I believe practicing yoga outdoors is the perfect antidote for today’s life stresses; an opportunity to slow down, let the presence of nature wash over you and soothe you to relaxation.
In her beloved children’s book Open House for Butterflies (Harper Collins, 1960), Ruth Krauss suggested that, “everyone should be quiet near a little stream and listen.” Water, earth, sunlight or stars… there’s a magical transcendence that happens when we tread quietly into the great outdoors. That grounding serves movement as well, making the natural world a splendid environment in which to practice some yoga. The ever-changing New England landscape offers a host of possibilities for taking our warrior one and two and three in some new directions, and it’s wonderful to witness the many splendid offerings for doing just that. Especially in summer. In full blooming gardens, at the foot of mountains, along the coast and lakeside… ’tis the season to practice outdoors!
Frost or no frost… dreamlike. It’s a label easily applied to the Berkshire Valley. Summer, fall, winter and springtime… in terms of transcendence, one could argue the region’s summer hues trump its winter landscape frost. There are countless ways to inhale the magic of Stockbridge and Lenox and Egremont and Lee… A wonderful option is through the small weekend boutique retreats offered at Stockbridge’s Red Lion Inn. Weary city dwellers from New York and Boston have long sought refuge in the Berkshires for its plethora of dining, spa and arts options and also for its natural beauty and milder pace. Kat Whitney serves as the in-house yoga instructor and Dharma Coach at the famed Inn on Main Street in Stockbridge, the heart of the Berkshires. In concert with the Inn she is blending yoga and wellness into themed weekend escapes. What makes them so refreshing are the weekends’ wide margins – with equal weight given to empowering vinyasa and inhaling the regions natural wonders. Hiking and yoga – soul mates for certain.
A recent Retreat Weekend at the inn included an expedition on foot to Stockbridge’s Ice Glen – a best kept local secret. Whitney led a small group (post-practice) in silence into the depths of the trail along moss covered boulders and towering pines. With just our breath and our open minds we continued into what Nathanial Hawthorne once described as “the most curious fissure in the Berkshire”, eventually pausing to meditate at the foot of icy vaults. What a perspective check to pause in that glory on the heels of practice and just sit with the season’s thaw and the birds as the soundtrack. Stay tuned to the Red Lion Inn’s website for details on their fall Yoga Retreat.
Heading east… If it’s Friday, then it’s Yoga in the Gardens at the Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover. In full bloom as we speak, the beautiful lawn of The Stevens-Coolidge Place is the perfect setting to reconnect to the earth, find peace and “namaste”. Heavenly! With the sky for a roof, roses for walls, and birdsong for music, instructor Tina Wilhelm leads the all-levels class every Friday morning at 9. As someone who loves the natural world, the setting at once called to her. “I believe practicing yoga outdoors is the perfect antidote for today’s life stresses; an opportunity to slow down, let the presence of nature wash over you and soothe you to relaxation.” A recent July Friday found close to fifty wandering in to roll out their mats, meet new friends and take Wilhelm up on that summer rinse.
In summer, yoga instructor and Plum Island native Ashley Matthews takes full advantage of her natural setting through her weekly outdoor classes. Every Sunday morning she offers yoga on the sand at the Plum Island Beach Center in Newbury. All levels of experience are welcome for a $10 drop-in fee. Just bring along a beach towel or mat. Stay tuned to Ashley’s facebook page where she posts last minute changes due to the shifting weather! With the coastal classes especially, Ashley leans on her lifelong personal connection to the ocean weaving in resilience, patience and impermanence into her teachings. “To ‘Ride the Wave” is to allow things to be exactly as they are without resisting or grasping.” Visit Ride the Wave Yoga to keep current on Ashley’s full teaching schedule.
Also on Sundays, folks can finish off their day in practice using water as their drishti along Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield. Kerri Johnson is back this summer with her popular Sunset Sundays outdoor classes. Visit Kerri Yoga for more details on this popular yoga series. She keeps a full (indoor) teaching schedule throughout the week, but on summer weekends, it’s a different story. New this year, on Saturdays find Kerri relaxing and restoring along the riverfront with Yoga in the Park at Baxter Park in Somerville. Registration is required for these classes. Kerri is beloved by students for her natural joy. Couple that energy with fresh air and sunshine and water and you’ve got just the ticket for a great big exhale! “My yoga mat and I met through a friend’s suggestion, a couple of classes, a few big beautiful breathes and I was hooked never looking back. Benefiting from the practice and seeing how it transformed me made me realize that I needed to share this with others. Hope to see you on the mat and sparkling through those fingertips.”
Further along in the pages of Open House for Butterflies, Krauss goes on to recommend that “a song for bumpy roads is good to know.” And so we practice…