This summer, I’ve had the pleasure of spending my Saturdays at a delightful artist-led community space/physic garden called Phytology in Bethnal Green, East London. It’s an oasis of calm that is desperately needed in an area with many social and ecological inequalities. One of my previous areas of study and work was around the issue of environmental justice, so this aspect really resonates with me. (Environmental justice has to do with redressing inequalities - often with a racial component - in burden of environmental pollution and in access to environmental amenities.)
A variety of activities occur at Phytology, from workshops on herbalism, to artist residencies, to community bat monitoring training, but the one I recently experienced was a yoga class by Rosemarie of Lemonade Yoga Life. I love her choice of the name, which relates to making the most of what life throws at you, and is also a nod to Beyonce’s powerful album. Last weekend I finally attended one of Rosemarie’s monthly classes she holds at Phytology, which drew people of different ages, genders, and levels of experience with yoga. It was my first time doing a yoga session outside, and it was such a liberating, expansive experience to look up at the sky, hear the rustle of leaves, and at times have my feet planted directly on the ground.
I wanted to share my experience here to encourage you to play with some outdoor movement in the remaining weeks of summer. Although it has become decidedly more autumnal here in the southeast of England, I guarantee there will be a few more weeks of pleasant weather. In fact, prior to this summer, September has usually been more pleasant and dry than the other summer months. And remember, your movement doesn’t have to be yoga postures - it can be whatever you’re drawn to - just take it outside, and don’t do anything that causes pain or tension!
The session took place in Phytology's small outdoor amphitheater. We started with some gentle holds and simple breathing techniques. However, if you just sit outside in a green space and observe your breathing, you will most likely feel calmer even without doing any particular breathing technique. Then we did some seated twists, which are great for digestion, and which Rosemarie suggested everyone do daily.
This was followed by some ‘yin’ postures, where you stay in the posture for about two minutes, but of course don’t force yourself into something that feels wrong. Throughout the session, Rosemarie offered various alternatives that people could choose from; we all have unique bodies, so having options was really helpful. We then flowed into some more dynamic movement, which was still quite gentle.
So get out there while you can, and do whatever you feel like! Here's my husband hula hooping at another community garden in cooler weather :). No movement is restricted to a particular gender!