Downward Dog, Down the Shore: Yoga Poses to Try at the Beach
by Jessica Remitz
Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned yogi, taking your yoga practice outdoors can be a wonderful way to challenge yourself, try something new, and enjoy the beautiful summer weather while it lasts. We’ve rounded up some expert-approved poses to try at the beach, along with some tips for practicing outside the classroom.
Practicing Yoga Beyond the Mat
Yoga helps to strengthen your core and in turn, improves your balance and posture. You’ll use your abs, back, and obliques in poses anywhere you practice, but moving to an uneven surface, like the beach, can be a great way to fire up your core and stabilizing muscles and create more of a challenge in the poses, said Kati Rae Cowardin, a Yoga Alliance Certified instructor who teaches at CLAY Health Club + Spa, New York Health and Racquet Club, Harvard Club, and privately.
“Your balance is challenged on the beach, so you really have to engage your core more than you would on a flat surface,” she said. “It’s not only a physical challenge but a mental challenge, as you must practice patience and deep breathing. Coupled with the sounds of the waves, the beach can be a fun challenge for your practice.”
Because you’ll experience more of a challenge at the beach, be sure to take it easy and listen to your body, Cowardin said. Don’t be afraid to fall, but make sure not to push yourself past your limits.
Poses to Try at the Beach
Try the following routine for an invigorating and challenging afternoon the next time you’re at the beach, designed by Cowardin:
Downward facing dog: place your hands shoulder distance apart and your feet hips distance apart (about two fists). Bend your knees as much as you need to. With every inhale, lift your hips high and with every exhale press your heels to the floor. With your hands in the sand, see if you can press into the entire hand, and not just through the wrist.
High lunge: from downward facing dog, step your right foot forward with all ten toes facing forward and your left heel off the mat or sand. Keep your feet hips width distance, to will help with stability and begin with your hands in prayer position. Once you’ve established your balance, sweep your arms slowly overhead, shoulder distance apart, palms facing each other.
Prayer twist lunge: from high lunge, bring your palms to heart center and twist to the right, bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Move slowly and practice engaging your legs more. Practicing this pose on an uneven surface will really force you to press your left heel back and lift your back hamstring toward the sky, Cowardin said. Take 5 deep breaths and return to high lunge with arms in prayer position.
Warrior three: Slowly shift the weight forward into the right foot and start to hinge forward from the hips, lifting your left leg up and back with hands by your sides, palms facing down. “Notice the balancing act as you lower your torso more and lift your left leg higher, working toward creating an upper case ‘T’ shape with your body,” she said. Slowly lower your left foot back into high lunge, then slowly hinge forward from the hips, lower your hands to the sand and step your right foot back into downward dog. From downward dog, bring your shoulders over your wrists to hold a plank position for 30 to 60 seconds, then go back into downward facing dog (or move through a flow first). Repeat high lunge, prayer twist lunge and warrior three on the other side.
Side plank: from downward facing dog, move into a plank position with your knees in the sand and roll to your right side. As you roll, reach your left arm towards the sky and root your left foot into the floor, straightening your left leg. Stack your hips on top of each other. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Dancer’s Pose: from downward facing dog, step or jump into a forward fold and roll up slowly to a standing position. Bring your right hand to your side with your palm facing out. Lift your right foot off the ground and grab the inside of the foot with your right hand. Your elbow crease should be facing out. Reach your left arm up overhead. Kick your right foot into your hand to lift your leg and let the kicking motion be what lifts your leg and hinge slightly forward from the hips. Keep your standing leg straight and take five deep breaths. Lower the leg slowly and repeat on the other side.