Yoga in Baker Park

Whether familiar with the ancient art or not, community members of all ages come together each weekend to practice

  • By Kerri Eiker Special to the News-Post
  • Jul 31, 2014

 

The air felt “close,” as my grandmother used to say to describe humid summer weather. The morning was pleasantly cool and the heavy moisture in the air softened the usual mounting industrial noises into a pleasant background hum.

It was a perfect morning for outdoor yoga.

A rainbow of colorful yoga mats dotted the grass by the bell tower in Baker Park as members of the community gathered for a donation-based class held every Saturday morning through September.

“Let’s begin in Savasana. Close your eyes,” Sheri Killen Cardelli, the week’s volunteer instructor, began the class. She guided us to lie on our mats and become aware of the earth beneath us. We placed one hand on our hearts and one hand on our bellies. We were guided to become aware of our breath by Cardelli’s mellifluous voice as she stepped lightly in bare feet on the grass, weaving around the mats. “Let’s also begin with gratitude today, being grateful for our bodies, our hearts beating without us even having to think about it.”

As Cardelli spoke, our collective breath became more rhythmic and peaceful. Her words gently directed our awareness inward, into our bodies, into our emotional and mental state, and at the same time fostering an awareness and feeling of connection among our neighbors on their own mats. It’s as if we were each on our own little island but there was a bridge connecting us all.

In fact, the idea for this gentle and open community project originated from a desire to cultivate community connection between yoga studios, instructors and students.

“I always wanted to bring yoga studios together, promote each studio while offering the public a flavor from each practice,” Geni Donnelly, creator of Yoga in the Park, said. Donnelly is a co-founder of Yogamour, a nonprofit organization whose vision emulates Gandhi’s altruistic vision of “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Yogamour projects selflessly provide aide to children in danger and poverty, globally as well as locally. All donations for Yoga in the Park fund Yogamour projects.

In 2010, Donnelly, along with her friend Rebeccah Bartlett-Leister, began to research yoga retreats. “We found wellness and deepening your practice aspects (of the retreats), but there was no seva,” Donnelly said. Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning selfless service and is at the core of authentic yoga practice. Yogamour was founded and the beautiful work of “planting the seeds of seva” began.

As the low lying morning clouds began to thin, sunlight streamed through the leaves of the park’s large trees. Nature and yoga seemed to be in sync; as we opened our eyes, the asanas (poses) became more active, warming our bodies as the sleepy mist lifted, allowing the morning sun to warm the Earth.

The crowd was as colorful as our mats in terms of diversity; there were almost as many men as women. There were children in downward facing dog and senior citizens practicing forward bend. Levels of yoga ability ranged from the novice to the advanced, and our instructor offered easy to understand variations and modifications as well as encouraging advanced poses for those of us who are familiar with yoga and incorporate those poses in our daily practice.

Cindy Meehan and her daughter Caitlin Meehan have attended classes from the beginning in June.

“We only missed one class,” Meehan said, “and that’s because we were at the beach. But we did yoga at the beach, too!”

Meehan and her daughter are new to yoga. Meehan has carpal tunnel syndrome and her doctor suggested yoga. Meehan said she feels stronger and attributes her speedy healing to the classes.

After Yoga in the Park, she plans to continue with her practice. “I won’t be embarrassed to go to a studio now.”

Many people feel intimidated walking into a studio when they are new to yoga. Being outdoors in a large, diverse group helps to remove that fear.

Susan Errickson echoed Meehan’s sense of comfort in practicing in the park. “Doing yoga with the community helps me come out of my shell,” she said.

Errickson, an accomplished ultra-runner and athlete has issues with tight and often painful subsequent injuries. “It’s amazing how just by gently holding a pose and surrendering with your breath, you can sink a little deeper.”

“Yes, you don’t have to kill yourself to get a workout,” Cardelli concurred.

