Don’t let your yoga practice melt off the mat this summer

Women practicing yoga at health clubIf this is your first summer since making yoga part of your regular fitness routine, you may not realize yet just how challenging it can be to get back on the mat after a few months of sun and fun activities.  Year after year, September rolls around and we hear students lament for having let their yoga practice slide over the summer months. They struggle to recover their flexibility and swear, “Next summer I’ll keep up my practice so I still can come into a forward fold when September arrives.”

“Nothing prepares you for yoga … but yoga prepares you for everything!”

Bike riding, swimming, gardening, and most other summer activities tend to be great for strength building, but, let’s face it, they’re also activities that can tighten your muscles, resulting in those aches and pains that likely drew you onto your yoga mat in the first place!

Getting outdoors is what summer is all about – so let’s take your yoga practice out into nature and make it part of your summertime fun. That way, when you step onto your mat indoors you will have maintained much of your flexibility!

1) This summer, after having a blast last summer giving Paddleboard Yoga a go, we decided to invest in a couple of inexpensive blowup paddleboards from Costco, an investment of under $600.00 each (higher-end boards can run upwards of $2,500). If purchasing your own paddleboard isn’t within your budget, or you’re just not sure if it’ll be your thing, check around, chances are there are companies offering Paddleboard Yoga classes, including board rental in your area.

Paddleboard Yoga is a fantastic way to challenge your balance, play in the water and act like a kid again. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? If you fall off, you’ll get a little wet, which on a hot summer day can feel downright refreshing!

You might even want to hire a Paddleboard Yoga instructor, at least for the first few goes at it. They can help you set up a bit of a sequence that doesn’t have you flying off the paddleboard every second posture.

If, however, you see taking a few refreshing tumbles as just part of the fun, then just get out there and give it a go! Just remember, inhales take you UP into a movement/posture, exhales are where you settle in or go deeper (Vinyasa yoga means; movement linked to breath).

2) Walking with yogic intention out in nature can be one of the richest “Yoga” practices ever. What does “with yogic intention” mean? The definition of yoga literally means “to yoke/connect together the mind and the body.” When you move with awareness you bring the mind, body and breath together as one.

I love to experiment with my ability to actually practice yoga off my mat by getting out in nature and taking our little Yorki/Shih Tzu dog, Coco, for a walk. Whenever she stops for a little sniff of the Doggie Daily News, which some days seems like it is every 10 steps, I work on my “yoga off the mat” by:

    • Intentionally bringing my attention to my breath, breathing in and out of my diaphragm/low ribs (called Parasympathetic Breath – Rest and Digest Breath).
    • Taking a moment to truly appreciate nature by bringing my gaze to the most distant spot on the horizon
    • Taking in, and appreciating, as many of the colors and textures of nature as I can in those few short seconds/minutes.

3) Outdoor Yoga is, of course, the perfect way to enjoy being both on your mat and out in nature! You can easily practice the same Intentional techniques as I described above, in the Walking with Yogic Intention.

The great outdoors has become a popular yoga offering during the summer months and a quick Internet search should help you locate at least one outdoor yoga class being offered in your area.

If it turns out there aren’t any professionally lead outdoor yoga classes near you then simply tuck your mat under your arm and head off to a park, your backyard or wherever gets you out in nature. Roll out your mat, do a few sun salutations and, who knows, you might draw some other yogis who are keen to join you on a regular basis. Voila! You’ve just started your own Outdoor Yoga Community – you little go-getter you!

The Health Coach in me needs to give you a little heads up about using sunscreens and bug sprays, and I suspect you’ll be very tempted to use the latter if you decide to participate in outdoor yoga early in the morning – hence waking up those hungry mosquitoes for a nibble of breakfast … on you!