If you’ve ever done yoga outdoors, with the earth right under your feet, trees, clouds and a big beautiful sky above you, you know it’s like nothing else. It’s quite different from practicing yoga indoors, where you’re surrounded by man-made walls, a level floor and climate control. It is more primitive, primal and close to the source of our life force, making the poses feel more alive, fresh and heightened.
Practicing outdoor yoga (or YogaToday with stunning outdoor backdrops) connects us to yoga’s roots since the first practitioners (thousands of years ago!) knew that their relationship with the earth was an essential part of their spiritual practice. This is a fact proven by the names of the poses themselves: tree pose, mountain pose, crow pose and sun salutations just to name a few.
Natural settings, regardless of whether it’s a tropical beach, a mountain top or your own backyard, elicit moments of wonder and joy when you stop to appreciate them. The experience of awe is healing, stressing-releasing and reminds us that the true nature of the universe and ourselves is pure bliss.
For instance, when you take a few breaths and imagine yourself viewing a seemingly endless ocean, with gentle waves lapping up on a beach, a huge sky and a vast horizon, what happens? After a few moments, you will likely feel your mind getting quieter. These moments of connection with the earth have the power to heal frazzled nerves, slow an anxious mind and relax a tense body.
Developing this deeper relationship with the earth can also give our lives a sense of meaning and purpose beyond material success. When we offer respect to the earth and our natural surroundings, they can provide an important source of strength in difficult times. Connection to nature develops our spiritual practice, since spirituality is, by definition, our inner sense of connection with something larger than ourselves.
Mother Earth invites us to let in more gratitude and reverence – spiritual qualities that we need more of in our lives. This leads to a deeper connection with all of life and the ability to see our environment not just as something ‘out there’, but as something we are part of and have a role to play in. As we become more and more aware of our sacred relationship to the earth, our spiritual work becomes that of earth’s recovery.
Author of Lens of Deep Ecology Chris Johnstone says it well when he writes, “When we integrate our beliefs, ideas and values into our behavior, we bring them alive and give them the power to influence our world. If we see ourselves as separate from the world, it is easy to dismiss our actions as irrelevant or unlikely to make any difference. Yet from the Deep Ecology perspective, we are part of the world and every choice we make will have ripples that extend beyond us. What may seem tiny and insignificant by itself always adds to a larger context, so that every time we act for life, we put our weight behind the shift towards a life-sustaining culture.”
This life-centered spirituality can be an important source of inspiration for us as we face modern problems surrounding the earth and climate change and try to respond in a wholesome way.