And yoga isn’t simply a physical workout. Not only do we hold physical pain and toxins in our tight joints and injuries, many people believe we hold emotion there, too. During opening poses, we were instructed to let go of any negative judgment that might arise during practice: acknowledge the thought and feel the emotion, but let the judgment go. There is no use for guilt, regret or shame. Yoga offers a safe place where we can feel vulnerability and sadness and once our poses, breath and resolve have guided us through the often uncomfortable emotions we get to the good stuff, deep inside where love and joy are abundant. And those are the very qualities needed to practice seva.

What: Yoga in the Park, with a different instructor each week

Where: Baker Park, near the bell tower, in downtown Frederick

When: 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturdays through Sept. 27. Guest instructor to hold one last class on Oct. 4.

Info: Visit yogamour.org to join, volunteer and donate or to learn more about the works of seva.


New donation-based yoga classes

New donation-based yoga class

Geni Donnelly and Rebeccah Bartlett formed the nonprofit Yogamour. The organization invites the opportunity to participate in an aspect of yoga philosophy referred to as “seva” or “selfless service” which harbors the belief that most of us have the inherent desire to make the world a better place. Our mission is to foster health and wellness through local and global outreach while inspiring our teachers and volunteers to bring their yoga off of the mat and into the world.

A collective of teachers have come together to offer Yogamour Yoga and Pilates donation-based classes to our community at the Bernard W. Brown Community Center beginning this month. These certified teachers have been inspired by the vision of selfless service in offering a practice of healthful living and well-being. While classes are for all levels, teachers are trained to offer modifications for the beginner and encouragement for the regularly practicing yogi.

Yogamour further offers fundraising yoga and mindfulness retreats to tropical destinations, and volunteer yoga retreats to India and Thailand. We work with local nonprofit organizations offering yoga, well-being, health and mindfulness programs.

Eighteen classes are held each week, each with a suggested donation of $10. Funds from these classes benefit Yogamour’s charitable causes. Local causes include Yoga and Mindfulness Classes for the clients of the Heartly House and Yoga, Nutrition, and Wellness for Cancer Survivors and Patients for the Cancer Center of Frederick County.

Yogamour yoga and pilates classes are at the Bernard W. Brown Community Center, 629 N. Market St. (second floor)

Bring a mat and water. For a class schedule, visit http://yogamour.org/frederick-yoga.

Geni Donnelly and Rebeccah Bartlett formed the nonprofit Yogamour. The organization invites the opportunity to participate in an aspect of yoga philosophy referred to as “seva” or “selfless service” which harbors the belief that most of us have the inherent desire to make the world a better place. Our mission is to foster health and wellness through local and global outreach while inspiring our teachers and volunteers to bring their yoga off of the mat and into the world.

A collective of teachers have come together to offer Yogamour Yoga and Pilates donation-based classes to our community at the Bernard W. Brown Community Center beginning this month. These certified teachers have been inspired by the vision of selfless service in offering a practice of healthful living and well-being. While classes are for all levels, teachers are trained to offer modifications for the beginner and encouragement for the regularly practicing yogi.

Yogamour further offers fundraising yoga and mindfulness retreats to tropical destinations, and volunteer yoga retreats to India and Thailand. We work with local nonprofit organizations offering yoga, well-being, health and mindfulness programs.

Eighteen classes are held each week, each with a suggested donation of $10. Funds from these classes benefit Yogamour’s charitable causes. Local causes include Yoga and Mindfulness Classes for the clients of the Heartly House and Yoga, Nutrition, and Wellness for Cancer Survivors and Patients for the Cancer Center of Frederick County.

Yogamour yoga and pilates classes are at the Bernard W. Brown Community Center, 629 N. Market St. (second floor)

Bring a mat and water. For a class schedule, visit http://yogamour.org/frederick-yoga.


Yoga for strength, flexibility, peace – and charity

  • By Arlene Karidis Special to the News-Post
  • Nov 24, 2015

If you are thinking about trying yoga or Pilates, you might want to drop by the Bernard W. Brown Center in downtown Frederick. A nonprofit organization called Yogamour offers classes there in both practices throughout the week.

