There’s something special about practicing yoga outdoors. The sunlight and the breeze encourage a natural flow and an expansion of the body. The sound of birds gladdens the heart, and the smell of flowers, grass, or water can transport the soul.
For example, what could be better than performing Sun Salutations at sunrise in your backyard?
The traditional way to practice yoga is on an even surface. Balconies, patios, porches, and decks are all ideal candidates for your backyard sanctuary. But don’t rule out the lawn. As anyone who’s studied yoga on the beach will tell you, it can be splendid to feel the earth beneath your feet or your mat.
You don’t have to limit your backyard wellness sanctuary to the practice of yoga. That same space can be used for formal or informal meditation, or simple relaxation alone or with friends. It doesn’t have to be hard or expensive to create such a space. Here’s how.
An outdoor wellness sanctuary is a world apart from ordinary stresses and distractions. If you are one of the lucky people surrounded by acres of land, finding a quiet outdoor space may be as simple as walking out the door. But the rest of us probably will need some backyard privacy, such as screening to create a sense of sanctuary. What you choose depends on the available area, your aesthetic, your budget, and possibly, your timeline.
A built fence is compact and creates instant privacy, as do those portable screens that work well for balconies and other small spaces. Curtains can help enclose porches and pergolas. Living screens are also an option –– hedges made of shrubs, small trees, vines winding on a lattice, or vertical gardens built along a wall. The biggest downside of a living screen is that it will take time to grow. Keep the seasons in mind when planning it; evergreens give year-round protection while flowering shrubs add color and interest.
Small sensory pleasures
Mixed among the arborvitae, white pines, and bayberry in my many hedges are rugosa roses, lilacs, viburnum, forsythia, and most wonderfully, small wild roses. Flowering plants are beautiful to see, but the fragrant lilacs and roses enhance a sense of well-being with every breath. Sweet-smelling annuals and perennials, tough low-maintenance plants such as lavender or Russian sage, and culinary herbs such as thyme or basil can make great additions to your outdoor sanctuary. For folks who want to minimize their gardening, essential oils in a diffuser can do the trick instead.
You might also want to enhance an outdoor sanctuary with sound. You don’t have to build a waterfall to benefit from the soothing sound of falling water. A tiny splash will do. A small portable fountain may be all you need, or perhaps, a bubbler in a birdbath, which also has the advantage of attracting birds and bird song. In the absence of water, there are always wind chimes.
Furniture and Equipment
For your yoga practice, you’ll need your mat — and depending on your needs or the style of yoga you prefer –– maybe a prop or two, such as a wedge or block, a folding chair, or a strap. A blanket can be useful, either as folded support or as a cover-up. Zafus are also a great addition, for both meditation and for sitting around with like-minded friends. Ditto for all-weather floor cushions.
If opting for conventional seating in your outdoor wellness sanctuary, two main principles apply: Keep it simple. Keep it comfortable. You want an uncluttered look for your world apart –– one that encourages serenity and makes room for body, spirit, and mind to forge a deep connection with the natural world around you.
Frances Black is a writer and gardener. She was born in Michigan and has planted gardens everywhere she’s lived, from New Mexico to New England.