Credit: Kaylee Garrett/Unsplash

The harsh weather that has recently pummeled so many states serves as a powerful reminder of just how lucky we are here in sunny Santa Barbara. Beyond offering the finest in hiking, biking, and ocean adventures, folks have taken to embracing the region’s picturesque surroundings for another choice activity — yoga. To the delight of dedicated yogis and new pose practitioners alike, the typically studio-based sport has gone al fresco, expanding into parks, beaches, and courtyards across town — with just a mat and sunscreen needed.

“There is something magical once you put on the headphones and take in the beautiful S.B. scenery, and then begin your movement-meditation practice,” said Emma Davis, owner of Santa Barbara Beach Yoga. Using wireless headphones to stream the instructor and music, participants on the roof at the newly renovated Cabrillo Pavilion at East Beach get a stretch in the sun. “Our clients and tourists couldn’t be happier or more stoked about the views,” said Davis. If you want a sandier experience, the studio also hosts classes for all levels at Ledbetter and East Beach. Ahead of the COVID-curve, they launched in 2018 with the outdoor concept at their core. 

“Prior to the pandemic, we were mostly private event and pop-up based, and worked with partnerships at local studios hosting weekly and monthly classes at places like Divinitree and Yoga Soup,” said Davis, “During this pandemic, the demand for safe outdoor yoga has skyrocketed.”

Faced with screen fatigue and social isolation, many people are yearning to get back on the mat for an in-person experience. But it’s not just the students who are ready for the opportunity to rejoin a real-life practice.

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Luke Loggins, an instructor with Santa Barbara Beach Yoga, noted the benefits of a socially distanced outdoor stretch seshes: “During quarantine, many students developed a home practice, which is great, but that can get stagnant and repetitive, which can lead to boredom and potential injury. Bringing the practice outdoors allows you to connect with nature, flow with a community, and switch up your practice,” said Loggins. “As a teacher, I get to be with students on a more personal level than on Zoom while still staying safe. Being with students in-person helps me see what everyone is doing so I can deliver verbal cues and demonstrations clearly, so everyone stays healthy and has fun.”

Other studios around town have also taken to the outdoors. Places like Divinitree, Yoga Soup, and the dual CorePower Yoga locations have undergone a change in venue. 

CorePower’s downtown location offers classes from the sweat-inducing to the relaxing — all hosted in the semi-private splendor of a Euro-style courtyard. (They have socially distanced mat spaces designated by tape.)

Divinitree uses the gently lighted outdoor courtyard of El Paseo Restaurant for 9-5ers seeking a post-work stretch after the sun has set. The studio has also turned to the shade of La Mesa Park’s trees for their grass classes, where you might just spot a gopher while in your down-dog. Surfers can bring a board to their Ledbetter location and paddle out before or after class — or both! 

Like Divinitree, Yoga Soup, a longtime staple of Santa Barbara yogis, has pivoted to the park, offering yoga on the grass at both La Mesa and Shoreline Park West. 

“As a student, it’s a great way to continue learning and adding to your practice,” said Loggins encouragingly. Connecting with the earth under your mat will add dimension to your balance practice not offered by studio flooring. The fresh air, sunshine, twitter of birds, and crashing of waves offer elemental tranquility and, unlike live streams, are 100 percent glitch-free.

And if you are feeling self-conscious about posing in public, just stay masked for the duration of the class — your secret is safe with us.

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