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LIFE: Bickford Park embraces yoga (June 2021)

July 15th, 2021 · No Comments

The perfect medicine to de-stress from the pandemic

Instructor Montana Skurka (left centre) leads yoga participants through a few last deep breaths before completing their practice for the day at Bickford Park. NABAHAT HUSSAIN/GLEANER NEWS

By Nabahat Hussain

Yoga in the park was put on hold in April due to a province-wide lockdown, but as of June, it’s in its third summer. 

Teachers Montana Skurka and Michelle Karunaratne have seen their small group classes grow exponentially since leading their first park yoga sessions in 2019.

Karunaratne says that last summer, classes had to be broken up in accordance with city guidelines, as the amount of people wanting to attend exceeded the number of people allowed in a single outdoor gathering. 

Another issue posed by the pandemic was being unable to practice for two months, however online yoga sessions were available and many attended. 

Keeping classes small and keeping distance between yoga mats are some precautions being taken during this time.

Roxanne, an attendee since 2020 says, “If I put on a YouTube video, I’m still having to do more work myself,” says Roxanne, a Yoga in the Park attendee. “With a teacher, I get the chance to let go, and have someone else take care of me for an hour.” Karunaratne sees a whole other appeal to the sessions. “People were missing that communal experience,” she says.Community is something that both instructors stress as a part of their mission. 

“Everyone is included and welcome,” says Skurka, who has a background in education and mental health. 

Both instructors aim to infuse their classes with different benefits. Skurka hopes to “empower people to feel agency over their own bodies and mental health,” while Karunaratne’s practice centres around challenging the body.

Being in the park is also decidedly more enjoyable after a stay-at-home order, as being in a space with several activities going on the background helped people reconnect with one another. 

On one occasion, says Skurka, the group turned around for a certain pose and came upon a double rainbow. 

Sometimes there’s music in the background, and people playing sports, all keeping the environment lively in accordance with the Annex’s character. 

Skurka says mindfulness is integral to eradicating any stress and anxiety brought about during the pandemic. 

In simple terms, it’s about grounding yourself in the present moment, in the same vein as a “taking it one day at a time” view on life. With deep breathing techniques, movement, interactions with others, and a connection to nature, Skurka says doing yoga outdoors works in several ways to make people feel better. 

As intimidating as starting a new sport or hobby may seem, the instructors reassure that yoga is not complex at all — all you need is a mat, and even without one, deep breathing is enough to develop that “mindfulness muscle” as Skurka calls it. 

Currently classes are being held three times a week – Tuesdays at 6pm, Thursdays at 6pm and Sunday at 11am, all at Bickford Park.

Sign up is available at www.montanaskurka.com, or through their Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/parkyogatoronto.

Classes are $15-20 per class, $10 for those with unique financial circumstances.

Tags: Annex · Life