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YOGA AND MEDITATION classes are being held Saturdays and Tuesdays in East Brady’s riverfront park.

EAST BRADY – With the serenity of nature as the backdrop, more than a dozen people gather in East Brady’s new riverfront park each week to exercise mind, body and spirit through the practice of yoga.

Offering instruction every Saturday morning and Tuesday evening, Yoga in the Park is open to people of all ages and skill levels in the East Brady area.

“I’ve been so impressed with the interest that the residents have shown,” yoga instructor Joanne LaPere recently said, noting that the yoga classes have attracted between eight and 16 people per session. “For a small community, I think that’s pretty good.”

Although in its second summer, this year’s Yoga in the Park marks LaPere’s first teaching experience since obtaining her yoga instructor certification in March. She said last week that she and a friend saw potential for the park to host yoga classes while riding bikes in East Brady two years ago.

“We both thought the park would be a great place for a yoga studio,” said LaPere, who served as a coordinator for the first classes last year. LaPere said that the success of the initial yoga classes inspired her take a yoga instructor training course in Wexford, which she completed seven months later.

“I never thought I would teach,” she continued. “I just wanted a more in depth study of yoga for a personal benefit.”

That changed this summer, however, when LaPere, who wanted to see yoga continue in the community, decided to try her hand at teaching to see how things went. She started with a six-week session, held on Saturdays, which began on June 9. With the success of the first round of classes, she soon incorporated an additional six-week Saturday session that will run to the end of August, and after hearing several requests for classes during the week, included a Tuesday evening session.

“It’s been really fun,” LaPere said, explaining that the classes have been a great way for her to get to know the community and its residents since recently moving to East Brady full-time. “The response has been great, and teaching is a great way for me to keep up with my own skills.”

In addition to yoga, LaPere said she recently incorporated a 15-minute meditation session at the end of her Tuesday classes, led by East Brady resident Daniel Markel.

“Meditation is a great way to reduce stress,” Markel said, adding that the practice of meditation focuses on breathing and being in a happy place, which in turn takes away anxiety. “At the end of class it’s nice to send people home on a good note feeling good about themselves and refreshed.”

LaPere said the two practices fit very well together because the yoga is not just a physical exercise, but a spiritual experience as well.

“Yoga comes from the English root word of yoke which means to unite,” she said, explaining that yoga unites mind, body and spirit as one. “Doing yoga even one hour a week helps someone slow down and reconnect with their true self.”

“I feel that’s so important,” she added, noting that yoga can also help with the treatment of anxiety and depression. “Most people come for the physical part of yoga, but there is so much more to it.”

In fact, LaPere said the calming ripple of the Allegheny River and the serenity that comes from the chirping of the birds, the rustling of leaves and even the occasional sight of a bald eagle soaring above makes the park the perfect backdrop for yoga classes.

“It’s really beautiful down there,” she said. “I think it’s something we don’t always take time to enjoy.”

While she said she enjoys teaching, LaPere admitted that the challenging part of the gig is trying accommodate both people who have never taken a yoga class before, as well as those who have been doing it for years.

“I try to adapt the poses for everyone,” LaPere said. It’s important, she said, to find a good balance between beginners and the advanced students so everyone gets something out of the class and they don’t get bored or frustrated. “It’s important to me that everyone who takes a class feels involved.”

The best feeling, according to LaPere, is when she hears how much better her students feel after a yoga session.

“Nothing compares to that,” she said.

Although Yoga in the Park is currently in the middle of its final six-week session of the summer, LaPere still encouraged those interested in participating to come check out a class.

“It’s not too late,” LaPere noted, adding that she hopes to resume Yoga in the Park next summer, and is also considering the possibility of offering additional yoga classes over the winter.

East Brady’s Yoga in the Park is held Saturday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m., and Tuesday evenings from 7 to 8:15 p.m. — with meditation capping off the last 15 minutes of class. The cost of the classes is a donation, which benefits the East Brady Development Corporation in its effort to install a pavilion at the park.

For more information, contact LaPere at jlapere@zoominternet.net.

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