Despite what some people think, yoga is for almost anyone, regardless of their fitness level or if they have done it before, said Yogamour co-founder Geni Donnelly.

“When many people think “yoga,” typically what comes to mind is flexibility, stretching and breath. For others who might not be able to touch their toes, this can be discouraging. It is amazing how many people say that they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible. They think it has to be that pretzel pose they saw on a magazine cover,” said Donnelly.

But the pretzel pose is not really what yoga is about most of the time, including at Yogamour where people of all levels are welcome.

Marybeth Fossett drops in for yoga every day and has done a few of the Pilates classes.

“I had been a runner my whole life, and my knees started to bother me so I had to quit. I tried yoga [in Aug 2014] and fell in love instantly,” she said, comparing it to running — at least in that it’s a chance to contemplate and evaluate your life while you are exercising.

Yoga wasn’t as easy as she had expected. “I embraced the challenge.”

But she feels the way the instructors teach works for all levels. “You could be a beginner and I could be intermediate and the person next to me could be advanced. We can all get something out of it because the instructor gives different options for poses.”

Rather than pay a set fee, participants are asked for a donation (suggested donation of about $10) that Yogamour contributes to local charities, including Heartly House, which serves survivors of domestic violence, rape and child abuse. Donations have gone to other local organizations such as Humane Society and Blessings in a Backpack, which feeds school-aged children, and some funds support overseas causes.

The program started in Baker Park, then moved to its current nearby downtown home, on property where a housing project once stood that has been replaced by a mixed-income community for residents transitioning from renting to owning their homes.

Participants come daily to get limber and stronger in this space on the second floor of the community center, with its high ceilings and a wall of glass with light filtering in.

It’s the perfect spot with its quiet peacefulness, said Donnelly.

“You look through the window and see the trees, and you see the sun setting and rising [depending on whether you come for evening or morning classes],” she said

What’s yoga about?

Yoga incorporates breath and posture through flowing movements — gentle stretches, twists and bends while sitting, standing or lying down. It’s a way to restore balance and synchronize mind, body and breath, explained Donnelly.

Yogamour teachers are certified and trained in a style of Vinyasa flow, also called flow yoga, because of the smooth way that the poses run together and become like a dance.

The yoga classes run Sunday through Saturday. Pilates classes are offered Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

So what’s the difference between yoga and Pilates?

Yoga is about integrating the whole body in postures and movement. “You work almost all your muscles for strength and flexibility while using use your breath,” said Donnelly.

Pilates movements are more controlled and isolate specific body parts, namely the core or torso, unlike freer-flowing yoga which also focuses on the core but incorporates other muscles. Pilates exercises are usually done in a specific order, one right after another. The movements have names, like “the Swan Dive,” where participants start by lying on their stomachs, rolling forward and back in a graceful, rocking motion.

Yogamour co-founder Rebeccah Bartlett studied Pilates after practicing yoga for years. “It gave a whole new deepening to my yoga practice because it helps refine body alignment while also building core strength [as yoga strengthens the core]. The practices seem to work very well together,” she said, explaining that both improve flexibility and strength.

Rob Tuggle started doing yoga with Yogamour, hoping to relieve back pain and daily stress. He said it helps with both, especially the stress.

“It helps me keep things in perspective and slow down.

“It’s nice to take that one hour to focus on yourself and put all the noise and distraction of the day aside,” he said, adding he likes the chance to try new things and know he will not be judged.

He’s thinking about about exploring Pilates and a meditation workshop that Yogamour will offer in December.

Donnelly and Bartlett, who initially offered classes in Baker Park, hope their programs will bring more people to this rejuvenated end of town near Market and Seventh streets, where they have moved.

Yogamour began offering Pilates and yoga classes at Bernard Center in late September. It now offers 18 classes a week.

“We are hoping to grow and spread the word,” said Donnelly, adding, “We can’t wait to practice during the softness of winter snowfall.”