Yogi approved by Keira Shepherd, Certified Yoga Instructor with a 1st Class Honors in Education Studies.
With so many yoga classes to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? Rather than looking at the different styles of yoga, in this article, we will focus more on the location and discuss outdoor yoga vs. indoor yoga.
The choice to practice yoga indoors or outdoors comes down to personal preference. Both have benefits, and both have drawbacks. For the yogi looking to connect with the world around them and maybe add a new element to their practice, outdoor yoga can be a great option. But for those who prefer the comfort of a studio and potentially have sensitivities related to being outdoors, an indoor yoga practice might be the better option.
In this article, we will look at the social, emotional, and physical benefits of both indoor and outdoor yoga. Both types of practice have so much to offer us in very different ways, and I am here to tell you the good and the bad about where you choose to take your yoga practice. Whichever option you choose, ensure you set aside enough time to prepare your space adequately before you start.
Going to an outdoor class can make you feel like you’re taking part in a completely different style of yoga, even when the movements are the same. And from a practitioner’s point of view – phrases such as “Feel the earth supporting you” and “Lift your hands towards to sky” are more authentic, and therefore more meaningful, statements in an outdoor class.
The physical benefits of outdoor yoga
Practicing yoga outside can improve our general performance. One study found that adults who choose to partake in physical activity outside, do so for more extended periods than those who practice inside. Outdoors we have fewer things that might distract us and take us away from our practice – while at home, there is an endless list of things that we could be doing instead. Fewer distractions make it easier to focus and spend more time on yoga.
Plus, you’ve taken the time to get your yoga clothes on, pack your mat, and head to your favorite outdoor yoga spot – why leave after just 10 minutes? The fact that you have put effort into your practice is a great way to commit to your practice, and will probably lead to you practicing for much longer than you would have if you had stayed inside.
An outdoor yoga session is a great way to test those tricky poses that you consider yourself to have mastered. Maybe you’re a pro at arm balances, but have you tried practicing them on sand or uneven surfaces? An outdoor practice can add a new element to your yoga flow, and help you to develop your abilities even further. The fact of even being outside is enough of a change to require us to focus even more on our practice.
The wind and uneven surfaces can also help us to engage our core further. Lots of us are guilty of forgetting about those all-important core muscles that are required for stability during our practice. But head out into the wind, and you’ll soon be reminded just how much you need them!
We have to be especially present when practicing outdoors – if for nothing else than to stop ourselves from falling over! It helps you to experience yoga in a whole new way that can make you feel even more connected to it.
Connecting our bodies with the earth has even been found to reduce pain and improve sleep. Sign me up!
The emotional benefits of outdoor yoga
Practicing yoga goes far beyond the physical benefits, and there’s a lot to be said for the positive effects that an outdoor practice can have on our emotions.
Being outside is a mood booster and a quick way to improve our mental wellbeing. Add yoga to the equation, you know, the practice that is defined as a mood booster, and you’ve got a quick recipe for an instant lift. Studies show that people who take part in physical activity outside report less stress, anxiety, and anger, whilst experiencing an increase in satisfaction and enjoyment.
One of the main ideas behind yoga is that we develop our practice to not only connect more effectively to ourselves but nature and earth. Practicing outside is simply a faster route to reaching that level of connectedness.
Practicing yoga outdoors is a great way to meet new people. From my own experience as an outdoor yoga instructor, students tend to stick around and talk to each other following a class much more willingly than after classes led in a studio. With studio classes, most people seem like they can’t leave fast enough!
If you’re attending a class, being outside can make you feel less self-conscious. There are lots of outdoor noises to mask your breathlessness, and people are enjoying their time outside too much to worry themselves with looking at the other students. You’ll spend your time looking at the trees, the sky, and the nature around you much more than you will waste time comparing yourself to others.
Despite outdoor yoga feeling like the perfect combination, there are lots of benefits to indoor practice too. Indoor yoga is the ideal way to create your yoga space in precisely the way you want to. You can use candles, incense, and meditation cushions inside your dimly lit home or studio.
The physical benefits of indoor yoga
Indoor yoga practice is more beneficial to those who are sensitive to the outdoors. Whether that’s because you have damaged skin, sensitive eyes, suffer from hayfever, or have asthma – an indoor practice can be more comfortable. You can also guarantee that it won’t start raining on your tree pose!
Despite previously highlighting that the outdoors is the perfect place to focus on and advance in your practice, there are unarguably a lot of distractions too. Primarily, there are no insects, dogs, or people to disturb you when you are practicing in a studio or quiet place within your home though it could be argued that these factors encourage you to work even harder on fine-tuning your focus.
An at-home practice can be easier to commit to – you don’t have to prepare as everything that you need for your practice is on hand, you don’t have to take your mat outside or worry about props. Because of this, it can be easier to commit to daily practice; all you have to get onto your mat for 10 minutes. This is great if you have little time to dedicate to your practice.
Inside, we also have unlimited access to props in the form of blankets, blocks, cushions, extra mats, and bands. Unless we carry all of this with us to our outside yoga spot, we won’t have the same use of props during our practice – something that many of us rely on.
The mental benefits of indoor yoga
An indoor yoga practice can be a more calming experience, where your personalized yoga space surrounds you or practicing within a studio where the lighting, temperature, and even the smells can be controlled. When these variables are controlled, it can be easier to sharpen the mind – which is one of the main goals of yoga.
Essential oils can be used in indoor classes to provoke emotions and a sense of relaxation in students; this is something that can add to yoga practice and cannot be done as quickly when practicing outside.
Those of us who suffer from anxiety will likely feel more at ease inside a studio or their homes. The same goes for pregnant women who have access to lots of comfortable props and are at less risk of falling over when practicing on a flat surface.
When practicing inside, you won’t feel self-conscious if you’re alone. When you take your practice in a public place outside, it’s easy to feel self-conscious of anybody that might be walking past. And as much as we should never feel self-conscious about our yoga practice, it can be difficult for some of us to tune out of our surroundings and into our bodies.
Attending classes at a studio is also a great way to connect with and build friendships with multiple yoga teachers and others who frequent the same studio, regardless of whether they attend the same classes as you.
Before deciding on whether indoor or outdoor yoga is best for you, it’s important to try a few sessions of both. By experimenting with different locations and different teachers (if you prefer to attend classes), you can discover which works best for your practice. You could do this by finding a studio that offers both, or by experimenting with both styles by yourself.
You may not feel any connection with one studio; this doesn’t mean that an indoor practice isn’t for you – try another until you find one that you love.
Finally, be true to your practice! If you love practicing inside but feel like you should be outside (even though it doesn’t make you feel as great), keep practicing indoors. The point of yoga is to develop yourself and feel beautiful in your practice, which is difficult when you’re uncomfortable in your environment.
Keira Shepherd is a certified yoga teacher living in Toulouse, France. Originally from the UK, Keira received a First-Class Honours degree in Education Studies at Oxford Brookes University after completing her dissertation on the topic of using special technologies when teaching children with autism. Keira is a keen traveler and has spent a lot of time teaching a variety of different practices – such as yoga and scuba diving – around the world. Now settled in France, she is a mother of one and shares her passion for an environmentally sustainable life through her motherhood blog.