Breathe. Stretch. Travel. Thrive.
How to Take Your Yoga Practice Outside
As a full-time RVer, I’ve been practicing yoga outside for many years. Being a die-hard yogi, when we arrive in a new place after setting up camp, my quest for a practice location begins.
Rarely is a great spot right outside my door. I have to find a spot. These quests have made me an expert in finding or creating unique spaces. I look for sites the size of a yoga mat.
You may have thought of taking your yoga practice outside but aren’t sure where to start. Outdoor yoga is both sensory and tactical.
Everything you need to know to find and create an outdoor yoga practice space:
Being on display
Outdoor yoga mat, yoga bag, and supplies
Places to practice
Phone & Music
Weather & Clothing
Why an outdoor yoga spot when I could practice yoga in my RV?
I’ve become so in tune with how yoga connects me to nature I want to practice outside as historically yoga was practiced to build that connection. Think about when you see beautiful pictures of yoga poses or classes on beaches, in forests, or mountain tops. Your eyes immediately make the connection to nature and you imagine yourself practicing there. Even for an RVer, these venues may not be available daily.
1. Being on Display
I’m often asked about feeling on display since I’m practicing yoga outside in plain sight. Whether I’m practicing outside my camper or elsewhere, I’ve never felt on display. You're just a person doing an outdoor activity; like a runner is running or a biker is biking. People may be curious, look for a second, then lose interest. Yoga is now a mainstream activity, no need to be shy.
Being an RVer, I’m typically in an unfamiliar area. When seeking a spot, I look carefully at my surroundings. I make sure I’m not vulnerable to weather, bugs, terrain, excessive noise, unsavory people, or being too remote. If I don’t feel good about an area, I move on. I carry multi-use pepper spray. Feeling safe is important. I want to be present in my practice and in tune with nature.
3. Yoga mat, bag and supplies
Use a 5 or 6mm thickness yoga mat. You can buy a thick mat inexpensively. Any brand works. It’s going to get dirty. Mats are machine washable on a normal cycle. Hang it outside to dry. It takes roughly 2 days.
Use a mat bag with a thick shoulder strap that I you hang across your body to keep your hands free. The bag should be washable, with a big closeable pocket to hold keys, phone, and sunglasses, etc.
Depending on the time of year you may need sunglasses, sunscreen, and bug spray. If bugs love you, take bug spray. Ants may crawl on your mat; they’re just being curious. Shoe them away. I’ve never gotten bitten by an ant or bug.
4. Types of Terrain
There are many types of terrain to consider. Terrain may not always be flat. There might be a slight unevenness or slope. This can help strengthen your balance poses.
Sand, grass, and dirt can stick to a yoga mat. You might bring a little home with you. Nothing a washing machine or shower can’t remedy. Pebbles or sticks may be on the ground, just move them out of the way before you roll out your mat.
Blacktop, cement, desert dirt, stones, or rocks make good surfaces to practice on, but they’re hard. You can use two yoga mats for a better cushion.
5. Places to Practice
Parks, playgrounds, ball fields, courts, golf courses, hiking trails, and running tracks are great places to practice that may be closer to your home or as an RVer, closer to where you’re parked. They provide a level surface and are easily found by Googling “park near me.”
Community parks have well-maintained grass and shade trees. Playgrounds use mulch or rubber matting to cushion the ground. Practicing yoga in the grass or playground makes you feel like a kid again.
Soccer, football, baseball fields are flat, the grass is short and free of pebbles/sticks. Use the bleachers to challenge your standing poses or do seated and lying down poses.
Tennis, basketball, or pickleball courts are flat and maintained. The court surface is typically a soft rubber coating. Courts may be lighted for a great evening practice.
Hiking trails and running tracks
Trails can be dirt or paved. I’ve often found a great spot on the side of a trail. Running tracks that often surround football fields are cushiony and one of my favorite urban places to practice.
Golf courses are huge and have let me practice on out of the way areas before or after the course has closed for the day. The scenery is always beautiful. Don’t be shy about asking.
Beach and Water
Any beach—white, pink, brown, or black sand. Use a beach towel instead of a mat. Sand and mats don’t mix. Sand sticks to the mat and the mat’s flexibility is horrible in the sand. Or, dig your feet into the sand for stability.
Other Water Venues include lakes, ponds, streams, creeks, riverbeds, and reservoirs. You can practice on the shores of all these. Look for an area where you can put down a mat, or do standing poses.
6. Yoga Sequences
Yoga offers so many different styles. Change your practice based on your spot and the seasons. Experiment using props the environment offers. Environmental props like fallen trees, stumps, rocks, sand, water, fences, picnic tables, benches, bleachers, and walls foster creativity. For ideas watch my videos using props.
If possible don’t regulate yourself to a full practice or length of time. Do a few poses that your body is craving and call it a day. When you’re short on time do a quick flow. Based on your spot, maybe do only seated poses, or standing poses, or reclined (laying down poses).
If you are used to being guided by a teacher in a studio and don’t feel you’ll remember how to do poses…don’t worry you will. Even outside you can use your phone to follow along with an online class. There are many yoga apps to help you as well.
You can also make a list of poses before practice or print out a sequence and put it in mat bag.
7. Music & Phone
Bring your phone. You can set the timer for how long you want to practice. Whether it's 10 minutes or an hour+. This way you won’t look at the time and you can get lost in nature.
Listen to the sounds of nature as your music. Birds singing, leaves rustling, water flowing, kids playing, and even passing traffic help you fully connect to nature. If there are days when you need to get lost in music or chanting, use a playlist.
8. Weather & Clothing
You can practice outdoors in all four seasons. Check the weather and dress appropriately. Layering is key. In late fall and winter, wear a hat, gloves, and coat if needed.
You practice in direct or near direct sunlight to stay warm. Weather and temperature pending, practice in bare feet, socks, sneakers, hiking boots, or snow boots. Just as your bare hands acclimate to the weather, so do your bare feet. If it’s cold, keep your shoes/boots on. The yoga gods will not strike you down for wearing shoes.
If you need gloves, golfing gloves are great for yoga. They’re lightweight yet warm, don’t restrict your hands and often the palms have a no-skid surface. You can buy specially made yoga gloves and socks. Being an RVer with limited storage space I like the dual usage of golfing gloves.
In winter I wear a pair of pants over my yoga pants. My outer pants are a soft-shell windbreaker material made by 66North (https://www.66north.com/). They are fabulous for keeping me warm. If I get too warm, I take them off.
Being die-hard, I practice if it’s drizzling. I wear rubber gloves, my 66North pants are water-resistant, and I don’t use a mat.
During the summer avoid direct sunlight from 10:00 am-2:00 pm. If you like hot yoga this is a way to imitate a hot studio outdoors.
You will always be rewarded by your outdoor yoga practice with scenery, birds singing, something surprising in nature, feeling the breeze on your skin, or the warmth of the sun.