By Sally Phillips
If the sound of travelling to Croatia and experiencing the beauty of majestic landscapes while practising yoga, or SUPing inviting azure waves sounds appealing, then you are probably keenly aware of the importance of natural surrounds when it comes to enhancing your yogic and spiritual experience. The research of famous psychologists, doctors, and environmentalists, has revealed that nature is far more than a pretty backdrop against which to carry out these enjoyable activities. It also has powerful effects on our health, wellbeing, and spirituality.
Recent Findings on Spirituality
Some of the most recent studies carried out on spirituality have shown that believing in a greater power outside ourselves – whether in the form or organised religion or personal belief, is linked to greater happiness and wellbeing. Researchers still haven’t identified why spirituality helps us feel better – in part, they believe, it is the chance it offers to be with people who share our beliefs, ideas, and interest in spiritual activities such as yoga. Additionally, when we engage in spiritual pursuits, we bring our the mind to ‘the here and now’, acknowledging sometimes difficult or conflicting emotions and thoughts without letting stress and worry take over our inner peace.
Spirituality, Nature and the Yogic Limbs
Nature’s benefits are closely linked to spirituality. Nature, too, instantly transports us into ‘the present moment’ through the majesty and beauty of verdant landscapes or crystal clear waters. It is difficult not to feel like part of something greater when taking part in yoga while gazing at a verdant mountain range or glorious sunset dipping into an ocean horizon. Both nature and yoga have been proven in numerous studies to increase concentration, aid in meditative absorption, and increase happiness (bliss or enlightenment), thus helping achieve the three yogic limbs of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. What these limbs have in common is the importance they give to removing ourselves from daily stressors and allowing ourselves to enter a peaceful, meditative state. Pranayamic breathing helps us achieve these pursuits, and bliss or enlightenment are the result.
Yoga retreats are a powerful way to enhance our spirituality, especially when they take place in a natural setting. In the Great Outdoors, our stress response lessens, and our heart rate and breathing rate become lower. Asanas, pranayamic breathing, and meditation, allow us to enter a state in which body, mind, and spirit work in harmony to help us discover our essential connection with the life force that moves through all of us.