One of the major inspirations behind my practice is being outdoors. Usually this means being in a somewhat natural environment, in parks or forests, swimming in cold lakes or climbing stone cliffs. More recently I’ve also been exploring finding inspiration in urban environments, mostly through the lens of parkour and rail dancing.
Being stuck inside the confines of four walls and a roof has a massive impact on our physicality and sense of well-being. By limiting the space we inhabit, we limit our visual sense of openness and this directly influences our posture and movement habits. Over cluttered homes and lack of floor space increase this even more. We literally shrink our physicality to fit the dimensions we’re inhabiting.
(Side note: this is exacerbated even more IMO on live zoom classes. Concentrating our attention on the 2D images of movement on a screen - on top of usually being in a cramped room - takes you away from sensation and expansiveness and into physical contraction and “thinking” rather than doing)
So one of the best things you can do is to take your practice out of the gym, out of the studio and into the real world.
I personally believe a physical practice is possible outdoors in all seasons (at least in most climates) but it is certainly easier to start when the weather is good! As we are now in the relative warmth of the end of Summer, this is a perfect time to move your practice outside while enjoying the beginnings of Autumnal beauty.
In my experience, there are a few barriers that might come up:
Fear of practicing in front of others (embarrassment, fear, shame, desire for privacy)
Fear of getting “dirty”, wet or cold
Fear of authority (practicing outside “designated areas” for movement, getting in the way, being told to move on, “keep off the grass” mentality)
Fear about safety (lack of padding, mats and safety features, hard floors in the city, potential for accidents)
I will expand on each of these in further posts, but for now, I’d invite you to reflect on which of these you might resonate with? Perhaps none, or perhaps all of them are true for you!
If you find one of these are stopping you from taking your practice outdoors, I’d invite you to think about what you can do practically to bypass these barriers.
Eg. Afraid of being seen? Practice in quiet areas, early in the morning or late at night or practice in a group (we tend to be less afraid of social judgement when we're surrounded by supportive likeminded peers)!
Eg. Afraid of hard floors? Choose a grassy park rather than a concrete staircase, bring your own mat or wear extra layers of clothing and padding.
Eg. Afraid of getting dirty? Choose specific "outdoor messy clothes" and plan time to be able to go home, shower and change right after, or choose outdoor spaces that offer cover from the elements in an outdoor space, such as the bandstand in Hyde Park or the tiled space in Chiswick House and Gardens by the lake.
Be as specific to your situation as possible, find your own barriers and work your way through them. I'm currently fully booked for 1-to-1s until October 2021, but if you need help breaking down your barriers, come along to one of my outdoor group classes or workshops and speak to me before or after class - we can work together as a group to find the right mindset to support a physical outdoor practice.
I was talking recently with some of the parents of the children I teach about exercising outdoors in the rain. Re reading what I wrote to them, I think it’s valid for adults too, and perhaps may be some use to some of you:
“The best thing we can provide our children with is resilience, the ability to be confident in themselves and unafraid of life. Rain is just one of those parts of life, especially in the uk, and hiding from it is only going to limit us and restrict our sense of freedom and play. If we can let go of the need to always be “clean and dry” and remember we have waterproof skin, we can relax and enjoy the feeling of being in nature and moving freely. This is part of my movement philosophy and therefore I will run class regardless! Being outdoors no matter the weather can only be good for children, especially after the year of lockdown and social isolation.”
Let’s not fear the natural world, let’s live in it.