One of the most common pieces of advice that I give to people is to get out in nature and this applies not just for my yoga students and massage clients but to family or friends as well. The combination of movement, fresh air and nature is a potent but very simple mix for calming the mind and soothing the body. For me it is a core part of my self care and right up there with sleeping enough, eating well and moving regularly for keeping the body and mind feeling well. Getting out in nature for a walk or a run is something that I make a point of doing every day.
Up until the industrial revolution people used to spend the majority of their time outside working the land. Our ancestors would plant and harvest in line with the seasons and would out of necessity have an innate connection to the earth and its rhythms. As we spend more time inside this link to nature is often overlooked but if you listen carefully to your intuition you can still hear this primordial call to connect and reconnect with the natural world.
But why do it?
There have now been many studies done which prove there are tangible benefits of spending time in nature. On a very simple level most of us recognise that we feel better but more specifically it can: 1, 2
- Reduce blood pressure
- Boost the immune system
- Reduce respiratory tract and cardiovascular illness
- Improve vitality and mood
- Restore attention and mental fatigue
- Reduce stress
- Improve sleep
The Japanese belief in the health related benefits of nature led them to create the practice of shrinn-yoku or forest bathing as a way to counteract the increased time that people were spending in factories and offices. It aims to harness the health the related benefits of walking in nature with the power of just being fully present with our environment.
My appreciation of nature was instilled in me from a young age. We walked regularly as a family and I was taught the names of the plants and trees and the wildlife that lived there. I was also taught to enjoy the changing seasons. During my exam years I would quite often unwind with an evening walk up the hill to see the wild rabbits or if I was lucky the fox cubs.
During my 20’s I lost this connection. I grew out of it. My time was spent in an office cocooned away from the feel of the weather and the changing seasons. It was not until having my children that this connection returned. The many years of all weather school runs gave me appreciation of the changing seasons once more. I developed the ability to do the same walk again and again and again but able to find something different to appreciate each time: from the first snow drops and daffodils, elderflowers to blackberries and back to the evergreen holly and ivy. Even between these seasonal markers the variability of the weather ensures that nothing ever looks the same two days in the row. My walking now is more intentional. It is a time for me to mediate, maybe mindfulness, maybe affirmations, maybe mantra or breathwork. It offers a chance for my mind and body to slow down and quieten as I fully open my senses to the world around me.
Yoga and nature
Of course yoga utilises the power of nature too. Many of the postures and sequences are named after animals and aspects of the natural world and the distinct qualities that each symbolises. Soar like and eagle to gain a fresh perspective, feel stable like a tree with roots anchored deep into the ground, open to your full potential like the beautiful lotus flower.
On a deeper level our energies ebb and flow with the changing seasons from the quiet reflective time of Winter to the full and expansiveness of Summer. Practicing yoga can help to connect and balance these shifts, while practicing yoga outside enables better connection between us and our world.
If you would like to experience a greater connection with nature I am running a yoga day retreat to nourish body and mind and celebrate the Autumn harvest. So what are you waiting for? Let’s enjoy nature.
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