Our surroundings may affect how we feel, think and live. How can nature change your yoga and meditation practice? Yoga teacher Frida Boström loves to do her meditation outside – follow her and go outside, find a favorite place, sharpen your senses and just breathe.
It takes a particular collection of skills for one to be able to get lost in one ́s own apartment. Think about it; it is a place where everything is known - each squeaking floor tile, every crack in the ceiling, every single door and window opening. It is a place in which you can manoeuvre your way effortlessly onto the toilet seat in the dark of night if needed. Which is all good and well - in the best of worlds your home is a place of security, of comfort and peace. But in other circumstances, this zone of comfort can also be a zone of confinement, of set expectations, and of limitations of mind.
I recently picked up a collection of essays by Rebecca Solnit, an author who amongst other things explores the theme of wandering and venturing into the unknown. She suggests that going into a different physical space can provide a new psychic space, which made my mind travel to the practice of meditation. As opposed to the well- established image of a philosopher/thinker as a person in confined solitude, Solnit argues that in fact, “introspection is an outdoor pursuit.” I could not agree with her more.
When I came to the Sivananda ashram in India the first time in 2015, I arrived late at night. Aided only by the dim light of a lamp post high above, I climbed the front stairs and knocked on the gate to be let in by the night guard. Soon I was hurrying after him along a winding stone-laid path, making out the ashram temples and office buildings only as deep shadows. When we came into the dormitory with its long row of beds, people were already asleep under the faint humming of ceiling fans and low noises of snoring. As discreetly as I could, I shuffled my backpack into a corner and slipped out of my sweaty clothes. I had been travelling for a day and was exhausted. None of the noises coming from my neighbours could disturb me, and I was asleep within minutes.
Before night had turned into dawn, me and my dorm companions were brutally awakened by the ringing of a loud bell. It was 05:30 and still pitch dark as I hustled outside, passed through a garden and walked up the massive entrance stairs into the main meditation hall. The floor was already filled with people, all silent, their eyes closed in the dark. But in the hour that passed, as we sat meditating, the sun began to rise. Outside the high, open valves of the large hall, birds I couldn ́t even imagine the names of, were waking up and starting to sing. Suddenly there was a different sound, one that made me open one eye into a half squint. Had anyone else heard that... a roar? Could it have been a lion? The thought seemed totally absurd. And since no one else reacted, I closed my eyes again.
Get lost in nature
To me, the change of soundscape is one of the major fascinations of meditating outside. If you go outside and close your eyes - anywhere outside - you ́ll notice the vast difference from being in an indoor space. And while the eventual goal of meditation is to withdraw from all sense impressions, you surely know that being present in observation is the first step on the journey towards letting go. I find this much easier to do surrounded by the sounds of nature.
As soon as the Scandinavian air is warm enough, I will bring my meditation out into the garden. But for a while longer the air will come with a chilly bite, which means that for now my routine is carried out in the warmth of my living room.
I used to think that in order to change one’s pattern it would not be enough to travel. I thought that one had to move, probably far away and forever. Now, back home, I realise that while not everyone will get the chance to meditate accompanied by roaring lions (they were in fact lions I was told later) there ́s usually somewhere one can go. Being outside always contains venturing into unknown territories to some extent, of getting lost in the space that nature provides. If that happens to be in a distant country or in your own backyard makes no difference. The perk is that once you ́ve been out there, especially while in observing meditation, that experience will always stay with you.
Why not take your yoga practice outside?
More to read
- Find your inner motivation, by Satu Tuomela.
- Research: Grow your brain with meditation.
- Ut och njut! in swedish, by Monika Björn.
Frida Boström is a Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga instructor (200 hr RYS), educated in Goa, India. She started off as an architect but after a burnout she decided to shift careers. Her first trip to an ashram in India in 2015 led to many more, and evoked her already existing curiosity about philosophy and meditation, as well as fun and physically challenging yoga. Frida teaches Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Rocket and Yinyoga classes in Sweden and India, and assists at yoga teacher educations in both countries. Read more about Frida at her website or follow her at Instagram: @frida_bostrom
Photo: Frida Boström