At the Beach — April 15, 2014 at 5:00 am

7 Reasons to Practice Yoga on the Beach

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Steve Mason / Digital Vision / thinkstock.com

Steve Mason / Digital Vision / thinkstock.com

Even the most pristine, high-tech, and/or feng shui yoga studios have nothing on the beach.

There’s a reason that so many yoga retreats are held in warm, sunny places where traditional studios are often swapped out for the sand and surf. From physical to mental to spiritual, there’s a lot to be gained from practicing your asanas at the seashore. Here are 7 reasons to take your practice beachside.

A Foundation for Meditation
Many yoga practices incorporate meditation into the practice. Several tools are used to help students settle into their meditation: mantras, chants, breathing exercises and music are a few commonly used methods.

Practicing by the sea allows you to use Mother Nature’s meditation cues: the rhythmic flow of waves crashing, the sound of wind blowing by, and even the smell of saltwater will help you relax, focus and completely clear your mind. Expect to experience meditation like you never have before.

A Balancing Act
It’s no secret that yoga is a great way to improve balance—now, imagine replacing that sturdy bamboo floor for sand that sinks every time you shift.

The added challenge will introduce a new dimension to your practice: familiar poses will now require you to focus on totally different elements. Though you’ll have to work a little harder, your efforts won’t go unrewarded: uneven surfaces will help strengthen key areas throughout your body, like your knees and hips.

Time is On Your Side
There’s no need to rush to the studio to make it in time for class, or to vacate quickly once your class is adjourned: practicing in the open air provides much more flexibility than an indoor practice. So take your time and be inspired by your surroundings—as long as the tide permits!

Breathe Naturally
What’s the first thing you do when you hit the beach? For many of us, it’s closing our eyes and breathing in that fresh, salty air. There’s a special quality about the air by the ocean—you can’t help but want to take full, deep breaths, inhaling the sweet smell of the surf.

Wait a minute: full, deep breaths—doesn’t that sound like the breathing cues your yoga teacher offers throughout class? The fresh ocean air will help you focus on your breathing from the first asana to the final om.

Shifting Scenery
Practicing yoga at the beach on different days, or even at different times in the same day, can yield completely contrasting experiences.

Think about an energetic flow practice just as the sun rises above the horizon, or a peaceful yin practice under the purple and pink sky of a sunset. Experience a hot practice in a whole new way under the beating sun’s rays, or a cleansing hatha practice on a still, damp beach after a storm has passed through.

Welcome Distractions
The beach offers a certain level of unpredictability. Whether there are birds flying overhead, a fly buzzing nearby or clouds rolling in, the atmosphere will certainly be different than an easily controlled studio.

With the right mindset, you can frame these distractions into opportunities. Can you maintain focus despite the buzzing fly? Can you take a cue from the weather, letting your own energy be dynamic and constantly changing? Can the squawking birds be a reminder to let go of passing thoughts and to focus on the present?

Prepare Properly
Okay, this one is more a word of advice than a reason to practice at the beach—but it’s worth paying attention to. You’ll get the most out of your seaside practice if you are adequately prepared. From a supplies standpoint, you’ll want to carry some sunblock and to dress in layers.

From a spiritual standpoint, come with an open mind and a willingness to experience yoga in a different way than you’re used to. Everyone will have a different experience—you’ll just have to try it for yourself to find out what it is for you!

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