“Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest, thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you’re devastated.”
I remember feeling the warm breeze coated with sea salt air brushing along my skin and moving my hair, i opened my eyes and a hazy, dark orange sun was sinking into the ocean horizon before me. My feet planted on my yoga mat, rolled out on a bumpy rooftop in a dusty moroccan town. It was the first time i’d done yoga outside, i realise now, how strange that statement sounds, i’d been with my practice for a few years now by this point. But, all of my yoga practices before that sunset in Morocco, were in fact always contained within 4 walls. Carpeted bedrooms and hard wood studio floors. It never differed between the two. But as my year of change began to manifest before me flows then followed to more outside settings; farm houses in misty Spanish hills and sticky hot classes on Barcelona rooftops- city noise vibrating out below, lawns on Greek islands- turquoise Aegean waters sparkling as a backdrop, London parks filled with birdsong on July mornings, creaking boat decks in sleepy Canadian towns in autumn, wooden shalas open and free of their walls- sunken deep into dark green jungles in Bali. At first such foreign sensory feelings for me and now, my daily tonic; a newborn sense of hunger for the elements to meet me, and to invite in their magic with every breath.
When we practice yoga we become raw and we become absorbent, we become vulnerable to every sense that surrounds us, our walls dissolve away like sugar in water, and we begin to invite in, I know not always willingly or with awareness, all that surrounds us- with every inhale, with every flutter of our eyelids as we gaze outward. Our breath carries energy- around our bodies like a well rehearsed transport system, our eyes, and our organs, receive from outwards- they perceive the outer world for us. Energy comes to us easily, so easily, we have unlimited supplies of it, all around us, to give and receive, to bank it, stack it in our spines, to let it go.
So, when we take this yoga practice outdoors- not just outdoors, no, sometimes outdoors implies simply stepping onto a concrete street, I mean in nature, true, full, rugged, beautiful, wild mother nature. When we become immersed with it- sunken within lush greenery, lined up with those out stretched horizons. Surrounded by forest song, or tidal hushes of waves. With never ending sky as our ceiling- the stars- always there- blanketed above us. Then, then, we can begin the healing.
Whilst our bodies can drink in energy like sweet honey, we can also create it within ourselves to express it back outwards- through the simple act of breathing alone we can awaken a warmth within us, give it life and intention and that warmth becomes our own inner fire. Flames rising from our navel centres- what an added treat then to take this practice outside- to have the sun kissing our skin as we create this fire- giving back to the sun what it gives us, self sacrificing its flames, everyday.
The ocean is wild, unpredictable, though always beautiful and often destructive. The next time you find sand between your toes and salt on your lips- listen as the waves wash in- listen to how controlled and rhythmic they are. Want to experience an even tide of breath in your practice? Listen to the waves- as mumma moon controls the tides of the ocean so we too can control the tides of our own breath- our bodies are made up of 60% water- maybe she watches over us for other reasons than we realise.
Sometimes a heaviness can over take us, we get stuck, not today we say, maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow i’ll leave the house, why should i need to though, to feel grounded? My feet feel the hard floor on which the foundations of this house are built, so i am grounded and safe here, surely. Not even close, my girl, so very near the earth but not close. To be grounded is to truly meet those toes back to the original source. Be that gypsy girl with no shoes, see the world as your playground. Want to find your wild? Feed a happy heart with dirty feet, feel what it truly feels like to connect skin on soil, tickling amongst grass, sinking into sand, truly on the earth.
Once we find our safe space, our yoga studios with the smiley, familiar faces, the same spot for our mat, the walls. Always those 4 walls. They keep you safe as your heart, hips, lungs open up during your practice. They keep your fears and your secrets safe. Guilty, of such attachment, so averse to letting my practice become exposed to the elements, so afraid of my raw self being out there for all of mother nature to see, and in return so afraid to absorb the unpredictable- for that is what nature is- unpredictable- but remember- so is life- and our organs so absorbent to everything they meet- what if i wasn’t ready to take in what came my way? But now we see, we see with everything and we invite everything in because turns out we were ready. We always knew we could, we just needed to step outside.
Why let our energy bounce among studio walls when it can be absorbed back into the source? How better to thank the earth than through the rawest of transfers- pure energy exchange within the elements. Trees need oxygen and sunlight to grow, to thrive, why, although through shape and form so different, must we live differently to them at all? Grass, leaves, flowers, everyday they grow, they disappear, the petals fall, they get cut down, but they always re grow.
Place your feet wherever on this earth you choose, absorb the medicine of mother nature with each breath, regrow, regrow.
Ready to take your yoga outdoors? Join us at Scapa Fest 2019.
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Holly Saxton is a yoga teacher and freelance photo editor and writer from London, UK. She heads up the editorial content on Boundless Betty, a online platform aimed at encouraging, inspiring and easing accessibility for women into outdoor adventure sports.