Yoga has an expansive list of physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. That’s no question. However, there are added benefits to practicing yoga with certain variables. Changing the surface on which we practice, the environment in which we practice, or the sounds to which we practice can alter our experience in any number of ways.
One of my favorite environments to practice yoga is right on the beach. Every year, my family travels to Hilton Head Island, and getting up early to flow on the sand, right next to the ocean, is easily one of my favorite yoga experiences.
But not just because I like it… beach yoga has quite a few specific benefits of it’s own!
Here’s a few reasons you might consider practicing yoga on the beach:
- Enhanced Creativity
Our creative minds are enhanced by exercising outdoors. During exercise, certain parts of our brains are activated that control our creativity. In the hippocampus section of our brains, exercising just 20 minutes a day can help brain cells regenerate more quickly. This is why taking a walk, jog, or practicing yoga outside can help us to problem solve. Practicing yoga on the beach takes this creative enhancement next level.
- Deeper Relaxation
Simply sitting with nature has extremely positive effects on the nervous system. Being on the beach, with the relaxing sounds of the ocean, and flowing through a relaxing yoga practice can greatly increase our sense of peace and rest.
- Communing with Nature
We forget sometimes just how important it is to be with nature. Things like television and our phones and the comfort of being indoors often command the competition for our attention and time. But feeling the earth beneath your feet and fresh air breezing across your skin has so many benefits for the body’s nervous system.
- Sea Air
Salty ocean air contains negative ions that allow the body to absorb oxygen more easily. Negative ions in the air also help to produce serotonin which increases feelings of relaxation and happiness. As an added benefit, salt has antibacterial properties which could aid in the recovery from infections.
- Difficult Postures
If you want to up the difficulty of your postures, beach yoga has your back. Practicing in the sand instead of on a sturdier surface, such as a studio floor, finding balance and footing on a softer, movable surface is an added challenge.
- Vitamin D
Any time spent under the sun is going to open the door for a boost in vitamin D – even if it’s cloudy and overcast! Vitamin D is necessary for the regulation of calcium and phosphate in the body, and we need plenty of it to feel happy and healthy. Depleted vitamin D has even been linked to depression and is associated with autoimmune diseases like MS. It also helps to keep our bones and muscles healthy, which is an important part of any fitness or yoga practice.
- Mood Support
Experts believe that spending even just five minutes outside a day can boost our moods by as much as 50%. Since yoga has its own emotional benefits, taking a yoga practice to the beach can help enhance the mood even faster!
- Stepping Outside of our Comfort Zone
Practicing outdoors, in a setting we aren’t used to, like our stuidos or homes, can get us out of our familiar comfort zones. This can allow us to potentially notice things about our practices we might not otherwise have seen; our bodies may react to poses differently than normal, or we might feel completely different about a pose we usually love or hate. Getting out of these familiar places creates space for us to see things – like our yoga practices – through fresh eyes!
- Sand Support
While the sand can add a level of difficulty to a yoga practice, but with the added security of a soft cushion of sand beneath us, trying out challenging poses on the beach is a definite benefit because it removes the fear and reduces the risk in falling. Since the ground is not hard and flat, you might also find that certain parts of the body are supported in ways similar to blocks and blankets would in a studio.
- Challenging Your Focus
Practicing outside of a controlled environment requires extra effort to focus and meditate. Keeping your mind centered on your practice instead of following birds, bugs, or other beach-goers can be difficult, but is a great way to deepen our practice of focus.
- Embracing Imperfeciton
When it comes to yoga, especially in a studio, so much time and attention is given to creating the perfect conditions for practice. From temperature control to the colors of the walls to the lighting to the sounds and smells filling the room, studio space is carefully and intentionally curated. Practicing outside requires us to adjust to our environment rather than adjusting our environment to us. If it’s a little chilly, will we pack up and abandoned our practice? Or will we throw on a sweater and press on? Will we adapt and embrace the variables changing, or will we allow circumstances to control us?
- Combining Exercises
Before you practice yoga on the beach, you might consider taking a jog, walk, or swim! How often are we able to run or swim to our yoga practice and back? Beach yoga offers flexibility here that we may not otherwise get to enjoy.
- Cool Down
When you finally feel full and your practice is complete, instead of heading to a locker room or shower, when you’re on the beach, you can just hop into the water to cool off! After all, the best part about practicing on the beach is, simply put, that its the beach! Shamelessly take full advantage of having access to the ocean water!
Have you ever practiced on the beach before? What are your favorite things about it, and what beaches are your favorite for yoga?