Yoga in the wild

I haven’t checked my paperwork but I’m pretty sure it’s a legal obligation of all yoga teachers to have photos of themselves striking a pose in the great outdoors.

If you’re a Californian type (I’m not) then you’ll be on a sun kissed beach preferably at sunset or sunrise with a back drop of a pink blushing sky and gently lapping waves while you do something impossibly bendy, or serene, or both.

If you’re very serious, and possibly male, you will don ‘Pune Pants’ (Google it), fashion suicide but nevertheless they are supremely functional and comfortable, and be photographed in front of a rock face.

If you’re neither of the above, but more like an averagely sized, averagely able, northern girl then you might go for a walk with the family and spontaneously decide to ‘muck about doing yoga’ while the children complain and the husband attempts to get a shot ‘where your hair doesn’t look like a scarecrow’.

I went for option 3, it sounded the most achievable.

So there I was walking down a hill (I can never remember their names) near Grasmere in the Lake District, having taught classes all week talking about the effect different surfaces have on how a pose feels (with a mat, without a mat, with 2 mats – we know how to live!). There was a scree slope either side of a sunken path and I thought ‘Hmmm, I wonder what that feels like…’

Downdog on screeSharp and unstable was the answer. Although my┬átired back did thank me for the stretch that Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog) gave it. (Small boys weigh a tonne when they’re tired and complaining and want to be carried).

trikonasana on screeAnd although I’m not about to bring a scree slope into a class, the instability of the surface was an interesting teacher. It forces you to work really hard┬áto stabilise your own body, you can’t sink into the ground like you can and might on plain old, flat floors. You can’t take it for granted. I had to stay very alert to how my hands and feet were connecting with the earth moment to moment.

Downdog on grass 1A bit lower down there was a great view of the lake, well 3 lakes actually cause Windermere and Rydal were in the distance, so I had another go, using a handy rock and some grass. here though the main challenge was avoiding sheep poo so we traipsed on (well it is the Lake District, gotta love the sheep, but their poo, not so much)


Ooo slippy. Stretch those fingers, keep your balance!
Ooo slippy. Stretch those fingers, keep your balance!

Lower down and after more carrying of the small-but-remarkably-heavy one we came upon a very large rock. Well I couldn’t resist that one! Up I climbed, and I even took my wellies off this time. My first impression was that the cold rock felt gorgeous on my newly bare feet. The second was that bare feet are slippy on wet rocks.

uttanasana on rockOnce I was on top it was a bit less slippy, and I certainly wouldn’t have continued if it felt at all dangerous, but again the unusual surface made me very alive to how my feet (standing poses this time) were connecting with and holding on to the rock. I moved through a few poses that I felt like my body would thank me for, (and that felt achievable without a warm up and wearing jeans!).

The rock is not friendly to feet in this one!(siddhasana)
The rock is not friendly to feet in this one!(siddhasana). I am also modelling this season’s hottest look: ‘Scarecrow hair’
Stay focussed, the rock is pretty hard if you fall!
Stay focused, it’s going to hurt if you fall now! (Perhaps not experiencing the calm feelings here that I usually get in this pose)

It wasn’t all that long before the choruses of ‘how long are you going to be mummy’ and ‘why are you doing that’, and the ever present ‘can I have something to eat’ started. So I climbed down, slid my (pink) wellies back on and we went on our way.

I enjoyed it though, and I was intrigued by the experience. Doing something extremely familiar in a new and unusual context refreshes your whole perspective and I will be yoga-ing (that’s not a word) in the great outdoors again very soon.

Possibly on the beach…

… but almost certainly not in California.

Published by

Jo Cook

I am an Iyengar yoga teacher based near Cockermouth, Cumbria. I previously ran a studio in Bingley, West Yorkshire, England. I teach Iyengar classes for adults.