Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Yoga on the Grass

A recent YTT grad asked me about my experience teaching outside on the grass and it got me to thinking. And my getting to thinking got me to writing, and well, here we go.

Teaching yoga outside works in a lot of ways and there's also a lot that can go wrong. Context is everything...

So first of all, who are you teaching? Once, I was teaching a bunch of adolescents and they flipped out when we were on the grass because there were insects on their mats. That didn't work. However, now that I know they might react to it, I still teach outside on the grass, but I warn them about the bugs and sometimes I even add that they could pretend it's lucky to have an ant on their mat, or we can use it as an opportunity to notice our reactions, etc.

If the group knows each other, that's always going to be different than if the group doesn't. Same thing with if the group is required to do yoga, like a gym class, or wants to do yoga, like they've signed up for an 8-week class with you. Totally different groups.

Then there's the environment. Are you near traffic? Let me tell you, breathing in exhaust fumes while you're doing yoga is not so pleasant. I've been outside in a seemingly serene environment when all of a sudden a big lawn mower starts doing its thing. Stinky, loud, distracting to say the least.

Is it public? Will strangers walk by and comment or try and interact with the group? That's happened, too. I once had a guy approach my group and ask to bum a smoke. True story. And if people are standing by and watching it can feel awkward to your students, so what's the space like?

Is it wet? Is it warm? Is it windy? Yoga on the grass is best when it's not damp, when it's warm enough, and when there's not too much wind. Yelling while you're teaching will tire you right out. If it's hot, it's nice to have shade available so people don't have to worry about sunburn.

Do people have mats? Yoga straight on the grass can be challenging because of the bugs and the sticks and the potential poop and stuff. Blankets work well too.

Is the ground even? That's another dynamic that comes into play when you're teaching outside. Often the ground is not level and some people are rolling down a hill or there's a bump in the middle of the mat, so lying down isn't always comfortable.

Leading yoga classes outside is often a lot of fun. Unpredictable happenings are more likely because there's less you can control, and sometimes those classes are the most memorable. I'd love to hear from any of you who've taught or taken yoga classes outside. How'd it go?


Jenni Young said...

I have not done a class outside however I have practiced outside many times. It is fun to pay attention to your reactions. For the same reasons I close my curtains is why I don't practice outside anymore. My concentration is just not there... oooo something sparkly or what's that that just moved out of the corner of my eye. For pure asana practice it is fun (and lumpy) but for mediation and concentration - not so much. If you were teaching a fun outdoor practice and mediation was not on the course outline I would join in and accept my reactions be that human or insect distractions.

laura nerenberg said...

I practice yoga outdoors at the Ogontz Suzuki Institute -- sometimes on the porch of the building where I sleep, sometimes on the top of a hill overlooking a lake & mountains. It is idyllic! There are probably more bugs INdoors at the camp than outdoors... and the morning air is fresh and misty. It is my favorite place to do yoga and I can't wait to return.

Jamine said...

Thanks for your comments, you two. Laura, I was thinking of the last Suzuki Play Date up in the Gatineaus and all of the caterpillars I had to drive over to get out of there. That was something else. Quite the distraction!

Yea, those good old out-of-doors. It's nice when it works for yoga practice. :)