Yoga Rocks the Park

My husband and I both groaned a little as we woke early on a Saturday morning and dragged ourselves out of bed.

We had our coffee, fresh fruit and pastries, took the dog for a quick walk, and jumped on some B-cycles for the short ride to Yoga Rocks the Park in downtown Denver. It was a beautiful morning – the bike path along the creek was already packed full of people who were enjoying the clear weather after weeks of rain.

The event site was a large park rolling down a gentle hill in front of one of the local high schools. We heard the music thumping from a few blocks away, and I pictured a few hundred people setting up their yoga mats on the grass.

We arrived to see thousands of people, lined up mat-to-mat, filling the park from top to bottom, with dozens of tents set up by local businesses selling everything from scented yoga mats to kale smoothies to t-shirts emblazoned with ‘om’ symbols and sassy slogans like “I do yoga to relieve stress. Just kidding, I drink wine.”

The DJ was blasting a new MC Yogi mix and the mood was less yoga class and more par-tay. We walked through registration and as far as the eye could see, there were women wearing the latest yoga gear, their wrists wrapped in mala beads and bangles, their fresh pedicures brightened by toe rings, the air thick with patchouli.

“Shakti rockti,” my husband said to me, chuckling.

It’s a little inside joke … our way of acknowledging the I’m-a-hot-tattooed-yogi-in-Lululemon-pants vibe. Or the let’s-get-this-party-started yoga instructor wearing a head mike like some Tony Robbins infomercial. Or the heavy merchandizing that accompanies just about every yoga event these days. With 35+ years of study and practice between us, we can be pretty cynical about the way yoga has been commodified in recent years.

But as we set up our mats at the back of the park, I decided to let go of all that judgment. I lifted my face to the sun and gave thanks. It was a beautiful day. Many people had worked hard to put this event together. There was a happy anticipation in the air, and we were lucky to be a part of it.

The teacher was from Kindness Yoga, a local studio collective. She led us through a lovely vinyasa. My body was creaky that morning, so I was extra gentle with myself. I could feel the soft earth beneath my feet, the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. The teacher’s voice was energetic and uplifting; the music had a great groove and was perfectly timed with our movements.

Slowly, my body opened and my mind cleared.

After savasana, we all sat cross-legged on our mats and chanted ‘om’ three times. There was real power in it. How could there not be? Over 3,000 people practicing and chanting together. I looked over at my husband as we rolled up our mats and we both smiled.

Yoga Rocks the Park was definitely “Shakti Rockti” … and it was an awesome experience.

Yoga Rocks the Park started seven years ago with 30 yogis in Denver – it’s now one of the largest community celebrations of yoga in the country. If you’re in Asheville, Colorado Springs, Denver, Kansas City, Omaha, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, or San Diego, you’re in luck. Yoga Rocks the Park is there, and you should check it out this summer.

It’s free, it’s fun for newbies and seasoned yogis alike, and it’s a great way to support your local yoga community. If Yoga Rocks the Park isn’t in your city, you can get involved to bring it into your area.

I’m now inspired to get my yogi friends together this summer and practice in the park. There’ll be maybe 20 of us instead of thousands, there won’t be any groovy concession stands or hipster DJs, but we’ll have the sunshine on our skin, the grass under our feet, yoga, laughter, and each other.

So that’s my invitation to you: create your own ‘yoga rocks the park.’ Gather some friends, bring your boombox, open your body, clear your mind, and rock out in the sun.

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