Yoga in The Park

Yoga in The Park Reshaping MidGA

Blue skies. Chirping birds. Lush green grass. Soft music. The description alone is enough to make most folks calm down. Pair it with some yoga and you have the makings of a transformative experience affectionately referred to as Yoga in the Park.

The summer workout series is the Macon-Bibb County Department of Parks and Recreation’s effort to provide people with an opportunity to improve their physical well being without feeling intimidated by a gym or fitness studio according to the department’s programming and marketing coordinator Ellen Banas. She says the overall goal of Yoga in the Park is to help people become aware of the many types of fitness and wellness options in Middle Georgia by “testing” the classes before they commit to a fitness program. “We started with yoga since it is a form of exercise that can be modified for participants of all skill levels,” stated Banas.

The department’s effort is paying off. All classes thus far have been well attended. The writer has been present as both a participant and observer and in each instance, witnessed a Saturday morning packed out portion of Tattnall Square Park this past August. Classes are led by an instructor from either Hometown Yoga, Pure Balance, Underground Yoga or the Wellness Center. Workouts range from simple stretches to more intense forms of yoga that include combining  various poses.

Most striking about the classes is the range of participation. The make up of the gatherings is an amalgamation of different races, ages, sexes, economic backgrounds and educational levels. While the diverse crowds come from different spheres of living and influence, they share a common goal at Yoga in the Park – getting a great workout in a serene and unexpected setting. And some even travel from outside of Macon. Will Newton, a seventeen year old student at Mary Persons High School in Forsyth timidly joined his girlfriend Hannah Carson of Macon at her invitation, but gave it his all during his first ever close encounter with the ancient form of exercise. “It doesn’t hurt to try new stuff,” said Newton. “I like the fact that it’s outside. It’s real real relaxing.”

Charise Stephens of Macon is a regular. She is a progressive working professional that enjoys taking the classes when not making a difference in her hometown as a community improvement advocate in between the daily grind. She observed that Yoga in the Park also is a great way for her to continue connecting. A hand holding exercise while lying out on mats was one of her favorite moments this particular Saturday morning. “It does give people from different backgrounds a chance to enjoy a common thing,” said Stephens. “Having these type of activities gives people an even greater chance to use our parks.”

Nancy Thomas was on the other end of the hand holding Stephens referenced. The Washington D.C. native has been in Macon since 1974 and pointed out that Yoga in the Park is a sure sign that the city has grown up since she first arrived here forty years ago. By the way Thomas is eighty years old. She also does Pilates and like Stevens enjoys the connectivity that the activity causes. “It (yoga) keeps me moving and feeling good. I never thought I’d see this here,” said Thomas. “The park has changed. It’s safer and more beautiful.” Instructor Dean Baker of Pure Balance Yoga Wellness agrees with Thomas. She has been doing yoga for eight years as a novice but decided two years ago to try her hand at teaching it. The enthusiasm and joy she exuded as she calmly led participants through a series of stretches and breathing exercises while walking in between them as they lay out on self supplied rubber mats the Saturday morning I attended as an observer, coincided with her general disposition. She said that yoga is a beautiful way to connect with nature and people. “I think that it’s phenomenal that Macon has embraced the yoga community. It’s a great way to bring different people together,” said Baker. “Yoga can unite us. It is a way for people to meet people.”

Banas said that Parks and Recreation is not done. Yoga is just the beginning of a range of outdoor exercise programs that appeal to just about anybody. This past September the department also began offering Tai Chi and in the near future, plans to add Zumba and Pilates. Opportunities to work out may also increase to include evenings during the week. Classes will remain in public places and free since parks official believe that this scenario provides a unique experience according to Banas; but are currently being held inside at local recreation centers until winter passes before returning to the peaceful trappings of Tattnall Square Park this spring and summer. “People as a whole want to improve themselves,” she added. “Our next step is to add variety to our class offerings as we know that yoga may not be for everyone. By providing unique opportunities the recreation department can act as a vehicle for this process by introducing alternatives forms of fitness.”

To learn more about Yoga in the Park and other classes, contact Ellen at (478) 751-7694 or ebanas[at]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Clarence Thomas is a seasoned media professional with years of experience in the areas of: writing, video production, journalism, public & media relations, event planning, public speaking, crisis communications, marketing, photography, social networking and media consulting. He loves sharing information and enjoys doing so as a freelance writer for RetroWarehouse. Contact him at

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