Heading outdoors to practice yoga gives new meaning to your sun salutation, tree pose, or mountain pose. The added sounds of nature might even get reflected in deeper pigeon, drinking bird, or frog postures. And if your furry friends join in, you can enjoy the company during your downward dog or cat-cow (cat, anyway).
But aside from poses inspired by the natural world, practicing outdoors makes sense for other reasons—namely, the benefits of fresh air and sunshine, from improved mood to Vitamin D exposure. Those immediate rewards don’t come without added challenges, however, having to deal with the sensory distractions of the elements that an indoor room limits. To increase your chances for a successful yoga session in your backyard, at a park or the beach, certain gear items can help replicate the indoor experience. Start with similar equipment, from the ground up, using a mat and props such as blocks or straps. Sure, you can move through a yoga sequence outdoors with nothing extra at all—just your body and some knowledge of a few poses—but gearing up the right way will maximize your enjoyment of an outdoor yoga flow.
Here’s a guide to the equipment and apparel that will help your yoga practice make a smooth, safe and simple transition outdoors, along with a few tips specific to practicing outside.
A well-made mat laid on the grass, dirt, or concrete gives you a dedicated space and a comfortable surface for practicing. It also adds a degree of safety to keep you from slipping on ground surfaces that can stay deceptively slick (see: grass coated in overnight dew) .
Since you’ll be laying your mat on outdoor terrain, you’ll want yoga mat wipes, which allow you to clean the dirt or other surface grime off your mat quickly and easily without damaging it. Shake off and wipe down your mat before rolling it up.
Especially if you’re practicing in warm temperatures, having a yoga mat towel over your mat can improve your experience by absorbing sweat, which will aid overall comfort as well as your balance (it’s hard for feet and hands to grip a mat with pools of sweat). Most mat towels are made of hypoallergenic microfiber and lay directly over your mat.
Outside in cooler temps, having a yoga blanket to drape over yourself during your final savasana (corpse pose) will help keep you in the moment, breathing comfortably. You don’t want to be shivering when you should be savasana-ing. Pro tip: To keep your mat towel and blanket smelling fresh, purchase a gentle laundry detergent and follow your towel’s care instructions.
Using blocks and straps can help any yogi achieve poses that are otherwise out of reach, and add safety. Instead of over-stretching, a rectangular foam or cork block offers support (and can be placed on various sides for three different height options). Meanwhile, a strap acts as an extension of your arms to achieve certain poses without hurting yourself.
Water bottles are important for yoga regardless of location. Utilize a bottle with a straw top, valve, or mouthpiece that makes it easy to take quick sips mid-practice. For outdoor use, shop for an insulated bottle to keep your liquids cool from the sun and heat.