I like nature.
And I like yoga.
So it made sense for me to try the monthly Yoga in Nature class offered at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center.
What doesn’t make sense is that I picked a freezing rainy day in December on which to try it out.
But there you go.
I was curious to see how connected to nature I would feel on a day when I was tempted to stay curled up in bed inside my electric-heated home, with insulated walls protecting me from the miserable weather outside.
Plus, I had signed up for the class weeks ago, and I don’t like breaking my commitments.
So I grabbed my yoga mat, bundled up, and went to class.
Because of the inclement weather, the class was being held inside the nature center in one of the classrooms, rather than outside under the pavilion, thus making the class Yoga Next to Nature rather than Yoga in Nature.
View from the pavilion (which I took on a previous, sunny visit to Wildcat)
Still, the atmosphere was much more tranquil than that of my usual yoga practice in my living room. Here, there were no kids asking me for anything as I attempted to find inner peace while following an instructor on a YouTube video.
At Wildcat, I had a clear view of the busy bird feeders just outside the classroom window. One of the windows was cracked open, allowing the cheerful bird songs to drift inside. That, along with the chirping of the crickets housed temporarily (unbeknownst to them…) in the classroom’s turtle habitat, created a peaceful ambient background for the yoga class.
While rolling out my mat on the floor, I started asking the instructor, Donna Bowman, some questions. It turns out that, in addition to teaching yoga, she also teaches special education to young children in Carl Junction. After a few minutes of class, I could see how Donna’s clearly articulated instructions, delivered in a patient and calm tone, would work equally well on her young special education students and with her yoga clients.
Her voice was as smooth as melted chocolate.
Donna began class with simple directions – simple, that is, if you don’t have a frenzied mind like I do, with thoughts bouncing around like a bored spider monkey inside a zoo exhibit:
“Take what you need to do today and clear it off your mat. Focus only on your breath.”
My monkey brain needed to hear that. Obediently, I mentally tucked away my list of Saturday morning errands and zeroed in on the sound of fresh, pure air filling up my lungs.
The first pose we did was Cat-Cow, which is a gentle warm-up done on the hands and knees, and it prepares the body for the rest of class. Donna said to think of this pose as “dental floss for the spine,” which I thought was brilliant. Every day since taking Donna’s class, I’ve been trying to remember to do Cat-Cow in order to keep my spine limber but, like flossing, I sometimes forget…
Instructor Donna Bowman
The pace of Donna’s class was mindfully slow, but that doesn’t imply that it wasn’t challenging. Moving at a slower pace means having to hold positions – like plank position – longer, and I felt my arm muscles quivering at several points during class.
When we resting in Child’s Pose after doing Sun Salutations, Donna came over to adjust me and to ensure that I was executing the pose correctly. As she gently pressed on my back, she said, “The rest is just as important as the work.”
I tossed that statement around in my mind for a while. I’m constantly guilty of pressing my nose to the grindstone and forgetting to schedule time for rest and play. I know that I’m a better mother/wife/friend/writer/human when I carve out time to rest, and Donna’s words validated this for me.
I had found my new mantra.
By the end of class, the ever-present tautness in my upper back had given way to fluidity. I felt refreshed and renewed, like I’d just spent the day at a spa.
I plan on making this a regular monthly experience.
Donna’s final words echoed what I was already feeling:
“Be grateful. Be grateful for the body that you’ve been given, and for the time that you’ve given yourself.”
Going to Yoga in Nature that day was like an early Christmas present – to me, from me. And not only did I benefit from going, but so did my family, because I came home relaxed and happy.
Because I took time for myself.
Because I took time to rest.
This sweet bird surprised me as I was leaving class. I thought it was a decoy at first because it didn’t move, even though I was only about a foot away from it. It must have sensed my zen-like yoga afterglow. Namaste, birdie.
Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center is located at 201 W. Riviera Drive. Click here to visit its website.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.