With postures and techniques like the sun salutation, the tree pose and ocean breath, yoga is inherently linked to the outdoors. So you’d be missing out if you didn’t practice in the natural world.
“The sky is above you. The earth is underneath you,” says Kathleen Wright, owner of the Very Near Yoga Studio in Wilmington. “It’s more elemental. That’s what yoga is.”
Many experts share Wright’s opinion. We surveyed 10 yoga instructors across the state to find their favorite outdoor places to practice. Read on, then grab your mat and go.
Kathleen Corcoran of Yoga U in Wilmington heads to Brandywine Creek State Park as often as she can. She’s especially fond of an area near Ramsey Farm.
“If I am just walking and meditating in motion, there is an absolutely unbelievable spot as you rise up out of the woods that never fails to take my breath away,” Corcoran says. “The infinite beauty, no matter the season, will stop you dead in your tracks.”
Heather’s Holistic Health in Dover takes its classes outdoors in the spring and fall when the weather cooperates. “The air, the wildlife, the beauty of trees and flowers—it creates a different atmosphere,” says owner Lisa Torbert.
Being in the elements also can help with technique, she says. The beach sand, for example, allows people to anchor their body during balancing postures.
“You can really dig your feet down,” Torbert says.
An Inward Journey
Terry Gardner, director of Rehoboth Beach Yoga, points to two favorite places. First is the lookout platform by Gordon’s Pond in Cape Henlopen State Park. “There’s not a lot of talking and commotion,” Gardner says. “It’s still and beautiful.”
She also enjoys the Breakwater Junction Trail between Lewes and Rehoboth. Benches along the way allow for easy stops and time for reflection. “People tend to be calm out in nature,” Gardner says. “They can focus inward.”
The Best of All Worlds
Ed Harrold also loves Cape Henlopen. “What’s cool about the park is you have three separate environments,” says the owner of Comfort Zone in Lewes. “Very rarely do you have a beach, a forest and dunes within 500 yards of each other.”
The variety lets people pick a different setting based on how they feel, he says. It could be the spaciousness of water, the comfort of woods or a combination.
“All the sounds of nature swirl around the nostrils, mouth and ears. All your senses are enlivened,” he says. “When the mind lets go, it’s really profound and deep.”
The Getaway Part I
Looking beyond the First State, Meredith McFadden suggests Coral Bay in St. John. The quiet side of the Caribbean island offers lush, tropical landscapes and total solitude. Says McFadden, owner of Pure Yoga Pilates Studio in Wilmington, “Nothing’s there besides a few birds.”
Off-season, when sounds of ocean breezes and gentle waves replace the din of arcades and tourists, Susan Hamadock loves the Rehoboth Boardwalk.
Hamadock, owner of Silver Lotus Training Institute in Lewes, also spends time on the deck of her house, the Delaware Bay and Tower Road Beach, between Dewey and Rehoboth.
Hamadock often goes outside to practice yoga, but says people should pay close attention to the environment and conditions. Hot weather, swarms of bugs and sloped surfaces can create annoying distractions that compromise peaceful yoga.
A Sacred Moment
Kathleen Wright, of Very Near Yoga Studio, struggles to pick a must-see outdoor locale. She loves anyplace that’s private, sunny and quiet.
Wright can often be seen on her roof deck or at the beach in the early morning, where a sun salutation (a series of 12 postures coordinated with the breath) “is a much more sacred moment.”
Wright cautions against doing yoga on grass. “We still have a problem with Lyme’s disease in Delaware,” she says.
Weese Wagner, owner of Yoga U in Wilmington, can spend hours in her gazebo. If she’s not there, Wagner heads to Bellevue State Park in North Wilmington.
“There’s this one section by the old mansion that has perfect trees,” she says. “If you do some reclining twists and look up at the branches, it’s really nice.”
Chirping birds and rustling wind also entice Wagner to visit the dock at Lums Pond State Park during off-peak hours. “You’re right on the water surrounded by trees,” she says. “It’s very pleasant.”
To the benefit of her students, Wagner takes advantage of any chance to move the class to the outdoors.
“As soon as the weather changes, we open up the door to the studio and do fresh-air classes,” she says. “It’s so great to not be in a stagnant environment. If it’s a beautiful 70-degree sunny day, who feels like going to a closed-off, sweaty gym?”
“Yoga is connecting your mind with your body,” says Patrick Keller, owner of Yoga Dover. “It’s nice to be in an atmosphere where you connect with nature, too.”
The botanical area at Brecknock Park and by the water at Killens Pond State Park top his list. Living at the beach, Keller also practices early-morning yoga at sunrise.
“Connecting with the energy of the water and sun goes hand in hand with what yoga is all about,” he says.
The Getaway Part II
Michele Hensey, director of Wilmington’s Tulaa Yoga Studio, picked Sedona, Arizona, a decade ago for a hiking trip. While there, she found a few amazing yoga spots, including Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.
“You just feel something in Sedona,” says Hensey. Many people consider it a place of high energy and spiritual significance.
Delawareans don’t have to travel that far to experience the same inward journey. Just walk outside, she says.
“There’s a huge difference between having your feet on the floor on a rubber mat inside a building and having your feet touch Mother Earth,” Hensey says. “I just feel a greater connection to myself and to everything else.”