Sometimes your outer experience can facilitate your inner one.

Close your eyes and picture this: Your PTO was finally approved. Your taxing travel day—complete with cramped airplane seat and overly chatty seatmate in 11D—is behind you. You even made it to the hotel in time to take advantage of the afternoon yoga class within sight of the ocean. As you unfurl your mat, the sun drenches your skin and the sticky salt air fills your lungs.

As you stretch to relieve jet-lagged joints, desk hips, and stress-storing shoulders, the rhythmic sound of the waves helps set the pace of your breath and quiet your overworked mind. It quickly registers, even though vacation brain fog has already started to set in, that this isn’t your typical class—and it has everything to do with the fact that you’re practicing outdoor yoga.

In recent years, more and more resorts have been skipping the standard gym and sterile studio scenarios and taking their yoga programming outside. The vibe shift among students is immediate and undeniable, says Ashley Kohler, yoga teacher and director of wellness for Destination Kohler. She sees proof of its benefits in students following every outdoor yoga class held on Yoga on the Lake’s rustic platform situated among the Wisconsin woods.

“The sounds, sights, and smells of nature contribute to a more holistic meditative sensory experience, enhance the feeling of peace, and deepen the yoga experience,” explains Kohler, who finds that students exhibit increased energy levels as well as more relaxed, content facial expressions. “General enthusiasm [seems] higher in outdoor classes.”

She also attributes the enhanced engagement and focus of students to the lack of artificial distractions that accompany indoor spaces, such as mirrors and unnatural lighting. “Outdoor settings offer a break from routine, providing a fresh perspective,” Kohler says.

Why Outdoor Yoga Enhances Your Experience

Scholars dating back to the era of Hippocrates suggest that “green exercise,” which is simply fitness that takes place outdoors amongst nature in fresh air, is highly beneficial to physical, mental, and emotional health. Moving in proximity to blue spaces, as in aquatic and marine environments, has also been shown to bring positive effects on well-being.

More recently, scientific studies indicate that spending time in nature boosts your mood in multiple ways, including encouraging the release of endorphins(the body’s pain reliever), reducing anxiety, exposing you to beneficial microorganisms in the soil, and helping regulate your body’s clock thanks to the release of sleep-promoting melatonin from taking in natural light.

Getting your alfresco asana on also increases oxygen levels in the brain, which in turn raises levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter found in most antidepressants that mediates satisfaction, happiness, and optimism. Sun-on-skin time also triggers the synthesis of vitamin D, low levels of which are associated with depression, osteoporosis, even, in extreme cases, death….

Photo: Courtesy of Juniper Preserve

Juniper Preserve
Bend, Oregon

Long before this high-desert hideaway became a gathering place for golfers with its 72-par course, a lava flow meandered underground, leaving an elongated cave in its wake. Someone had the smart sense to activate the unique rocky-walled, sandy-bottomed geographical feature as a destination for yoga classes and sound baths. (And the acoustics are as killer as you’d expect!) If you consider caverns a little claustrophobic, classes are also held on Juniper’s Spirit Island, a manicured lawn in the middle of a large pond with clear sightlines to Mt. Bachelor and Three Sisters Wilderness.

Written By: Carrie Bell
Originally published: March 20, 2024 –