Open Air Yoga

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Steadying your breathing while inhaling the scents of the ocean or the aroma of flowers, may just be the perfect motivating agent to jump-start an engagement with yoga. Taking her passion for instructing yoga to the great outdoors, Santa Barbara local and yoga instructor, Lourika van Tonder, teaches yoga with a unique approach. Van Tonder does pop-up yoga classes all around Santa Barbara. Pop-ups are essentially traveling, non-permanent constructs most commonly associated with restaurants, stores and even art-galleries. Pop-up yoga, while popular in larger cities, is still a fairly new concept and van Tonder is one of the only pop-up yoga facilitators in Santa Barbara.

Van Tonder calls her pop-up yoga sessions, Open Air Yoga Santa Barbara, a name that exemplifies the freeing approach and more accessible and inclusive nature of outdoor yoga.

Originally from South Africa and still fairly new to Santa Barbara, van Tonder sought yoga as a way to get to know her community.

“It was a way to really connect with where I live, which is one of the most beautiful locations in the world,”said van Tonder.

Van Tonder utilizes the natural beauty of Santa Barbara as a stimulant for exercise and fitness, which can be a great deal more rewarding when done while taking advantage of the outdoors.

“There is a level of excitement not knowing the location till the day before, it keeps yoga exciting…to encourage and to embrace our environment with an element of surprise,”said van Tonder.

Using social media to announce the new location of her pop up yoga sessions, van Tonder posts where the new location will be 24 hours before the next class. Her sessions are every Wednesday at 7am. Sessions are offered freely, on a suggested donation basis.

Despite the fact that van Tonder just started Open Air Yoga in January of this year, it is already starting to attract a following throughout the community. The number of participants is steadily getting bigger, averaging six to twelve people a session. Van Tonder envisions it becoming a community event, with even larger group involvement and eventually for Open Air Yoga to spread to other towns as well.

For van Tonder Open Air Yoga is a great way for anyone who may feel intimidated by the practice to instead be motivated to approach it.

“It’s an enticing element to yoga, to be able to do it anywhere…on the beach in the mountains, the location is almost irrelevant, it’s about the practice, about the breath and taking some time for yourself,”said van Tonder.

One thing van Tonder really hopes to achieve with Open Air Yoga, is to help each one of her students realize their own particular visions of yoga, which is tailored to each person’s own needs and wants. Van Tonder’s own vision of yoga consists of three main properties: taking time for yourself, connecting with your breath, and having a conversation with your body.

“We get so caught up in our everyday life we don’t take time to slow down and enjoy it,”said van Tonder. “Yoga allows you to slow down and embrace the moment and allows you to embrace life.”

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After taking one of van Tonder’s pop-up yoga classes at East Beach, I instantly felt more relaxed and at ease. Van Tonder often found ways to combine the practice of yoga with the elements of the surrounding landscape, for example instructing us to occasionally step off our mats so we could feel the soil beneath our feet. I personally found reconnecting with both myself and the earth, a more fulfilling experience.

While outdoor yoga may be helpful and stimulating for some, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, which van Tonder recognizes.

“It depends on the person—some people really prefer a solid wood floor—there are benefits to both,”said van Tonder.

Whether on the beach or in a studio, yoga is a great way to stay in shape and relax the mind, and van Tonder is eager to share her love for yoga and the Santa Barbara vista with any and all interested individuals.

“Invite people to come, come and do some yoga,”exclaims van Tonder.

Katana Dumont

Katana is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she first discovered her passion for writing and journalism. When she isn't writing, reading, traveling, or binge watching films on Netflix, Katana enjoys getting involved in her community and taking advantage of all Santa Barbara has to offer.

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