Now that the weather is starting to warm up, some of the local yoga studios are going to start offering free classes outside. It seems strange. Is it really yoga if people aren't crowded together, dripping with sweat in a 96-degree room, mellow music playing and eucalyptus oil diffusing? I imagine it could be awkward doing crow pose in the middle of Wilcox Park with frisbees flying overhead, dogs barking, and onlookers gawking. Not exactly the environment I think of, when I think of yoga. There is definitely a strong yoga culture, but taking the practice outside moves it away from the rules of the culture into a more free-flowing form.
It makes perfect sense to do yoga outside. Yoga actually means union; union of nature and humanity. The poses invoke movement or posture from different aspects in nature, and each pose is named for a plant or animal. Also, it's just more fun being outside (usually), and nature inspires and invigorates. Unless you're in the middle of a parking lot, the view alone will amp up your motivation and energy for the workout. There may be more distractions-bugs, people, noise-but the distractions are opportunities to hone your focus and be in the moment.
There's a few physiological benefits to outdoor yoga as well. If the ground is uneven, it will be more challenging to balance on and will strengthen the secondary, stabilizing muscles that aren't used as much on even ground. It also increases your proprioception, the unconscious perception of knowing where your feet, hands, etc., are without being able to see them. If you're in a backbend, proprioception helps you move your feet and legs into the correct position to get the full benefits of the pose.
It can be difficult breaking away from the usual routine in a controlled environment and moving it outside where the ebb and flow of nature is unpredictable. But part of yoga is being able to stabilize, meditate, and focus. It's a matter of changing your mindset and moving from requiring things to be a certain way to accepting things as they are in the moment. Such is the purpose of yoga.