In the lap of Nature: taking your exercise outdoors.

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As the days turn warmer, Nature unleashes all her beauty on the world. Trees are in full bloom, the cloud is spotless and cheerful, the greenery around has brought all the birds and animals back into business, hustling and bustling as they go about their everyday chores. And even though many of us are caught up in our routines and rushing about our lives, we do take a moment every now and then to marvel at the energy of it all. Our steps are lighter, we rise earlier and we feel more charged to face any challenges the day may bring. It’s true, the advent of summer does awaken life’s energies and renew our zest.

Imagine the, how much more enriched we would be if we could bring the two together, our increasing energies and the nurturing environment we live in? Besides the usual benefits that we can think of, running along the beach, exercising in the local park, or even just stretching on the grass in our backyard has great advantages for our biology. When we spend time in nature, and spend that time in physical activity, our bodies are exposed to, and absorb greater quantities of phytoncides. Derived from “phyton” meaning plant and “cides” meaning destroy, these are produced by plants as a protection against insects and germs.

All of us have experienced phytoncides before. Remember that vivid aroma of a forest, of all that lush greenery and towering trees? That’s phytoncides at work. They have been shown to lower our blood pressure and reduce the levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – in our blood. They also help improve immunity, and their innumerable advantages have led to new trends such as forest bathing – where as little as 2 hours in a forest setting is said to provide a month’s worth of health benefits – and phytoncide essential oils -which help us calm ourselves after a hectic, stressful day.

So here are some ways you can walk the talk by taking your workout where it matters, and reaping the harvest of great health and added well-being!

  1. Surya Namaskar on the green: Spread a yoga mat right on the grass. Don’t worry about the wet dew of the morning, or the stares of the passersby. Just start any yoga pose of your choice. The Surya Namaskar works perfectly as it lets you experience your surrounding hands-on. Breathe deeply into each pose, and let the fresh air work on your lungs. If you think you can do it, leave out the yoga mat. Place your fingers on the grass, or rock, or sand directly. Getting your hands to work with uneven surfaces can actually build the secondary muscles of your spine, shoulders, knees and hips. Other beginner level poses that you can use to get used to the idea of positioning your class outdoors are Balasana – child’s pose or Adho Mukha Svanasana – downward facing dog.
  1. Run barefoot on the sand. If you’re a lucky one who lives along an ocean or river beach, then make full use of it and go for a run or at least a walk. Sink your feet deep into the sand – this is tremendously strengthening for the muscles beneath your foot, and your ankles. And if it’s clean and safe enough, going barefoot on the sand can also help to reduce your stress levels through simple contact – there are more than 30 acupressure points on the soles of our feet!
  1. Exercise every sense: Whether it’s morning jog, or a late evening stretch, make sure that you use all your senses when you’re outside. Smell the subtle fragrances of Nature, most of which can open up your respiratory passages and increase your lung capacity. Take off your sunglasses (unless the sun is very bright) and let your eyes see all the lush scenery, as visual cues are important stress-busters. And use the various elements of nature to serve your workout. For instance, a hammering woodpecker can help you pace your run, a still ladybug can be your focus as you meditate.

So make a start today. And as spring melts into summer, may you discover that the world is truly your playground!

 

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