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Silhouettes of slender people on the beach framed by the setting sun may make you long to rush off to Goa or Pondicherry for a week of yoga. You imagine yourself breathing in the sea air, feeling invigorated, whole, rested and serene all at the same time.
A friend whom I was persuading to attend my yoga class yesterday, waxed lyrical about a yoga-in-the-park experience she had  in the US, where nobody paid for the classes and a happy yoga community joined together every evening to practice yoga. While that is the ideal, I don’t know whether I can persuade my class to abandon the cool, spacious studio I have sourced for them to embrace the great outdoors in the Delhi monsoon.
Firstly the class is at 7 pm so that the women can fit in a quick yoga class between work and the family dinner. It’s getting dark in Delhi at that time. Maybe if we had an early morning class…Although I’ve had the rising sun shining uncomfortably into my squinting eyes as I did my backward bends. Wearing sun glasses to do yoga spoils the idealized outdoor yogi picture a bit doesn’t it?
Secondly, on a good day in July the temperature is 36 degrees C, and on a bad day 42 or more. That would qualify as ‘hot yoga’ and I’m sure it’s good for you but my class isn’t that keen on yoga that they would endure such discomfort.
Thirdly – grass prickles. And yoga mats aren’t really wide enough to prevent your arms or legs from being on the grass – with all its tickliness. I don’t mind grass, but I know people who aren’t so keen on having their bare legs come in contact with it.
Fourth – insects. Have you sat outdoors in the monsoon in Delhi? Mosquitoes, moths, flies and all kinds of other bugs will swarm around you, day, night or early morning but dusk is their favourite time. The studio doesn’t get distracting and annoying insects.
Fifth – spectators. So you’re in halasana and the neighbourhood teenagers are cackling at the upturned class – how serene do you feel? Or how serene do you need to be before you subject yourself to that?

Yoga postures halasana

Yoga postures halasana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sixth – pollution – There’s a very good reason why pranayam and yoga are meant to be done early morning, when pollution levels are lowest. All that deep breathing and inhaling of good air. If you’re breathing deeply, drawing air into the unreachable recesses of your lungs, the air had better be good. The air in a park is usually excellent, thanks to the plants, but our park is surrounded by a road and parked cars. I wouldn’t want to expose my student’s lungs to those fumes.
It sounds as though I’m anti outdoors – but I’m not. I believe there’s nothing like fresh air and always ensure I get my daily dose of it. Spring and Autumn in Delhi are good seasons to do yoga outdoors. The monsoon is the worst time of all to be outdoors, for any reason (but certainly for yoga) with the heat, humidity, insects, mud, mould and rain.
For now, if my students manage a twice a week yoga class in the evening they’re already doing more for their health than they were before. I certainly don’t want to drive them away with the physical discomfort of an outdoor yoga class Nor are they likely to be inspired by the svelte outline of 25-year-old on the beach. Mothers all, they do not identify with such a person and don’t even aspire to look like her. The leisure of a yoga holiday is way beyond their imagination. They just want to do a little something for their health and well-being and have a bare minimum of time for it.

Have you ever tried yoga outdoors? What was the experience like?

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