Yoga in the park creates relaxing atmosphere

By Kara Hemphill, Copy Editor

“How lucky are we?” is a question often heard by Nancy Holland Myers’ students as they practice yoga outdoors in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) Ledges shelter.

Myers connected with the CVNP through a program she started nearly five years ago called Free Akron Yoga. The program, usually held at First Grace United Church of Christ, moved outdoors for a four-session stint in July.DSC_1374

Myers also holds regular classes in her studio, Blue Hen Yoga, which is located in the Highland Square area.  Both can be found on Facebook for more information.

During the class, Myers extols the cool breeze, gentle rumble of distant thunder and beautiful cloud-studded sunset over the trees: “We’re just getting gift after gift tonight.”

Local musician Zach Freidhof provided live music,with perfect accompaniment by birds and critters in the nearby woods.

Throughout the 90-minute session, attendees (or yogis, as practitioners of yoga are called), practiced breathing and relaxation techniques and a variety of poses that promote balance, strength and flexibility, among other things.

The vast woods of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park provide the perfect backdrop for a class that is largely focused on relaxation. Myers called the park “one big drishti,” or point of focus, as students stand on one leg in a balance pose.

The aptness of doing poses with names such as “tree” and “crane” was not lost on Myers, who often put a local spin on pose names, renaming crane pose after the native blue heron and joking that tree pose is “mandatory” in such a setting. The Portage County black bear also got a shout-out at the end of class while students stretched out on their backs.

Myers, who graduated from The University of Akron’s law school in 1986, said her favorite part of practicing outdoors is the fresh air and the wonderful soundtrack. Additionally, an outdoor class such as this can expand the benefits of an indoor class.

“We are literally closer to the earth and earth’s energy, which is very naturally grounding for our bodies,” Myers said. “We can find that same experience on a yoga mat in a skyscraper, but there’s something so immediate about being in nature.”

It just goes to show that while The University of Akron is at the center of city life, it doesn’t take much to get back out into nature and reap the benefits of the outdoors. In this case, it’s just a short drive up Route 8 North from campus.

The Metro Parks serving Summit County also offer a variety of outdoor activities in and around the city. Just a short distance from downtown is the Mustill Store, which gives visitors a glimpse into the rich history of canal-era Akron.

In the 1800s, the canal was used to transport goods across the state and brought prosperity to Akron. Most remaining sections of the Ohio & Erie Canal are managed by the National Park Service or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The store is open on weekends from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is located on Ferndale Street at the Cascade Locks Park. It falls along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, an easy path for a nice day where walkers can see the old canal off to one side.

Other Metro Parks give visitors a glimpse into Akron’s history as well. Other parts of the canal are visible at Deep Lock Quarry, where the quarry trail connects with the towpath for a view of the Ohio & Erie Canal’s deepest lock.

Portage Path in the Merriman Valley has a history as an important Native American trail and a former western boundary of the United States.

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, an icon in the Akron area, donated land for the Goodyear Heights Park and also has a center named for its founder – the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm ­– which was revamped in 2010.

The Seiberling Nature Realm is also the hub of the upcoming Fall Hiking Spree. During the event, participants must complete eight hikes from a list from September through November. Successful completion earns hikers a commemorative badge plus a hiking stick for first-year participants.

The Hiking Spree kicked off Sunday, Sept. 1, but if eight hikes sounds a little steep, fall is still a great time to get out and explore the parks. Information on events and activities can be found at summitmetroparks.org. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park can be found at nps.gov/cuva.

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