Coaching and Yoga Outdoors
Taking your yoga and coaching outdoors requires thought and consideration …There’s no doubt about it, we are at the mercy of the elements which makes us question why we may be doing it in the first place! It doesn’t take long however to reap the benefits of taking your practice outdoors. Once we are at ease in our bodies and our minds, nature can inspire and invigorate us and go on to form invaluable conversations and connections with ourselves and with others.
Brockholes Nature Reserve
Last month Claire Bradshaw and I met with a beautiful group of coaches at the Brockholes Natures Reserve, Preston. Our indoor space was light and spacious with a direct link to the outdoors. The Brockholes visitor centre is a floating village, therefore the room we were practising in rested on top of the water and our window faced out onto a full view from floor to ceiling of the reserve.
Our opportunity to connect was right there in front of us.
Placing ourselves within a room like container meant that there was a sense of safety from the onset. The outdoors was right there, beckoning us to interact and play, but for now we were able to hold it at arms length whilst we got to know one another.
What is your connection to nature?
On our first steps outside partnered up with one other person and discussed our own connection to nature. It was interesting to see how we lost track of time and just kept walking, exploring the paths freely. Suddenly the container room was left behind and we had no sense of time and space linking together. For some of us nature is in abundance at our doorstep and so it feels very natural for us to step out into the natural environment. Others crave nature and would love to spend more time exploring the natural environment and relished the opportunity to do so. We all felt that nature was a place we felt less constricted with little societal or work-related boundaries placed upon us. It was noticeable how personal and open our conversations became from this moment on.
Yoga and the environment
Coaching is different from yoga in that it is more conversational, or perhaps not depending on who you are working with. Yoga on the other hand incorporates a movement and breath based practice in order to bring about a greater sense of self-awareness and focus. We began with a tuning in exercise, paying attention to how we felt in our bodies, breath and mind and acknowledged what we were bringing to our explorations and what we hoped to explore further for ourselves.
Our first step outside was slow and I encouraged people to walk mindfully, to develop a heightened awareness to their environment, placing their feet with care and exploring slowly.
In this way we start to feel our way through the environment rather than rushing through, our senses become heightened and we become more aware of where we are, what we are doing and how we feel. This practice led us into a sensory based meditation, eyes open, eyes closed, listening and looking, zooming in and then zooming out. Learning to look, smell, taste and touch the environment and noticing how we respond can deepen our connection to nature and to ourselves more intimately.
Once our explorations became more familiar in the outdoor setting we started to get a little more playful. The practices became expansive in open spaces, circular movements when confronted by a stone circle, fluid movements when standing by a river and still moments when under the shelter of trees. It’s interesting to feel how we respond in those different places. For some of us being more open and spacious under shelter may feel safer than doing the same things in an open space and vice versa.
Each of us will have our own unique felt response and observation.
I loved playing around with the stone circle and the trees, thinking about how we can use natural structure to support ourselves when we rest and have something or someone to lean upon. We can also use these structures to feel our strength when we feel energised and to notice how our bodies and breath may respond.
Nature and its abundance of metaphors
When you have nature right there at your fingertips how can you not draw upon its abundance of metaphors? At Brockholes we were surrounded by trees and so it felt relevant to draw upon the tree as a metaphor for our practice. I introduced it earlier on in our morning practice “we’re going to embody a tree …” I said, and we did!
The room felt so focused and radiant it seemed as though we were all trees in that moment exploring our stability and roots, our ability to lengthen and grow and our capacity to be soft and fluid.
Later on that day I asked people to explore the trees around them and to be selective. Which tree speaks out to you? What do you notice? How does it sit alongside its fellow trees? Is it friendly? Does it seem sad in someway? The second exercise was to get up close to a tree, a different tree from the previous one. What do you notice when you get up close? How does it feel to touch? Look up and what do you see? What do the trees tell you about yourself?
Throughout all of this we are tuning in not only with trees figuratively but with the metaphors and their personal meaning. When I did a similar exercise a few years ago with Sylvianne Gianina I discovered so much about myself over the course of two days exploring trees. It has inspired me ever since and the feedback from this short exercise was unbelievable too.
Try new things
I haven’t covered everything in this article because there is still so much to discuss. What is obvious to me though is that nature helps us to connect. The fact that time and space disappears means that we naturally begin to slow down and are led more subtly by our senses rather than our intellect. This inner connection creates an opening and an opportunity for us to connect with others and people are often more open and sharing as a result. Once we have a rapport with someone we can really start to work with them in order to explore new avenues or possibilities, which can be life changing.
It is an opportunity to play, explore and move away from our usual container
Things to consider
Taking your client or your yoga class outdoors isn’t for everyone. We have to be clear about that. Claire and I put great consideration around the spaces we were using and made sure there weren’t other groups around when we were moving towards more personal explorations and conversations. Sitting and meditating on a public path and a group of walkers with their dogs walking past can be very disruptive for people, so it is important to plan the route beforehand and take in the terrain also. Whilst we like to be free of our room-like container, it’s good to have some form of time-keeping in place, and it was equally important for us to have our indoor space available too, like a form of refuge or shelter.
Being outside intensifies our experiences in so many ways and nature can inspire us more than anything. If you’d like to embody a tree sometime, please do let me know I’d love to guide you through this exploration. We practiced in the rain, under the trees, alongside a fast, flowing river, and within an ancient stone circle. We wandered with questions and gave ourselves plenty of time to reflect, between our beautiful indoor space and the vastness of space outdoors we certainly explored many of the possibilities coaching and yoga outdoors has to offer. I loved combining the ancient practice of yoga with the modern language of coaching, which have so many similar goals and qualities. Claire and I speak a very similar language and can’t wait to share more news of our collaborations to come.
We’ll be launching dates of next years outdoor learning retreat early 2020!
A reminder …
There are still a few places available on the afternoon of the 13th October at the beautiful location of Reuben’s Retreat in Glossop for my final session on Yoga for an active lifestyle. If you haven’t read about this you can head over to any of the recent blog posts to find out more.
This workshop is being brought to you with the support of Bamboo Clothing and tickets are now available.
Thanks for tuning in,