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In my very first encounter with yoga, at an organic farm in Northern California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, the laughter of school kids and floral scents from a nearby garden served as a backdrop. Since then I’d always romanticized the idea of doing yoga outdoors.
So one day last summer I decided to relocate my morning yoga practice from my apartment to a nearby beach along Lake Michigan. In my apartment I’d imagined myself flowing from posture to posture. But once I was on my mat, it was apparent that I hadn’t planned for the reality. I was quickly overwhelmed by the scent of smelly fish. A breeze whipped sand into my eyes while I struggled to find Lotus Pose. In Downward Dog I lost my balance and fell over.
Determined to not let all this sour my romantic ideas, I signed up for a yoga class the following Sunday at a lakeside park. This time, the practice was seamless, with flat grass and a perfumed breeze. Instead of longing for the calm of the predictable white studio walls, I delighted in how much my senses were stimulated by being outside. These days, I willingly leave the comfort of my studio and home behind, trading firm hardwood floors, serene white walls, and spiritual tunes from India for the opportunity to practice in nature. I’ve learned a few tricks—always pack my sunglasses and pad my mat—but, more important, I’ve learned that I must be at peace with the moment, however horrific Mother Nature’s current mood.