Saturday, June 23, 2018

Parks, yoga & activating public spaces

Activating public parks with yoga - Photo courtesy of Dallas Delahunt 

by Tarah Hodgkinson

Outdoor yoga has become an important ingredient of summer fun. In cities across Canada and elsewhere, local yoga studios and yoga teachers are setting up weekly yoga classes in parks and other public places.

Some yoga classes are incredibly expensive and at times exclusionary, but outdoor yoga is accessible and plays a crucial role in creating healthy neighborhoods. Above all, it activates public parks and, as research illustrates, well-used parks can enhance both public health and social cohesion.

Most, if not all, outdoor yoga classes are free or donation-based and they boast of accessibility and an “open to everyone” motto. This is evidenced by the number of classes attended by families with kids, the elderly and even pets.

Free Parliament Hill yoga in Ottawa attracting 1,200 yogis
Photo courtesy of Dallas Delahunt
In Ottawa, for example, local government employees and the community come out for weekly lunch hour yoga on Parliament Hill from May to September. Some of these free classes have boasted over 1,200 people. 


Perhaps you think that outdoor yoga is merely a fad for Millennials looking to sport their Lululemon purchases and get a tan. But consider the community’s reaction last year when Vancouver’s park board attempted to shut down free yoga classes in a park because the instructors didn’t have a permit.

The yoga classes were free, or pay what you can, making it difficult for the instructors to fund the permit. This pay structure was done purposely to make the yoga accessible to everyone, regardless of income.

The community came out in droves against the decision and, after a barrage of emails and letters to the city, the city agreed to wave all the fees for the permit.

Free, fun and open to all ages - Photo courtesy of Dallas Delahunt

For cities like Vancouver and Ottawa, public yoga has become a part of the local culture. It is a chance for people from across the age and ability spectrum to come together and connect, while also taking care of their health. It is a public engagement strategy for the 21st Century that community leaders and parks officials everywhere should encourage.

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