A handful of people are sitting in the lotus position in complete silence in a circle on the beach. Tiny, white grains of sand sparkle on their bare feet, and the light illuminates onto the mats. The afternoon sunshine is warm, and a gentle breeze ruffles their hair.

Then they get up, and move, in almost perfect synchronisation, into positions in concentrated, calm and natural movements. Only the yoga instructor’s soft voice can be heard above the gentle waves lapping the shore.

‘Breathe in.’

‘Breathe out.’

Complete peace and harmony.

Time to breathe

‘Being outside, coming into contact with nature, reducing your stress levels. The presence of mind you get gives you an inner calm, which you take with you afterwards.’

Rutt-Lovise Strand was born and grew up on Måløy in Nordfjord. She now runs a yoga studio in the heart of the small town. She also runs an active adventure company together with her husband Bjørn Inge.

‘The people who come to me and my yoga practice, be it at the studio or outside doing different activities in nature, are trying to find peace in their otherwise hectic lives. Many of them have realised that breathing and presence of mind does something to them. The fact that they want to find time for this, to create a breathing space, is the main reason they come to me,’ she explains.

You can book activities such as kayaking trips, yoga, guided walks or activities beside the sea. Whatever your taste.

‘Yoga is just as much about using your body in nature as it is about doing exercises on a mat. It’s about breathing. Focusing on breathing has a calming effect on our nervous systems. Nature makes no demands of us, and tension melts away when we use our bodies to do activities that ask little of us.’

Countless activities in nature

Practically every kind of natural phenomenon you can imagine can be found in the coastal landscape around Måløy. From high mountains and deep valleys to long, white sandy beaches teeming with wildlife beside the sea.

‘Wherever you are in the area, there are mountain walks for all tastes on your doorstep, whether you’re into long, challenging hikes or short, easy walks. You can play with your children on the shore, and look for crabs and shrimps, which I personally have lots of fond childhood memories of,’ Rutt-Lovise smiles.

‘Or you can jump in the sea from the sheer rock faces with older children,’ she goes on to say.

‘When you’re out in a boat, or kayaking along the coast, you really get up close to the life under the keel.’ 

‘Peep over the side at the seabed. Observe. Being close to nature makes us more aware of the importance of looking after it.’

Padletur i Måløy|© Fjord Norway

Three years ago, having lived in Bergen for 20 years, the Strand family moved back to Måløy.

‘It’s easy just to keep living in the same place. As our three children grew up, and we started exploring the nature and landscape here with them during summer holidays; going camping in the mountains or setting off in a boat on the fjord or sea, we rediscovered where we come from.’

‘You have everything you need here in Måløy,’ Rutt-Lovise concludes.

‘Mountains, fjords, the ocean, sunsets. If you have a bucket list of nature experiences you want to do, you can do pretty much everything in a relatively small area here in Måløy.’ 

The presence of the ocean

Far, far out to sea to the west, on top of rugged, inhospitable cliffs, the silhouette of Skongenes lighthouse can be seen against the cobalt blue sky. White-crested waves from the even darker sea pound the grey rocks and, in some places, almost black rock faces below it. If you’re lucky enough to see the sea from above, dotted with islets, skerries and headlands teeming with birds, the sometimes playful, and other times ferocious, waters appear to gently envelop the hard, grey rock formations.

The ocean has a particularly strong draw for the yoga instructor.

‘The ocean fascinates me.

Dead calm one minute, and then raging and full of wrath, the next. These changes represent an intense presence, a powerful dynamic. I use the ocean, waves and flow, and incorporate it into my practice when I’m doing yoga and meditation with students. There are strong parallels between the sea and how we humans function. This is illustrated by what happens in our minds as well as in our bodies,’ Rutt-Lovise explains.

‘When we spend time by the sea, our perspective changes. We have greater presence of mind, and we understand each other better. It’s not just the active experience in itself that enriches us, it’s bringing it with you into your everyday life and carrying it with you as you proceed through life. But it’s important to remember that you need to recharge to keep it up.’ 

Impact of nature

‘Many things about the way we live make us stressed,’ Rutt-Lovise points out.

‘I’m not just talking about the stress of rushing around, but also the emotional inner stress that comes from difficult days and things that happen in our lives.’

She is genuinely interested in what being close to the sea can do for us, the effect that contact with nature in general can have.

‘Natural science has come far. Research has now shown that changes do actually take place when we spend time in nature. Our nervous systems respond directly to the contact with nature. We breathe in and out more deeply, and we use our senses differently. This means we are more in tune with our bodies, which, in turn, makes it easier for us to know what we need here and now.’

Bading ved Refsviksanden|© Fjord Norway

Be aware of your senses

‘Use your senses consciously when you’re in nature,’ Rutt-Lovise urges, before she takes her leave of us and gets ready for a refreshing dip. She swims with slow, strong strokes towards the open sea, while the sun’s rays attempt to dry her shoulders and neck in between the strokes.

Be like her. If you’re at the shore, take a deep breath and soak up the smell of the salt water. Watch oystercatchers wading among the bladderwrack on the shore. Keep an eye out for a seal popping its shiny nose and whiskers above the waves, and count the breakers as far out as you can see.

Enjoy the warm sun on your back and shoulders on a sunny day. Listen to the seagulls and the quiet whisper of the waves stroking the almost chalk-white beach. Or listen to the wild waves roar as they pound the land when the weather shows itself from another side. The charm of Western Norway not only lies in the fine weather of summer. Each season has its own charm. Although yoga classes on the shore are most suited to warm weather, winter has its own pleasures; ice flowers on puddles crunching beneath your feet, or the bracing wind bringing colour to your cheeks when you return indoors.

You really feel alive in the west.

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