I used to be the ultimate city girl: I didn’t like to hike or camp; I would shriek and run at the sight of a worm (okay, maybe this one is still true); and I never had what you would call a fulfilling relationship with Mother Nature.
But gradually, my yoga practice changed all that. Yoga made me much more aware of the deepest needs of my body. These needs had always been there, of course, but learning to listen to my body on the mat—while cultivating my ability to discern and address my spiritual needs off the mat—helped me start to finally recognize them. One need in particular called out rather insistently: my body’s longing for nature, for a place of refuge from the chaos outside so I could access the clarity inside. Something in me, for the first time, craved the outdoors.
And so I responded. Slowly I began to awaken to the powerful spiritual practice of appreciating nature’s beauty. Noticing a flower was no longer simply nice; it became a doorway into stillness. Breathing in rich and pure mountain air wasn’t just enjoyable; it actually strengthened me physically and emotionally. I could sink my bare toes into the earth and feel energized. Little things I had taken for granted—or neglected to notice at all—became my personal expression of a yogic journey.
For some people connecting with the natural world is, well, second nature. For others, like me, it takes cultivation, patience, and gratitude. The benefits, however, are worth the effort. But when the demands of daily living restrict your access to this ever-present source of renewal, you don’t have to travel far or sacrifice much time to allow nature to bring a little more light into your day. Here are some suggestions:
Recognize connection. You aren’t separate from nature; you’re part of it. That’s why it can make you feel so sublimely at home.
Practice gratitude. Each songbird’s chirp, majestic tree, or funny-shaped cloud provides an opportunity to stop, stay still, listen deeply and watch intently. By giving thanks for these small daily gifts, you open yourself up to more of what nature has to offer.
Make time. On a regular basis connect with what’s natural. Take a mindful stroll around your favorite park, sink your bare feet into fresh soil, or spend the afternoon swimming in a pond or lake.
Acknowledge the healing. That rejuvenation you feel after a weekend trip to a national park? That’s your body rejoicing. Does gardening in your backyard leaves you a little more refreshed and grounded? Then perhaps tending the soil is, on some level, your body’s way of healing itself. Its intelligence always knows what serves your being best, and those impulses you get—to go hiking, surfing, gardening, or bird watching—are manifestations of that inherent wisdom.
Our yoga practice strives “to yoke” and unify, and learning to feel our inherent oneness with nature is an accessible and immensely pleasurable place to start.
We have officially stepped down that magnificent corridor of summer with its majesty of rose bushes, luscious green leaves, and fragrant lilies. There’s no disputing it…Nature is SINGING! The question is: are you listening?
Some of the fondest memories of childhood are my dad and I fishing. Just him and I, a couple of fishing rods and the river. No radio, no DVD, no TV. If we didn’t catch a fish, it wasn’t a problem. Those trips were adventures for me and I believe helped cultivate my awe of nature. They are also among my earliest memories of being concerned about pollution, in the form of trash that would be along the river bank. I was also privileged to live next to a forest for much of my childhood. When I was old enough, I was allowed to play there. Times were different, no doubt about that.