To promote the spirit of yoga, the City of Gaithersburg and Kentlands’ Opus Yoga studio will celebrate the International Day of Yoga with a free outdoor program of yoga practice and meditation on Saturday, June 16, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the City Hall Concert Pavilion, 31 South Summit Ave.
Denise Mornini, the city’s recreation program supervisor, made it happen. “I was approached by a woman who joins us for Yoga in the Park on Tuesdays, and she suggested I look into it, so, of course, I went to Google,” she said. There, Mornini learned that “the United Nations first declared June 21, 2015—summer solstice or longest day of the year—to be the first world-wide celebration of yoga, and it has followed to be celebrated generally within that week.”
The city opted for June 16, she noted, “to be in sync with the Embassy of India, which is sponsoring its International Day of Yoga at the U.S. Capitol on the West Lawn.”
Mornini proceeded to reach out to yoga instructors who teach for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, enlisting Melanie Psaltikis, who has been leading the city’s weekly outdoor Yoga in the Park classes (7 p.m. Tuesdays through Aug. 28 in the City Hall Concert Pavilion) since 2015.
“We have had between 30 and 64 people attend the outdoor classes … depending on the weather. Threat of rain keeps some people away,” Mornini said. “Last time I was there as we were just finishing up savasana (corpse pose), laying on our mats with our eyes closed, it began to lightly sprinkle. It was a lovely way to finish. Connecting to the grass, trees, breeze, etc. is sensual and spiritual.”
Three additional recreation department instructors agreed to teach as well. Kim Thompson, Mornini said, “comes from a less orthodox yoga background, always exploring new modalities for human movement. She integrates what she learns into her way of practicing yoga.” Mornini described Ingeborg McCright as “an incredible group exercise instructor with numerous certifications. She taught PiYo (Pilates and yoga) for us and will be branching out into pure yoga now that she has 200 hours of yoga training under her belt.” Alison Friedman, who has taught specialty meditation workshops for the city, said she plans to teach some of the basics of how to meditate followed by a very relaxing guided meditation.
Mornini also contacted several yoga studios located in Gaithersburg. “Opus Yoga got back to me with a positive response, which is very nice since the instructors are donating their time,” she said. Both Psaltikis and Friedman also teach at Opus.
Although Opus owner Sharon Neubauer already leads a class in the designated time slot, she wanted to participate and invited Opus instructor Susan Murray Young, an experienced instructor with a special interest in anatomy and therapeutic yoga.
Psaltikis said that the four yoga instructors will coordinate and teach different asana (posture) styles and purposes in half-hour increments. “It’s not all power yoga,” she said. “It can be a gentler practice, maybe even restorative. There is more to yoga than the physical practice. Yoga meets us where we are and need to be. It’s very personal.”
What is most important, Psaltikis added, “is why we come together. We are a wonderfully diverse community in Gaithersburg. Yoga is something we can do together; we all can breathe, practice, grow together. I love being someone who gets to make that happen, who in my own little way can give some hope and inspiration.”
Neubauer said she “was very excited to partner” with other organizations to offer free opportunities to spread the word about yoga’s benefits. In addition to the June 16 International Day of Yoga with the City of Gaithersburg, Opus Yoga offers free outdoor sunset yoga classes on Wednesdays, 6 to 7 p.m. through July 25 (except July 4) at Unity Church of Gaithersburg.
“For myself, and all the yoga teachers I know, yoga has helped us on so many levels. Physically, it helps address and cope with physical conditions, injuries, limitations and stress. Mentally, it helps address stress, moods and to recognize the thoughts, words and actions that stem from stress and mood changes,” she said. “Yoga teaches us to listen, connect and be in relationship with ourselves—our bodies, minds and the shifting energy within and all around us. When we recognize these relationships, we realize that we are in relationship to everyone else and to our world itself.
“I can’t think of a better tool to heal our troubled country and world than listening and responding with the strength and compassion that yoga can teach. Yoga for free seems like the perfect way to grow yoga’s influence, to build relationships, to teach people to respond to themselves and others out of compassion, as well as a way to reach out to new people.”
Participants in the International Day of Yoga should bring along a yoga mat, towel and/or blanket as well as a water bottle; sunscreen and insect repellent are suggested. For information about the city’s programs, visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov/leisure/classes-and-programs or call 301.258.6350.
For information about Opus Yoga, which offers a full schedule of a variety of yoga classes for adults and children as well as workshops on compassionate communication and chair yoga, visit www.opusyogakentlands.com or call 240.425.2039. Opus’ free outdoor sunset yoga classes are held from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through July 25 (except July 4) at Unity Church of Gaithersburg, 111 Central Ave.; register at www.unityofgaithersburg.org.