With indoor communal exercise still not permitted in Ontario, Chatham’s yoga studios have turned to the outdoors to bring their students back on the mat.
Shakti Yoga in downtown Chatham recently started holding classes on the rooftop of the building, which has a view of the Thames River and some of the historic buildings in the area.
“That aerial view is very picturesque,” said owner Collette Beneteau. “It’s euphoric.”
Beneteau said indoor classes allow some control over the temperature, airflow and noise levels, but the outdoor classes show the students “the world isn’t perfect.”
“Anybody can do yoga or meditate in a very peaceful, serene atmosphere, but it takes a stronger mind to connect with that sense of peace, relaxation and focus when there are distractions around,” she said.
“It’s more of a mental challenge (outside), but then there are the beautiful aspects of it. Instead of looking up and seeing a boring, drab ceiling, you look up and see clouds and blue skies and beautiful scenery.”
Cheryl Shillington from Yoga Glow Studio is also now holding outdoor classes on the grassy area of her property on the Thames River. She said the response has been “fantastic” so far.
“People come to yoga for many reasons, physical wellbeing of course, but perhaps more importantly right now is the mental wellbeing that yoga promotes,” she said. “The social isolation these past three months has been very challenging for many.”
The studio has held classes outdoors in previous summers. Shillington said being out in nature reminds students of their “interconnectedness” and she encourages them to experience each moment with a fresh awareness.
“Taking deep conscious breaths in the fresh air, feeling the gentle breeze on the skin, hearing birdsong, seeing the rustling of the leaves above, it all adds a rich, deeper dimension to the practice,” she said.
Body Language, another downtown Chatham studio, has also organized classes in three outdoor areas so far.
Of these spaces, co-owner Simon Swanek said he is probably most excited about the classes behind the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre.
“There is such a beautiful large patio out there that overlooks part of the (Thames) River and has a nice grassy area with lots of trees as well,” he said. “It’s been a space that we wanted to use for exactly this purpose for a while.”
The studio has also used Kingston Park and Mud Creek Trail. Swanek said they are planning to announce other locations, including some in the communities outside of Chatham proper.
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