Jason McKay, 33, of Tyler, is one of many people who can usually be seen in Bergfeld Park each week practicing yoga and soaking up the sunshine.
The weekly event is coordinated through Facebook by Tyler Yoga in the Park. The free workout happens at noon each Sunday, except in cases of inclement weather. The group moves the time to evening when temperatures get become unbearable in the summer and takes the cold months off.
McKay said he started practicing yoga about two years ago but began coming to Yoga in the Park in the summer of 2013.
He said some friends at his gym first came as a group, but he was the only one who stuck with it.
“When I started, I couldn’t touch my toes, and I could barely bend forward,” McKay said. “It’s helped me lose weight and be flexible, which is something never thought I’d be.”
Combined with a vegetarian diet and a regular bicycling routine, he has lost about 60 pounds over two years and has kept the weight off.
The exercise in the park is a refreshing change to his routine, McKay said.
“A lot of times what I do in the gym or studios, it’s not yoga or it’s more (about) holding the poses longer and more intense poses,” he said. “This helps center you so you’re not so far out there.”
Kate Kennan, 30, of New Chapel Hill, said the idea for the group started in her living room when her siblings came over to do yoga together.
Mrs. Kennan, who has been practicing yoga for about 10 years but is not a certified instructor, said typical times yoga classes were offered were inconvenient for her and the cost of classes can be expensive for people on a budget, and the idea of a free class was born.
She and friend Jason Reagan, 29, of Tyler, alternated teaching classes for the first season of the event. Each has a slightly different take on the practice.
“My whole idea when I teach it is to do it the same way each time and gear it to beginners,” she said. “I’m not a yogi by any means, and I’m not super, duper stretchy.”
People could learn the basics in the park and then continue exercising at home without a bunch of equipment, she said.
Reagan’s classes contain the exercises but focuses heavily on the meditation aspect of yoga. He has taken over instruction of the classes while Mrs. Kennan is on maternity leave.
“Exercise is good for your mind and yoga is more so because it takes more concentration to stay in the poses, so you are focusing on your poses and not your troubles at work …” said Reagan who has been practicing for about two years. “Yoga is one method in which we can slowly be more in peace, and we do that by being aware of our mind and body at the same time.”
Reagan said the number of people varies by week, but there are always new faces.
“I like that because the more new faces we have, the better chance that they all come back more regularly,” he said. “I’ve seen so many new faces all last year and this year, so if we can attract those and a few of those back, that’s how it’s going to keep growing.”
The group has become a sort of community, and Reagan hopes to incorporate a few more aspects into the practice, including light music and event announcements.
“I hope (the people who come) have a good time and a little of physical exertion, and maybe open up and get out of their shell a little bit by meeting new people and trying new things,” Reagan said.
IF YOU GO:
What: Yoga in the park
When: Noon Sundays, except during inclement weather
Where: Bergfeld Park, south end
Get social: For updates, visit www.facebook.com/tyleryoga.inthepark.5 .