nature doesn’t have to break the bank. Join a budget yoga retreat in a healing setting and reap all the benefits of taking your practice outside