It’s the beginning of the summer and with that comes plans for summer vacations, weekends off and lazy, hot days on the beach. Even for the most devoted yoga practitioner, thoughts of Downward Facing Dog pose may be far off. So how can you stay in the mood for yoga, even during a time meant for sun and swim? Here are a few ideas:
Take it outdoors: Now is the time to take your practice outside! Shed your self-conscious fears about your body and throw down a mat on a deck, on the beach or a local park. I hold occasional privates in a local park in early mornings by request. There’s nothing like practicing to the sounds of the birds as the sun rises. This can give a whole new meaning to the sequence, “Sun Salutations.”
Race to the mat: I love to run in the summer and as a result, my yoga practice suffers. The irony is with increased running, yoga is even more critical to maintain flexibility and prevent injury by increasing balance, strength and joint stability. Rather than struggling to fit in runs and yoga classes each week, I tack a 20-minute yoga practice to my post-run cool down. A few Sun Saluations, some twisting poses and lots of hip openers keep me flexible and strong.
Meditate in the sun: One of my favorite things is to arrive at the beach early, mala beads in hand, and go sit on the shoreline and meditate. Another favorite is to do a walking meditation along the shore, paying attention to the breath and refraining from talking or connecting to others. Both of these meditation exercises will help you feel refreshed, alive and connected to the beauty of your surroundings. If the beach isn’t your thing, sit at the top of your favorite hiking trail or your summer lake retreat. Where ever it is, be still, open your ears and listen to the outside as well as the inside.
Be a Pack Mat: There are so many unique ways to bring your yoga gear with you when you travel. From mats that fold into the size of a book to padded gloves you wear on your feet and hands, there’s no excuse to avoid packing something for your practice. Plus, on the off-chance you forget, there’s nothing to say that you can throw down a few Dogs in bare feet and hands, pool-side or on the beach, That’s one of the greatest things about yoga; you really don’t even need a mat to stretch.
Mindfulness in the Air: Air travel is one of the most frustrating experiences and only worsens in the summer with increased traffic and travelers. Bring your favorite mindfulness tools from your practice to help you stay centered, even when delays, crowds and screaming babies are all around you. Deep breathing, “tense and release” guided meditation and using your focused gaze (versus getting caught up in your environment) can all keep you grounded while in the air.
Get inspired by the kids: I teach family yoga classes outdoors in the summer. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a family practice together. Kids have a natural affinity to model and mimic what adults do and they’ll follow a yoga teacher through poses without any apprehension. Adults on the other hand, tend to be self-conscious about trying something new and worry about “doing it right.” Get outside, look for outdoor yoga classes that are “kid friendly” or buy some yoga cards ( The “Yoga Pretzels” card deck, available on Amazon is a great tool) and practice with the kids. It’s a great way to build family unity and get your practice in.
Find it for free AND outdoors: My outdoor family yoga classes outdoors are free and sponsored by a local parks and recreation organization. A friend of mine offers free classes outdoors at a local park. The City of Boston just started a healthy initiative for the city that involves offering free yoga and fitness classes on City Hall Plaza. Take a look at your community calendar, search the internet for free yoga classes in your area or lobby your favorite teacher and/or studio to host classes outdoors.
Green up your commute to class: I bought a bike last year to use to commute back and forth to teaching yoga and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought. It cuts down on my aggravation looking for a parking space, saves time, gives me a little cardio boost on the way to class plus I save on gas and feel good about helping the environment. Boston has a great bike-sharing program so check out if your city or local bike shop rents bikes. If not and you think you’ll do it often, invest in a used or low-cost bike. The summer is the perfect time to ride to and from class.
Hydrate for Fun: In the heat, it’s more important that ever to drink lots of fluids. This need only increases as you exercise, especially if you practice yoga in a heated studio. There are lots of new drinks to try from coconut water to vitamin-infused sports drinks, so use the need to hydrate as a chance to try out some new and different drinks.
Strike a Pose: Your mobile summer practice means you’ll be striking a yoga pose in unique places. Use this as a chance to take some neat and unique photos of you practicing in the sun. These shots will inspire you in the depths of winter, when summer seems far away.
Most of all, remember that the practice of yoga is more than just the physical practice of the postures. Yoga involves living mindfully, speaking truthfully, doing your best and loving yourself first. These actions are not connected to any season but are portable and healthy tips to employ in anytime.