Complete Outdoor Yoga Guide
As a full-time RVer, I’ve been practicing yoga outside for many years. RV life provides an abundance of locations with amazing backdrops particularly suited to outdoor yoga. 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. These quests have made me an expert in finding or creating unique places to practice outside. My eye looks for sites the size of a yoga mat.
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Why an outdoor yoga spot when I could practice yoga in my RV? I’ve become so in tune with how yoga connects us to nature I want to practice outside. Historically yoga was practiced outside 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.
The concept of practicing yoga outside is new to many people as a result of the pandemic, with yoga studios closing and yoga migrating to on-line classes.
You may have thought of taking your yoga practice outside but aren’t sure where to start. Outdoor yoga is both sensory and tactical. I’ll cover everything you need to know to find and create an outdoor yoga practice:
Being on display
Outdoor yoga mat, yoga bag, and supplies
Places to practice
Phone & Music
Weather & Clothing
Being on display
Often, I'm 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. I’m 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.
Outdoor Yoga Mat
It's best to use a 5 or 6mm thickness yoga mat. You can buy a thick mat inexpensively. Any brand will do. It’s going to get dirty. Mats are machine washable on a normal cycle. Hang it outside to dry for roughly 2 days.
Yoga Mat Bag
I have a fantastic yoga mat bag from head2hope. It has a thick shoulder strap that I can hang across my body to keep my hands free. It’s washable, with a big Velcro pocket to hold my keys, phone, and sunglasses, etc.
Outdoor Yoga Supplies
Depending on the time of year you may need sunglasses, sunscreen, and bug spray. Luckily bugs are not attracted to me. If they love you, take bug spray. Ants may crawl on your mat; they’re just being curious. I shoe them away. I’ve never gotten bitten by an ant or bug.
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. I love this, it strengthens my balance poses.
Sand, grass, and dirt can stick to your 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.
Places to Practice Outdoor Yoga
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 outdoor 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.
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 an 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.
Depending on the time of day paths leading to fields, courts or trails may not be in use so you can roll out your mat on the path.
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.
My absolute favorite yoga spot is the beach. Any beach—white, pink, brown, or black sand. I don’t use a mat. I dig my feet into the sand. Sand and mats don’t mix. Sand sticks to the mat and the mat’s flexibility is horrible in the sand. Use a big beach towel if you need anything.
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.
I get giddy when I find a boat or fishing dock. For me the deepest connection to nature is when I can practice on the water.
I always bring my phone.
I set the timer for how long I want to practice. Whether it's 10 minutes or an hour+. This way I don’t look at the time and can get lost in nature.
I listen to the sounds of nature as my music. Birds singing, leaves rustling, water flowing, kids playing, and even passing traffic help me fully connect to nature. If there are days where I need to get lost in music or chanting, I use a playlist.
Weather and Clothing for Outdoor Yoga
I practice outdoors in all four seasons. Check the weather and dress appropriately. Layering is key. In late fall and winter, I wear a hat, gloves, and coat if needed.
I practice in direct or near direct sunlight to stay warm. Weather and temperature pending, I 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, I’d keep your shoes/boots on. The yoga gods will not strike you down for wearing shoes.
If I need gloves, I wear my golfing gloves. They’re lightweight yet warm, don’t restrict my hands and 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 my golf 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. 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 I avoid direct sunlight from 10:00 am-2:00 pm. Being fair-haired, I need to be careful. If you like hot yoga this is a way to imitate a hot studio outdoors.
Outdoor Yoga Sequences
Outdoor yoga offers so many different styles. I change my practice based on my spot and the seasons. I 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.
I don’t regulate myself to a full practice or length of time. Sometimes I do a few poses that my body is craving and call it a day. When I’m short on time I do a quick flow. Based on my spot, maybe I only do seated poses, or standing poses, or reclined (laying down poses). Somedays my practice is more of a dance where I just let myself go.
If you are used to being guided by a teacher and don’t feel you’ll remember how to do poses…don’t worry you will. Even outside use your phone to follow along with an online class.
Or make a list of poses before practice.
I’m always rewarded by my outdoor yoga practice with scenery, birds singing, something surprising in nature, feeling the breeze on my skin, or the warmth of the sun. Let me know if you have questions.
@thetrippingyogi Tag me on your outdoor yoga photos.
I’d be very grateful if you’d help me spread the word to your friends on how outdoor yoga deepens your connection to nature and how many places there are to practice yoga outside.
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I’m a yoga teacher and full-time RVer. I travel the US and Mexico teaching yoga, exploring communities, and sharing yoga and RV information. I specialize in helping RVers keep up their yoga practices while traveling.
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