With a world-wide pandemic, America’s Pacific coast fire apocalypse, the economy crashing, and us being trapped far from our loved ones (or cooped up with them), we’ve got to find small pleasures wherever we can. I found one this week.
Outdoor yoga in Paris’s Parc Monceau.
During the confinement, all Paris parks were closed and no gyms were open, so my exercise was limited to Zoom Pilates and belly dancing how-to videos. I went for regular walks in my one kilometer, but there’s not much nature in my urban neighborhood. Do window boxes count?
Confinement is over (for now at least), but exercise classes are few and far between because nobody wants to practice deep breathing with strangers in an enclosed space. This bug is airborne and we all know it.
I read about yoga at Parc Monceau on Facebook, and decided to give it a try. I’ve practiced yoga for a long time, but always indoors. I’ve always scorned those granola gurus who had to strut their crow pose in public. Desperate times, though.
We all met near the entrance, then found a level place in the grass away from the path. It was a spectacular day, about 70 degrees, light breeze, cottony clouds. We arranged our mats in a socially distanced semi-circle around the instructor, a gentle German woman with a soothing voice. Rules on mask-wearing for outdoor sports are vague, so we decided to risk it and took off our masks. Being at least 50 feet from the path, our consciences were clean.
At first, I had trouble, sitting there in lotus focusing on my intention for the practice. I’m not really a focus-on-your-intention kind of gal. My only intention is usually to get to yoga class, so I always feel a little impatient when the first thing we do is sit motionless. Besides, the ground under my mat was lumpy, gawkers were gawking from the path, and I wondered if one of those birds in my shade tree was going to poop on me. I decided to follow along as best I could, shooting a nasty look of intense peace and serenity at a loitering gawker.
It was vinyasa, which for you non-yogis means a continuous flow of poses, one after the other. You breathe in for one pose, out for one, breathe a few times for some poses that you hold. For a twitchy person like me, it’s a nice combination of exercise and concentration.
I started to enjoy the flow, feeling a greater distance from the others than I normally would in a studio. I couldn’t hear anybody grunting or panting or farting (hey, it happens). What I could hear was birds twittering, dogs barking, the wind in the trees overhead. The instructor’s voice drifted by, keeping me on track from afar. Und zen exhale all ze veh down to all fours…
When we faced the instructor for cobra, we noticed that a bird had taken a liking to her, and was hopping around her pile of equipment. We all smiled, continued our sequence of planks and forward folds and lunges, smelling the grass during chaturanga, and were happy to see the same bird next time we came back to cobra.
Then something startling happened. Moving through the practice, we were in downward dog, holding and breathing and feeling that great shoulder stretch, when an ACTUAL DOG ran through the group. He sniffed everybody’s bags and jackets, wagging furiously, snuffling the ground, slinging drool, ignoring his owner. She reached the group, scolded the dog (nicely—-after all, we WERE in downward dog), and they continued on their way through the park.
We chuckled and the instructor told us that, if our bodies wanted to, we could try camatkarasana. My body said okay, so I heaved one leg behind the other and flipped very ungracefully over so that my feet were on the ground, one arm was somehow holding my torso up, and the other arm flailed above me, tummy to the sky. Hold ze poze, intoned the instructor, and I looked up, through the green leaves, toward the sky, still a stunning blue with puffy white clouds. Somehow holding this arduous pose was easier while looking at the sky and feeling the wind ruffling my hair. After a few breaths, we went back to downward dog (no real-life dog this time, sadly) and repeated the whole thing on the other side. The clouds were still there and the leaves still shivered in the breeze, both seeming to encouraging me to continue.
It was divine. For the first time, I realized what those granola-guru yogis were on to. Outdoor yoga is the real deal. You, nature, breathing, breezes, life. I didn’t care about the lumpy ground or the gawkers. Gawkers gonna gawk, but it’s not my problem. I’m doing something beautiful here, and the universe is on my side.
Damn you, Covid-19, for all the havoc you’ve wreaked on our world. But you won’t win, because we will keep loving each other and taking care of ourselves and finding joy where we can.
No indoor yoga? Fine. For now, I’ll chaturanga in Parc Monceau. And it will be glorious.
Want to try some outdoor yoga in Paris? Follow these links. (Note—things change fast in the outdoor sports world, so be sure you get the most current information.)
- Check out live & online events in Paris this October
- With new restrictions on gyms in Paris, outdoor exercise may be the way to go!
- Check out Yvonne’s recent article on learning how to speak French with a mask
Written by Yvonne Hazelton for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.