Yoga in Nature

Caro Feely
Written by Caro Feely

Rich in Bliss and Benefits

There is something magical about the combination of nature and yoga. Both instil bliss, so joining them together can create a powerful sense of well-being.

Photo by Sean Oulashin on Unsplash

My yoga teaching journey began with a month-long intensive yoga teacher training in Biarritz, France. Two outstanding moments occurred in nature. The first was a meditative pre-dawn walk along the coastal path of this jewel on the Atlantic Ocean. The second was a self-guided yoga class on Plage Côte des Basques beach (which means ‘Basque coast beach’), a long surfing beach where you feel the wildness of the Atlantic. I took this as a sign of where to focus my yoga classes.

As an organic farmer living in a vineyard and forest landscape an hour east of Bordeaux in Southwest France, it was also a ‘natural’ step for me to create yoga classes outside.

Soon after returning from the training, we launched three outdoor classes: ‘Yoga in Nature,’ a one-hour morning class in the shade where the forest meets the vineyard, ‘Yoga in the Vines’, a two-hour experience with walking in the vines, yoga, and a short meditative wine tasting, and a ‘One Day Yoga Retreat’ that includes walking to the village for a luscious three-course lunch and an afternoon of restorative yoga and meditation outside. We also offer week-long residential retreats focused on spending time in nature. (You can also sign up for my pocket guide to yoga by subscribing to the yoga contact list. With the onset of Covid, we also became adept at offering virtual classes where I include a touch of nature through my words and the way I teach.

All our outdoor yoga experiences include a walk through the organic farm to reach the ‘yoga in nature’ zone. The walk offers the opportunity to transition to mindfulness, to connect with nature.

Once we are seated on our mats, birdsong, leaves fluttering in the breeze, and the aromas of the forest help us deepen that connection.

We root into the ground like the trees and feel the support of Mother Earth beneath us. We are receiving the benefits of yoga and nature. We are also ‘forest bathing’ as we practice on the edge of an indigenous native forest area that we call ‘where the wild things are.’

Forest bathing is a Japanese idea that encourages slow and deliberate participation with nature – a sort of forest mindfulness. Guided group forest-bathing typically includes breathing exercises and a form of meditation on natural elements. Forests also give off aromas that have healing properties.

Photo by Michal Vrba on Unsplash

Research has shown that time in nature benefits our health and well-being. A paper in 2019 (Ref 1) provided ‘points of consensus across the natural, social, and health sciences on the impacts of nature experience on cognitive functioning, emotional well-being, and other dimensions of mental health.’

Studies show nature is essential for physical health and cognitive function.

One study showed that 120 minutes in nature per week was a hard minimum required to get benefits. Doing yoga outside can help people meet this minimum. The two hours a week essential to feeling the benefits from being in nature can be spread over short bursts or taken as a single chunk.

Likewise, many studies show the health benefits of yoga. Those benefits include amelioration of health issues like arthritis, low bone density, problems with balance, cancer, period pain, chronic pain, and more. Combining the physical activity of yoga and the mental relaxation of meditation with nature is a massive win-win.

Photo by Bar Kochba on Unsplash

Feedback from my students reinforces this research:

  • ‘Doing yoga outdoors at Chateau Feely gives me a great sense of well-being, more than I experience in a studio setting.’
  • ‘After one hour of ‘yoga in nature,’ I felt like I had been on a retreat.’
  • ‘Outdoor yoga with Caro is such a magical experience it is life-enhancing and kind and beautifully powerful. I feel like I’ve been on a spiritual holiday afterward.’

If you are a teacher, there are a few things to consider when teaching yoga outside.

  • Be aware of regulations/laws in your town and country. For example, in France, we are not allowed to teach yoga (or anything else) in outdoor public spaces like a beach, a park, or a mountain without permission from the local authority. Contravention could result in a very large fine.
  • Ensure that your yoga teaching insurance covers you for teaching yoga in outdoor spaces.
  • Remind your participants about necessary equipment for example how to gear up if outside in winter or sunscreen, water and bug spray, if outside in summer.
  • Have a plan B if the weather is not cooperating. For example, when it is too hot, we host the afternoon on our day retreat indoors. When it is too cold/ wet we take a walk outside then continue inside.
  • Take care to warm up more than usual if you are practicing outside in cooler temperatures.

Connecting with nature is good for our health and for our future. When we appreciate nature, we are more likely to want to protect it, something of great importance in this time of climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Bringing nature into the yoga practice helps to nurture our bond with nature and provides a wealth of benefits.

Have you done yoga in nature?

How have you found it?

Leave a comment or get in touch with Caro if you have comments or questions.


(Ref1 Reference: Bratman GN, Anderson CB, Berman MG, Cochran B, de Vries S, Flanders J, Folke C, Frumkin H, Gross JJ, Hartig T, Kahn PH Jr, Kuo M, Lawler JJ, Levin PS, Lindahl T, Meyer-Lindenberg A, Mitchell R, Ouyang Z, Roe J, Scarlett L, Smith JR, van den Bosch M, Wheeler BW, White MP, Zheng H, Daily GC. Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Sci Adv. 2019 Jul 24;5(7):eaax0903. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0903. PMID: 31355340; PMCID: PMC6656547)