Yoga and sea kayaking… say what? This month I’ve given myself the task of trying to articulate some of the links I see between yoga and outdoor experiences. For many of us, we know these links intuitively. We have experienced the connections between the calming effects of a walk in the forest and the peacefulness of a post yoga cup of tea. What are the relationships between the two? Moreover, how do we talk about these connections?
A Context of Disconnection Many of us lead lives that are increasingly disconnected from the both the present moment and the natural world. We sit in front of computers in offices. We recognize more corporate logos than local plants. We buzz to work at high speeds via cement, steel and rubber. We return home to continue to live out significant amounts of our lives online, with our minds and fingers bouncing around interacting online, while our bodies barely move an inch. We are caught up in our personal dramas and alienated from our surroundings.
Re-connecting Through yoga practice, we are invited to shift our attention back to the present. We begin to connect with our breath. We learn to observe subtle sensations in the body. The churning of our mind begins to fade to the background as we focus in on the present. We experience being supported by the ground beneath us. We inhabit the experience of a yoga pose with awe and wonder, like a child playing in the grass or gazing up at the sky. Our bodies are full of life. Through yoga, we begin to experience ourselves, and our place in the natural world.
Outdoor experiences likewise have the potential to bring us back to the present moment. The rustling of pine needles, the warmth of the sun’s rays shinning through the trees, the waves lapping at the shore — many of us seek solace in these experiences. Our to-do lists and unpaid bills fade into the background. As we gaze out on the endless ocean horizon, it’s unclear where the sky ends and where our awareness begins. As in yoga, the Self begins to fade, as we immerse ourselves in our connection to our natural environment.
This is not to say that we cannot find peace in cities, that cities are bad, or that modern life is doomed. But rather that yoga and outdoor experiences can play a therapeutic role in our contemporary society, allowing us to feel part of nature. They help us place our individual troubles and lives in context. Coleman writes, “The natural world perennially invites us to become so attentive that we lose all sense of ourselves and merge with what we are observing […]We can rediscover our place in the natural order of things and transcend the sense of alienation that comes from feeling separate”. The goals of having a regular yoga practice; to cultivate mindfulness, unity and peace in the present moment can be complimented by outdoor experiences.
So there you have it - my attempt to put the experience of connections between yoga and outdoor living into words. These experiences are quite close to my heart, and something I love to share through Cape LaHave Adventures' unique kayak & yoga experiences. I hope it inspires you to roll out your yoga mat, to get outside. Here’s a poem and some photos to wrap it up. I've also included links to great books on the topic, if you want some further reading.
Thanks for checking in! Sarah
The birds have dissolved into the sky And the last remaining clouds have faded away We sit together the mountain and me Until only the mountain remains. Li Po, Zazen on Ching-t'inig Mountain
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild