Yoga Outdoors: Freeing The Boundaries

Grass

Image from Fabio Sola Penna

Sun. Green. Birds. Breeze. Yoga.

Yoga outdoors.

We begin by standing barefooted feeling the uneven ground, freeing the receptors of our feet to feel the nuances of the Earth. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we believe that there are many meridian points on our feet that connect to the rest of the body. We could map out our internal organs like brains, eyes, lungs, livers, pineal glands all on our feet. An Ayurveda advocate once tells me that somebody improves her myopic condition by messaging sesame oil on her feet every night.

By doing yoga outdoors, feeling the grass, separated from the Earth only by a yoga mat, I hope to bring about a similar effect. We use our body weights and the uneven terrain to apply a gentle pressure to these receptors. We make an intention to ground our feet by standing firmly with our weights evenly distributed on the balls and the heels.

Ground. Feet. Soil. Grass.

Through a series of movements with intention, we connect with the environment as much as we try to connect our breath with our movements. Feel the connection to the ground, feel the insect that lands on your legs, feel the rough patches beneath. These all serve as a reminder of the work of the Universe. You are here, you are on a ground, you are one on the Earth, that bears a gazillion life forms, you are so small yet so connected. And let this theme resonates throughout the different facets of your life.

You become aware.

Firstly, you become aware of the funny sensation of your feet, the different points of your feet, the different sensation that you could feel on your feet. Secondly, you start to improve your balance. Balancing on an unfamiliar terrain is not so easy, especially when it is not an even ground. Once, I meet a guy in Bali who could balance on one leg on a buttress root, which is at least 30 cm off the ground. He moves himself carefully up the root and as he reaches the height, where the surface becomes narrowly flat, almost a cylindrical shape, he turns towards me and balances into a tree pose, staying in the position as if he is an extension of the root. It takes practice and focus, which brings us to the third point: patience. You become aware of your impatience and exasperation of not maintaining balance. And you realize that such a feeling is not serving you. So burn it, burn the feeling into something positive, maybe a drive to strike a balance and poise in your postures. Let this feeling extend and spread in your life, like a tree that grows strong from its center and from the ground.

Balance. Peace. Harmony.

Birds, at the background. Vehicles, rumble by at different speed and sound. We, suitably tucked under the shade of the trees. Wind, bird, human and vehicle all come together to be open to the symphony of life. Because I learn that man can coexist with nature. We are nature. For a long time, we have been trying to separate man and nature just as we have been trying to indulge in the mind-body dualism. Man is nature. And our mind and body are connected. In my class, I want to rediscover this harmony. There is no need to go into the camps of the extremes. But I too can’t object for people who decide to be in the extremity, as long as they find their home in there.

This is how I yoga into harmony, or harmony into yoga. It doesn’t matter which is which. The most important thing is to feel the connections and the peace taking place in different levels. The connection of the teacher and student, the ground and our feet, the movement and our awareness. As our practices progress, the separation of the ground and the feet becomes blur as we become more sensitive to the sensations on our feet. As with the external level, so too it will occur on the internal level. The connection between the teacher and student fuses, the teacher is guiding but similarly, the student is imparting the wisdom of the body to the teacher. At that moment, it is no longer important who plays the role of the teacher or the student as all will ultimately fall into where they need to be.

Reflect. Insight.

And then when all the intentional movements end, when it comes to the silent introspective part of the practice, when we are no longer focus on the transition of various postures, when we finally remain still, the elements become louder. We relax and calm our mind and we become more aware. We feel ourselves, feel the ground, feel the boundaries of our body, and maybe, we get a sneak peek to how all these boundaries essentially exist and don’t exist. It is solid and it melts down but it stays solid. We become non-existent yet expansive. We become one and we become all. We live and float and sing and dance and remain still, all at once. Life is a cordial paradox once we learn to sail and anchor in it. Life becomes effort and ease. Life becomes this important thing that you don’t necessary have to explain but only need to be in.

Outdoors. Breathe. Me. You. All. Everything. Nothing. For life becomes life.

Shanti.

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