Yoga by Nature


Do you ever think that we limit Yoga too much? We confine it to the studio, to the mat, and to specific times and days. What would happen if we set our Yoga free, allowed it to be wild again?

Yoga is so much more than what we do in classes or on our mats. Whatever we are doing, if we bring a conscious focus on our actions, from the deeper mind, we can make those acts our practice. And nothing lends itself to off-the-mat practice more than spending time in nature. Sometimes we can feel too distracted or upset or angry to confine ourselves  to the mat or even just to set forms of practice. What can we do at those times?

We can walk out the door and head off to a park or to the beach, or off further into the bush. Nature asks nothing of you, so you can sit there and be as you are, just as imperfect as the gnarled trees, irregular waves or the chaotic clouds that fill the sky. Sit in the sun or beneath the grey clouds. Walk through the alternating light and shade of the forest, breathing in the wood scents and earthy tones. Cast off from the earth into the sea and swim under the cooling blanket of her waves.

However we choose, whatever our local world has on offer, nature will give you a way to reconnect with its ebb and flow; the greater and lesser cycles such as the seasons and the tides that we have forgotten are also ours. There we can release the imprisoning patterns of our worrying mind that holds us back in fear, and become more open and free.

The practices of yoga are powerful in bringing transformation to our lives, and if we add the power of nature, their effect is multiplied. If our minds are really troubled, we don't even need to do anything except find a spot where nature bombards us with sights and scents and sounds and textures and just be there. In itself, that is the practice of Pratyahara, where we withdraw from our usual patterns of being assaulted by the senses and learn to see/hear/feel the world in different ways.

The forest yogis of India, the Mahasiddhas, knew this too. They were the bold visionaries who developed the most powerful techniques in Yoga, far from the craziness of the straight-line world. They did not live in monasteries or towns and cities, where everything has its place and its order and nothing should be different than it was supposed to be. They lived in the wild forests, where dangerous beasts wandered and there was no set way of living, nobody enforcing rules such as the vicious caste system of the day or the apartheid that separated cultures enforced because of religion. We may have different challenges in our modern lives, but we can follow their example to find a simpler place to be that will let the mind become spacious, even if it’s just for a short time each week.

Take some time to yourself and go to the forests and the parks and the beaches, and just sit there. If your climate allows, move your body in nature as you would in class and feel the difference. The Mahasiddhas knew that nature helped their souls, their authentic being, shine through. Find a park bench and slow your breathing, notice what you sense that is different in the feeling in your bones. Watch the slower pace of nature, listen to its sounds, smell the scents it sends your way.

Your body, your breath, your very heart, will thank you for it and you will know that you belong right there.