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  • Writer's picturePathloom Guest Blogger

Yoga in the Outdoors

Anudha Mittal, Guest Blogger

Young woman doing tree pose yoga position on a coastal hike in Clearwater, Florida

Tree Pose on a coastal hike in Clearwater, FL. Photo credit: Meenakshi Mittal



I started practicing yoga about two years ago. Initially, it was for fitness and I was taking lessons at a studio. The emphasis on breath led me to think that if breath is so important, why not do it in fresh air. There were other small indications that made me think of the outdoors, such as the names of some of the poses and the way of instruction. For instance, we would begin with Sun Salutations, followed by the Eagle Pose and the Cobra Pose. When we extended the arms upwards for the Tree Pose, the instruction would be, ‘reach towards the sky.’ When we did the Standing Forward Fold, the instruction would be to let your head fall towards the Earth. The imagery reminded me of the outdoors and so I began to do yoga outside. In this article, I would like to share some personal moments of when I enjoyed yoga in different types of outdoor spaces. I have written about my experiences in fragments, and what I really hope to achieve with this piece is to convey the feeling of doing something that is challenging while breathing calmly and taking in the silence.

Young female hiker doing a wheel yoga pose beside a river in Shenandoah National Park

Wheel Pose in Shenandoah National Park

My friend and I were on a hike at Shenandoah National Park, and several miles in, we reached a stream. I dipped my feet in and then stretched back into the Wheel Pose. Breathing in the fresh forest air, it felt so different from doing yoga in a dimly lit studio. It was similar to the change from a treadmill to a trail or from a swimming pool to a lake. Instead of being in a place with walls and boundaries, I was outside as part of the ecosystem. After that, I started trying yoga poses wherever I went. I attempted a Side Crow Pose on the beach digging my palms into the sand, and it felt much different than being on a mat as the sand made it more difficult. This was a blessing in disguise, as I realized that I no longer had to carry my mat around!

Young woman doing a Side Crow Yoga Pose on the beach at Clearwater, Florida

Side Crow Pose on the beach at Clearwater, FL. Photo credit: Meenakshi Mittal

When the summer months faded away and I was no longer able to visit the beaches or go on hiking trails, I walked into the snow and did a Tree Pose. The snow was soft, and I felt stable. I let the cold air fill my lungs. This was the moment when I knew outdoors yoga was for me.

Young man doing Tree Yoga Pose in the snow at Colonie Park in Albany, New York

Tree Pose at Colonie Park, Albany, NY. Photo credit: Seema Gupta

I didn’t want to feel restricted to just standing poses though. If I was going to do yoga in snowy lands, I had to be able to get closer to the snow. So I tried laying down and lifting up into the Wheel Pose. It worked. The contact with snow was brief and then it was just palms and feet.

Young man doing Wheel Yoga Pose in the snow at Colonie Park in Albany, New York

Wheel Pose at Colonie Park, Albany, NY. Photo credit: Seema Gupta

At this point, my courage was building and I wanted to try a headstand. I cleared the snow from a small area to prevent sinking into the snow, and that worked. Later, we came home for hot tea and then stepped out again. Now I was very confident and since I was close to home, dry clothing was nearby. So I calmly enjoyed a Lotus Pose.

Young man headstand Yoga Pose in the snow at Colonie Park in Albany, New York

Headstand in the snow, at Colonie Park, Albany, NY. Photo credit: Seema Gupta

Young woman does Lotus Yoga Pose in the snow outside her home in Albany, New York

Lotus Pose in the snow, near my home in Albany, NY. Photo credit: Seema Gupta

Towards the end of winter, I went on a hike in the Catskills. The snow was gone, but the trees were still bare. The trail had some rocky sections so I used my jackets for cushioning. It was great to be able to enjoy a bit of yoga close to the water.

Young woman does Headstand yoga pose along a trail next to a lake in near Catskills, NY.

Headstand along a trail near Catskills, NY.

Last year, I moved to California and am continuing my practice here.

Young female hiker does a Wheel Yoga Pose during a hike in East Bay, California

Wheel Pose during a hike in East Bay, California.

I hope that by sharing my personal experiences, I have been able to encourage and inspire you to try yoga during long hikes. For me, it’s a great way to take a break from walking and stretch. Recently I have been continuing my yoga practice almost exclusively outdoors. I look forward to reaching milestones during hikes and then spending that time exploring inwardly.

Author Bio

Anudha Mittal, yoga instructor, sits at a table under an umbrella - black and white image

Anudha Mittal started her yoga practice in 2018 while she was working as a Materials Engineer in Albany, NY. Prior to that, she did her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from University of Minnesota. She is now pursuing projects in data science in the San Francisco Bay Area while continuing to explore yoga.

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