Outdoors, a woman in long sleeves and pants does a yoga pose with a worried expression.

Wondering: Did I Get Too Much Sun at Outside Yoga?

Last updated: June 2021

After months of seeing my yoga teacher on a screen, through Zoom classes due to the pandemic, I was intrigued by the idea of doing the 75-minute class in her back yard when the warm weather arrived. But I hesitated, thinking that I already got enough sun through my other activities. At the end of September, I took the plunge and learned a lesson about protecting from skin cancer during outdoor yoga.

Being outside was a breath of fresh air

It was literally a breath of fresh air to be out in a beautiful backyard. I don’t know if it actually helped my yoga to see the teacher in person. She was clear on the iPad which I set up on a coffee table in my living room. But it’s much better to see people in the flesh. The words coming out of a real person, as opposed to coming from a screen, touch your humanity in the way that a real hug is better than a virtual one.

Worrying about skin cancer during outdoor yoga

It felt so warm and nourishing even as I knew that it was bad for my skin. When I said something about the hot sun, one of the yoginis said, “You should have seen us sweating in July.” He said he had dragged his mat over to the one shady spot near a stand of trees. I thought about it but didn’t feel like moving, and I noticed the others stayed put too. It was closer to the teacher and would have been possible, though more difficult, to hear her from the shade.

The warmth of the sun was tempting

I started the class without my hat on but soon reached for my baseball cap and put on my head. When I went to do a pose on my back, I placed it over my face. It teeter-tottered and then fell off. I closed my eyes and saw those shimmery lines inside my eyelids that you see when you’re tanning. What can I say, it felt really good. I didn’t do it for a long time, though, and I dragged my mat into the shady spot for the end of the class.

I wanted to stay in the shade, but the sun was calling to me

It had rained the night before The grass will still damp back there. It was OK while I was moving, but for the final pose, the rest at the end called savasana, where you incorporate all you’ve done, I didn’t want to be chilled. I moved back into the sun. It was awkward to drag my mat and pick up my blocks, and also probably better for my skin to stay in the shade. But I did it anyway.

I was trying to relax, but it's harder than it looks

The last pose is said to be one of the hardest. Yoga Journal explains: “Many yoga students who can happily balance, bend, and twist through the rest of class struggle with just lying on the floor. The reason is that the art of relaxation is harder than it looks.”

Was this a good idea?

The idea is to focus on your breathing and relax one body part at a time. My mind was going too fast. I wondered if I was getting more skin cancers by continuing to do this lovely yoga outside. Or, since I was wearing sunscreen and long sleeves and pants, was this little bit of exposure OK?

All things considered, it was worth it

I put my sweatshirt over my face and tried to focus on the sounds of the birds and the feel of the breeze. My mind quieted. Of course, everyone is going to have to make their own risk-reward assessment in situations like this. For me, I felt so refreshed that I decided to go back and be as careful as I could be.

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