Make Your Yard a Relaxing Oasis by Adding an Outdoor Wellness Space

People are installing outdoor saunas, plunge pools, meditation gardens, and more to make it easier than ever to kick back and relax in the great outdoors.

japanese garden path bird house
Photo: Bob Stefko

Wellness has become a priority for many of us over the last several years. With that has come an emphasis on harnessing the power of nature to foster wellbeing.

“For many, there has been a newfound joy in spaces like botanical gardens, outdoor fitness classes, and outdoor social events, which have often been prioritized over indoor events in recent years,” California-based interior designer Sarah Barnard says, adding, “Many of us have been engaging in our outdoor spaces more and realizing how vital devoting time to being outside can be.”

  • Sarah Barnard is a LEED-accredited interior designer with a focus on sustainable spaces and environments that promote wellbeing.
  • Allison Messner is the co-founder and CEO of Yardzen, an online landscaping design platform.

It’s not surprising, then, that homeowners have begun to design their homes—inside and out—around this philosophy, too.

“[People] want to create beautiful spaces that not only encourage more time spent outside year-round—tapping the related health benefits of simply being outdoors—but include dedicated wellness elements like saunas, heated and cold plunge pools, meditation gardens, and yoga platforms, among other things,” says Allison Messner, co-founder and CEO of Yardzen.

The outdoor wellness space trend is one Messner expects to continue booming in the coming years as many continue to work from home and as more millennials become homebuyers.

“[Millennials] come from a generation that’s always had constant connectivity. There’s an increasing desire to find ways to have a digital detox, and it makes perfect sense that they’re looking to achieve this in their own outdoor spaces,” she explains.

Ready to create an outdoor wellness space for yourself? We’ve gathered some fresh ideas to inspire you on your landscape design journey.

home with outdoor pool on deck
Brie Williams

Plunge Pools

These petite pools (typically ranging from just eight to 12 feet wide) allow homeowners with almost any size yard to take a dip. Heated plunge pools can be used for relaxation or for water aerobic workouts, or, alternatively, non-heated plunge pools can be used for cold water therapy. Plus, not only do plunge pools use less water than traditional backyard pools do, they’re also much less expensive and easier to install.

“There are a lot more prefabricated options out there now for things like precast above-ground plunge pools that make availability and installation more appealing,” Messner says.

japanese garden pavilion
Richard Felber

Yoga Platforms

Marrying the benefits of yoga (like stress management, for one) with the benefits of time outdoors? It’s a truly revitalizing combination. Essentially, a yoga platform is a small, low wood deck that’s at least slightly larger than the standard yoga mat (24 by 69 inches) that you can place in your yard or garden long-term. Typical yoga platform materials include cedar or ipe wood, as they’re both durable, long-lasting, and rot-resistant, plus they’ll feel grounding and luxurious underfoot. Creating a yoga platform in your backyard is so simple that with the right tools you can make it a weekend DIY project, or if you’re all about relaxation you can, of course, outsource to a contractor.

An outdoor sauna structure
SolStock / Getty Images

Outdoor Saunas

Infrared and electric saunas allow you to take a breather while also enjoying mood, joint, circulation, and blood pressure improvements. Now pair those perks with some solid time spent in nature, and you’ve got a winning combo. These days, many cedar saunas are intended to be placed outdoors and have glass doors that allow you to enjoy a scenic setting while you sweat. Many homeowners also include other wellness elements near their sauna, like an outdoor shower or daybed, for maximum relaxation.

raked gravel garden
Amy Haskell

Meditation Gardens

Rock, sculpture, and botanical gardens not only beautify your backyard, but also make for spectacular spaces for unwinding with a seated, standing, or walking meditation practice.

“Landscaping that emphasizes areas of seclusion, or the sensation of being deep in and surrounded by nature, can create regenerative spaces for finding solace,” Barnard says.

She suggests filling your meditation garden with local flora and fauna that support native pollinators, as well as water sources like a small pond or birdbath. That way wildlife can also enjoy your new meditation zone—which in turn, helps you, too. 

“Meditating to birdsong or soaking in an outdoor spa while watching butterflies and hearing the hum of bees can create an incredibly grounding and relaxing experience,” Barnard says.

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  1. "The wellness benefits of the great outdoors." US Forest Service.

  2. "Yoga – benefits beyond the mat." Harvard Health.

  3. Laukkanen JA, Laukkanen T, Kunutsor SK. "Cardiovascular and other health benefits of sauna bathing: a review of the evidence." Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2018;93(8):1111-1121. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.04.008

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