Zoe Welch Shows Us Her Favorite Ways To Move & Meditate Outdoors This Summer
Throughout the year, I find myself craving different aspects of nature when it comes to my physical practice as well as my meditation practice. Whether it's a sunset hike in the fall or a yoga practice by the water in the spring, I find that a mindful nod to Mother Nature can be nourishing and often shines a subtle light on what's going on in my life as well as in my body.
So, I'm stoked to share five of my go-to yoga poses for releasing stress, as well as a meditation to help open yourself up to receiving all the varied gifts that nature has to offer. I recommend taking your yoga mat outside to truly connect and get grounded. You can perform these poses as a sequence or on their own as part of your own practice. Just be sure to warm up your spine with a few sun salutations before you begin (and always check with your doctor first if you have any health concerns). Pre- and post-practice, I like to use CBD—specifically the high-quality, CO2-extracted Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract with CBD from Manitoba Harvest—to really unwind and get my body into relaxation mode—I'll show you how I do that, too.
Any change in season is a great time to rest and reflect. Here in child's pose, there is no need for further action—just allow your body to rest and reflect. Before starting my yoga practice after a long day, I'll take some of Manitoba Harvest's CBD oil drops to really allow my body to unwind during a pre-Zen session. I love moving my body and staying active as much as possible, and CBD has been one of my favorite discoveries in the past year that's helped me with muscle recovery and releasing any tightness. CBD oil drops in particular are a must for evoking calm.
Sit back on your heels with your big toes touching, knees together or apart, and let your forehead come to the floor or rest on a yoga block. Relax your arms alongside your body, or reach arms out in front of you, resting them on your mat. Allow yourself to pause here and take five deep breaths.
High Crescent Lunge
Visualize a crescent moon when you're in this pose. Remember that it can be either waxing or waning—either building up and growing to the full moon or winding down to the new moon. In this pose, decide if you'd like to focus on building your strength or calming down and taking it as a chance to reflect inward.
From child's pose, tuck your toes under and send hips back, coming into downward-facing dog. Exhale and step your right foot forward between both hands. Left leg stays strong with knee lifted, or lowered to the ground (for a modification if needed). Inhale as you raise arms overhead and lift your torso upright. Lengthen your tailbone toward the ground and reach back through your left heel. Stay here for three or four breaths, and then on an exhale release the torso to the right thigh, place hands back onto your mat, and with another exhale, step your right foot back to return to down dog. Hold for a few breaths and repeat with the left leg for the same amount of time.
Half Moon to Half Moon Bow (Ardha Chandra Chapasana)
As we experience the build of longer days with more sunshine during the shift to summertime, our creative energy can experience a similar shift. Half moon pose cultivates confidence, strength, and balance. Enjoy taking up space in this pose as you cultivate the courage to try something new.
Start in mountain pose, tadasana, and then take a big step back with your left foot, turning your left toes out slightly while keeping your right toes pointing forward. Lift your arms up to a "T" with palms facing down and shoulders relaxed. Place left hand at your waist, and start to hinge forward at the waist, bending the right knee and gradually shifting your weight into your right leg as you lift your left foot off the floor. Allow your right hand to reach toward the ground or a block as you extend your left arm toward the ceiling. Keep your gaze down. Flex your left foot strongly, and raise your left leg in line with left hip or parallel to the ground. Your left toes should be pointing away from you. Breathe comfortably for at least five breaths.
Upward Bow (Wheel) Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
Upward bow pose (urdhva dhanurasana) opens the chest and throat, encouraging anything stuck to come loose.
Start by lying on your back in the center of your mat, knees bent and feet hip-distance apart, soles of the feet resting on the ground, and arms by your side. Reach the arms overhead, and then bend your elbows, placing your palms on the floor on either side of your head. Fingers pointing toward your feet, and creases of the wrists parallel to the top of your mat. Elbows point up to the ceiling.
Inhale as you root down evenly through all four corners of the feet, and press down through the base of each finger. Exhale, press the hands strongly into the ground as you bring the crown of your head to the mat. Pause here. Inhale, drawing the forearms and upper arms parallel to each other. Draw the knees in line with your hips. On your exhale, press the hands into the ground again as you press the hips all the way up toward the ceiling, lifting your head off the ground.
Root down through the feet and hands as you lift through the legs and forearms. Spin the inner thighs down to the ground as you lengthen the tailbone toward your knees. Broaden across your collarbones, and lengthen the sides of your neck as you relax the throat and allow the head to hang freely. Pause here for three breaths.
On an inhale, slowly start to bend the elbows as you lower down the ground, one vertebra at a time. Exhale as you release the arms alongside your body and allow your knees to rest together.
Meditation in Easy Seated Pose (Sukhasana)
Once you've worked out some stress by physically wringing out built-up energy, I take a dose of my unflavored Manitoba Harvest CBD oil drops (which also comes in a peppermint flavor) and then find myself in a comfortable sukhasana, or easy seated pose. Generally, CBD oil drops help me welcome calmness, especially if my mind is racing, so I like to use it before meditating to ease into it. Post-flow, meditation is a perfect way to revisit your intentions for the new season, for your connection to nature. What is it that you need to let go of? What is it that you would like to bring forth?
Sit comfortably with legs crossed, sitting on a blanket if you need the support. There should be a comfortable gap between your feet and pelvis. Hands resting in prayer at your chest or relaxed on your knees. Palms can face up or down. Breathe deeply for at least 10 breaths, finding release and restoration with every exhale. Notice the feeling of the sun on your skin, the wind in your hair, and the earth helping you to ground down.
Try sitting in this meditation for at least 10 minutes, more if possible, and experience the beautiful shift that can occur by allowing yourself to unwind, connect to nature, and unite with your breath.
Zoe Welch is an Austin-based yoga instructor and dancer. After years of dancing ballet professionally, an injury forced Welch to re-examine how she was caring for her body, and she credits yoga for helping her to regain her strength and confidence. It’s this appreciation for movement and health that has motivated her towards a career in teaching and sharing the joy of yoga and dance with others.
Welch studied under Thomas Taubman and Sean Grey for her 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Certification with YogaWorks in Los Angeles. She is a Certified Master Trainer for GROOV3 Dance in LA, and completed her 300 Hour Advanced Teacher Training at Wanderlust Yoga with Leah Cullis and Kate Waitzkin. You can sweat with Welch at Wanderlust, or online through her mindbodygreen movement videos.