Outdoor Yoga

It’s time to get your ass-ana outside!
Spending time in nature is known to have profound effects on our physical and mental well-being. Combine that with your yoga practice and you have yourself in a perfectly natural yogi bliss.
Practicing yoga outdoors is an amazing way to connect with nature – Soak in the sunshine, seek deeper inspiration and feel your awareness expand:
There could simply be no better way to connect with the essence and ancient origins Sun Salutations than practicing them outside in the presence of the sun, feeling her warmth on your face and body.
The awareness of your breath and synchronising it to movement is so much more enjoyable as you breathe in the purest, freshest air possible. Nature offers air full of oxygen, which is essential for your health (helping to keep the immune system strong, increasing serotonin levels in the body and improving the blood pressure and heart rate) in abundance!
You’ll never feel more grounded than when you have your bare feet on the earth. Not only will you feel a much deeper connection to the earth (and therefore, stability in your practice), you’ll also reap the benefits of so-called earthing (being barefoot on the earth), that have been shown to include relieved muscle tension, improved sleep, increased energy levels, lowered stress levels and increased adrenal health.
When you do reach your hands down to the earth, you can literally touch the earth. Feel the grass between your fingers. Spy little critters pass you by.
And when you do turn your gaze up to the sky, you can literally look at the sky. See the clouds moving in the breeze. Watch birds gliding through the air.
Many yoga poses gained their names from plants and animals. Practicing yoga outside allows you to embody the sense of the pose while actually looking at what inspired it. For example, harness the stability and strength of a tree while you stand grounded in Tree Pose. Take flight into Crow and feel like the birds flying above you.
With all our senses awakened, we can be more present in life in each moment with no distractions.
Spending time outside also reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. With lower levels of stress, we can ease into a deeper state of relaxation and enjoy the present moment.
Before you pop a pill, sit your body under some sunshine. It is very common for Vitamin D levels to decrease during the winter months, so now that the sun’s out, you get the all-natural source for the essential Vitamin D. Go and get it!
Last, but not least, to truly tune into and embody the qualities we find in nature, outdoor meditation is the best medicine. One of my favourite ones is based on a meditation by Thich Nhat Hahn, Zen Buddhist Monk, with aspects of revitalization and grounding to provide clarity and freedom
Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.
Breathing out, I feel fresh”
(Flower, Fresh)
“Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.
Breathing out, I feel solid.”
(Mountain, Solid)
“Breathing in, I see myself as still water.
Breathing out, I reflect things as they are.”
(Water, Reflecting)
“Breathing in, I see myself as space.
Breathing out, I feel free.”
(Space, Free)
It´s so much better to actually see the flowers, mountains, water and space around you. What better for it than our beautiful Franchhoek Valley?
So, time to get your ass-ana outdoors!
Join us for some sessions, if at Under Oaks, at Grande Roche or at Papa Grappa in Paarl. Lovely Summer pop-ups are planned by Yoga House. Cu Soon!

Yoga and Weight Loss

We often get asked whether Yoga helps to loose weight. The short answer is: yes but it requires a bit more than a few stretches a couple of times a week.

Society’s standard answer to loosing weight is often limited to workout and diet. And they are important factors. However, Yoga teaches us that well-being is not only dependent on physical exercise and nutrition but also our overall mental and emotional well-being. From a holistic point of view mind, body and soul influence each other. Think like this: An overworked mind will be an additional factor of stress when we change our diet to a more healthy one and want to increase our resilience to little food desires just as a low-energy soul will not be able to lift us up when things become a bit more challenging. A healthy body is built on body, mind and soul and it is important that we take care of all of them.

And this is where Yoga comes in: Yoga practice does not only work our bodies but contributes to a sense of relaxation and ease where mental and emotional body can find rejuvenation. But what is the right Yoga practice when we want to shed a few pounds? Choosing the right class asks for the golden middle way: while it might seem as if a physically demanding Yoga class such as Power Yoga and Vinyasa is the best choice, it is of little benefit to our well-being if it leaves us frustrated after 90 minutes of catching up. On the other hand, choosing a sequence of Yin classes might have beautiful effects on calming the nervous system and our mental and emotional bodies but it does not necessarily contribute to our fitness. A combination of both with a physical demand according to where our fitness is at is key. So keeping the right balance between physical exercise and mental and emotional well-being is a good strategy.

And apart from that: think continuity! The path of Yoga might not be the fast track to a slim bikini shape but if done with consistency it is by far more sustainable. If the body is brought in shape piece by piece and mind and soul are taken care of at the same time, the results are able to last longer. Habits are changed slowly and not abruptly (think new years resolution) and we can remain in harmony instead of pushing through goals with the risk of frustration and setbacks that come with it. All this fosters our resilience in times where old habits try to sneak in and we are tempted to fall back.

Another good idea can be to get a coach, a nutrition specialist or even a Yoga teacher who can provide support and tips. Even a group of like-minded can be beneficial and keep us motivated.

So, roll out the mat and enjoy the beautiful benefits Yoga can bring – on a physical, mental, emotional level and for our holistic and sustainable well-being.

How to start a Yoga practice

The popularity of Yoga is impressive. More and more people get to experience and understand the beauty and benefits of Yoga and practice it regularly. But why is it actually of such high benefit? And how do we best get started with a practice?

The origins of Yogic practices date back to ancient times on the Indian continent. Yoga is a life philosophy that has at its main goal the awakening from a limited sense of self. Today we mainly know Yoga as a physical practice of postures (asanas), however the entire philosophy of Yoga contains much more than that. Hatha Yoga – the physical practice of Yoga – was in original sense meant to support the Yogi on his spiritual journey by relaxing and stretching the body so the body was prepared and strengthened for meditation.

Perhaps you have tried meditation. And perhaps you have made the experience that it is much easier to meditate when the body is relaxed, the mind has calmed down and we can leave the buzz of the day behind. And this is exactly where the practice of physical Yoga comes in: it helps us to decrease stress levels, it activates the para-sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our bodily rest and digest processes, it increases our emotional stability and contributes to better sleep. The physical and emotional benefits are manifold and have been backed up by scientific research. Overall, Yoga brings our physical, energetic, emotional and mental bodies into balance. That is why we feel “so good” after a Yoga class without necessarily knowing what exactly to attribute to.

So how to get started? As the world of Yoga is booming more and more Yoga styles pop up. From Ashtanga to Vinyasa to Bikram to Iyengar to Yin to restorative, etc… This can be overwhelming for someone who is new to Yoga. The clue is: start somewhere and try as much as you feel like. It can take some time to find “your style” and “your teacher”. Styles and teachers varies tremendously and resonate with different people, bodily and mental needs at different points in time. So don’t give up if you don’t hit a jackpot in your first Yoga class.

Many people are concerned that they are not flexible about Yoga. This is a myth that has unfortunately spread widely! Flexibility is built up over time as we become consistent in our practice, it is nothing you come to your first class with (unless you have a background in acrobatics). We all start somewhere. A good Yoga teacher will be able to cater to the needs of every person in the room, no matter how advanced or flexible. And in the end Yoga is about much much more than a flexible body. A good Yoga class is one where you feel relaxed, rejuvenated and an overall sense of well-being at the end. Let yourself be surprised!

So, are you ready? Try out as much as you can, trust the process and don’t forget to have fun!