Summer weather might drive health club members away from cardio machines and out into nature, but yoga studio operators have found a way to use the warm temperatures and beautiful scenery of the outdoors to their advantage. Offering classes outside provides an opportunity for programming that attracts new members, reduces costs and gives participants a memorable fitness experience.
Kaya Wellness Center, Rehoboth Beach, DE, offers yoga classes on the beach twice a week. Getting outside of the studio allows Kaya to attract an audience that might not have otherwise tried yoga and to take advantage of natural resources that add to the yoga experience, says owner and instructor Heather Shafer.
"The uneven surface of the sand is a great core strengthener, as it causes you to work on your balance through every posture," she says, although sand also needs to be re-flattened constantly to improve balance. The classes involve more standing postures since sand can easily fall from hands into eyes.
"Practicing outdoors is such a great way to connect with nature," Shafer says. "It helps us capture that audience that loves being outdoors and would never take an indoor class during beautiful weather."
Although teaching an outdoor class can mean competing against joggers and other distractions, it also brings in revenue without costing the studio much money, Shafer says.
For Lauren Imparato, founder and instructor at I.AM.YOU Studio in New York, outdoor yoga classes are more about offering a unique experience than making a profit.
Imparato’s studio has organized large-scale yoga events in a variety of outdoor settings all over the world, including New York City’s Bryant Park and Central Park, a forest in Montauk, NY, a beach in Miami and even a Columbian jungle. The events are offered free of charge and are expensive to produce, but Imparato says they are good promotional opportunities—some of them have attracted thousands of participants.
When she is choosing outdoor locations, Imparato considers availability, accessibility and how well they fit the needs of a yoga class.
"A lot of outdoor yoga classes don't really think about the terrain," says Imparato, who looks for flat ground to make sure students don't injure themselves and for plenty of room so students don't feel cramped.
Weather is less of a concern. Although some classes can be held at the studio in the event of rain, most people are OK practicing yoga in the heat, she says. It is all part of the classes' appeal.
"In these urban lifestyles that we have, just being outdoors is an advantage," says Imparato. "It's about being under the sky for an hour and a half and not being under a ceiling."
Adventure Sports Miami has taken outdoor yoga to a new extreme by offering a yoga paddle boarding class. Classes of 10 people anchor their boards and practice yoga for hour-long sessions.
Paula Ambrosio, the program's creator and one of the class instructors, says Florida's proximity to water and beautiful weather make people more willing to try water sports. The fusion class attracts a diverse audience because it sounds like such a bizarre, challenging concept and provides a tough workout by forcing students to use their involuntary muscles to stay stable enough on the board to do poses.
Ambrosio says that scheduling can be hard since classes are dependent upon the tide, rain and wind conditions. Since the class is taught on the water, hearing the instructor can also be a challenge. But these downsides might be insignificant compared to what the natural scenery has to offer.
"You never know what you're going to see in the water," says Ambrosio, who has seen manatees, stingrays, fish and small sharks during classes.