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Amp up your awareness: outdoor yoga demands more heightened focus than you’re used to inside four walls.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CORINNA BARSAN
Website Open Air Yoga
Website Donna Helen
The calendar may be turned to September and summer is in the early stages of becoming a distant memory, but don’t say goodbye to outdoor yoga just yet.
The weather is still good enough to flow through your asanas in the sun and open air. It’s both inspiring to connect with your practice under a stretch of sky and a challenge to stay present as the world circles around you.
Above all, it’s a hell of a good time.
Inspiration from the heart – of Central Park
I heard about Open Air Yoga through a friend and I jumped at the opportunity to unroll my mat in front of the lovely Turtle Pond near Belvedere Castle in the heart of Central Park.
Led by Donna Klimkiewicz, the class is influenced by Anusara yoga and it is open to all levels. Students set up inside a small stone circle that is situated right on the water—picturesque is an understatement. There was a nice mix of regulars and first-timers, and even a surprise drop-in by a European stewardess who had flown in that afternoon. (She remembered the class fondly from her previous visit to NYC.)
Klimkiewicz takes her time moving through the hour-long class, offering various forms of a pose to accommodate beginners and more advanced yogis alike. It wasn’t a vigorous flow but more of a fluid ease with nice attention spent on the breath.
Fluid ease, deep grace
This was only one of a handful of times that I’ve done yoga outdoors. It’s quite an interesting experience to be faced with a new set of distractions while trying to hold your poses. It certainly amps up your awareness and demands more heightened focus than you’re used to inside four walls, where often your biggest diversions are your neighbors.
These open air classes feel like “real life” yoga – the kind of yoga that is most similar to what we’re confronted with on a daily basis: a series of obstacles, both large and small, that we try to handle with grace.
Down Dog was all the more entertaining with a busy ant underfoot. Tree pose needed stronger rootedness on an uneven surface. And Extended Side Angle was particularly trying while laughing as a couple of high schoolers on a class trip joined the yoga challenge as a joke. (And soon changed their minds once a bind was introduced!)
On the one hand I wanted to soak in all the beauty and bustle that was going on around me—people observing, musicians playing, the sun setting, geese coming in from the pond. And on the other hand I had to keep my quiet internal focus so I could stay connected to myself.
Outdoor yoga is a playful mental and physical workout. Can you be present and focused in the midst of it all?
Take it lightly. Keep steady.
Find the joy in it.
Affordable, playful practice, integrated with daily life
This summer marks the fourth year that Klimkiewicz is teaching outside of a studio. The sixty-minute classes are an affordable $12.00 and they will continue into October as long as the weather holds up.
Classes are held in Battery Park City on Wednesday mornings and in Central Park on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
A particularly nice touch is that post-class Klimkiewicz serves a refreshing fresh fruit juice and provides an aromatherapy wipe to cool your brow. It’s a gentle moment to help the transition out of the park and onto the streets.
Skyline ahead, trees above, and earth below, these classes are a beautiful blend of nature and movement. If you’re reading this from another city or town, check with your local yoga studio or teachers to see if they offer outdoor classes (if they don’t, encourage them to start). Or grab your mat, maybe a friend, find a spot of grass, and move through a series of asanas.
Any way you can get there, take your practice into the open air and you will see it anew.
The pause that refreshes! You can find Corinna Barsan’s musings and discoveries on her blog at Shiny White Page.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.