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Yoga in the Park Des Moines
“Anybody can do yoga. There's all kinds of yoga - there's power yoga, there's hot yoga, there's Hatha yoga, you can sit and do yoga, it's for senior citizens, you'll see some young kids here doing yoga so all ages, all shapes, all sizes.”
Amidst the almost constant rush of daily life, people in Des Moines, Iowa, have been getting free yoga classes in the park every summer for the past four years. The brain child of Denny Kelly, Yoga in the Park Des Moines takes place at Gray’s Lake and brings together hundreds of people each Saturday morning.
Kelly had the idea to start a yoga in the park program after researching a trip to Chicago and seeing an advertisement for yoga classes in a local park. When he arrived in the city, he “walked over to Millennium Park, a beautiful park in downtown Chicago, and there were hundreds of folks doing yoga.”
He enjoyed the class so much that he thought, “'boy, this is fantastic ... you know, we could do this in Des Moines, Iowa'.” Returning to Des Moines, he met with friends and the local Park and Recreation group who were very pleased to begin work on setting up the program.
Yoga in the Park Des Moines has now had four seasons and “we have averaged about two to three hundred folks every Saturday morning,” says Kelly. The classes run from June through September, which makes for about sixteen Saturdays a year of free yoga classes for the community.
The classes themselves begin at 9 o’clock, under the trees with a beautiful view of Gray’s Lake. Kelly explains that “one of the things that's really been fun about the program is that each and every week is a different yoga instructor and so that community gets an opportunity to see different styles, different formats, and different teaching techniques.”
People of all ages participate in the classes, and there is no need to have any prior knowledge of yoga. “People are not intimidated to come here because there's quite a few other folks,” says Kelly. “So every Saturday, we probably have ten to twenty percent of the group is beginners ... they don't mind coming down to the park and giving it a shot.”
The joy of doing yoga in the park is felt by those new to the classes as much as those who have been practicing for years, and the experience is enhanced by practicing as a group with people of different ability levels and ages.
Taking a yoga class in the park is very different to one in a studio and that’s what makes it even more of a community event. “This is about freedom, this is about liberation, this is about unification," says Anthody O'Dugan, a participant at Yoga in the Park. "You're getting people, children all the way to elderly, everybody coming and you get to experience a oneness by the practice but it's yours and it's completely yours."
“That's not necessarily something you can experience in a studio where form is important or the practice itself is the primary focus,” continues O’Dugan. “This is about everybody came together on a Saturday. They probably had just as many other things they could have done but they chose to do this. They chose to do it at an early hour. People come out in the hot, people come out in the cold, and they just come together. It's not really until the very end of all that, the practice and when you're together, that you can really feel the full power of that.”
Kelly’s own experience with yoga is what makes his work to bring yoga to others so meaningful. “For me, I've been the corporate world for forty years and so with that, there's a certain amount of stress and strain and so yoga has been extremely important for me to bring balance into my life between work and the whole lifestyle.”
With between two and three hundred people attending each week, Yoga in the Park Des Moines is a growing program and one that provides a great sense of community and joy to its participants. It’s a great way to bring calm and joy to a group of people, of all ages, who wish to come together, enjoy nature and escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.
“I feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction being part of this,” says Kelly. “I'm a big believer in synchronicity and oneness so what really amazes me is that I just took this simple little Amtrak train ride to Chicago and out of this came a program that benefits the community and benefits two to three hundred people every Saturday morning.”
You can see Yoga in the Park's schedule and find out more information about the program by visiting their website.