Stretch in the city – the growing popularity of Park Yoga in Southampton

Stretch in the city – the growing popularity of Park Yoga in Southampton

by Nick Mabey.

Running around the common one Sunday morning just over a year ago, I was surprised to stumble across about 50 people on yoga mats in the lovely green space behind the Cowherds Inn. Back home and a quick bit of on-line research led me to the world of Park Yoga.  

Park Yoga is a charity that started life in two venues, Bournemouth and Weymouth, in 2017.  Inspired by free outdoor yoga in Pittsburgh, the founders created a mission to ‘bring positive benefits for health, wellbeing and community to the UK through free, outdoor yoga sessions.’ Since then the venture has gone from strength to strength and can be found in 32 locations in 2023.  

Southampton was one of the earlier venues and is growing rapidly.  Starting on 7th May this year, there have been well over 150 people turning up at 9.30 each Sunday morning to enjoy an hour of community stretching.  Led by professional yoga teacher, Kat Hutchings (pictured below), the sessions are relaxed and welcoming, with participants encouraged to do as much or as little as their bodies and their experience allow.

“In hotter weather, people join in spontaneously without a mat and it’s the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere of the group that makes that possible. It brings such a massive group of people together and creates a sense of community within the city and I love it, that’s why I do it,” says Kat when asked about why she got involved. 

It certainly seems to be a very accessible event, people of all ages, shapes and sizes simply turn up, put a mat down and get started.  Kat adds; “Seeing people bring their children along and even tiny babies – who are experts at Happy Baby pose – it’s just great.”

Let me declare, as a not very flexible 58-year old, yoga is something I have really enjoyed since been taught in 2016.  And although it’s possible to do it at home alone, there is something very heart warming and affirming about practicing with others.  Add to that the lovely green amphitheatre and some beautiful early summer weather, and what more could you ask for?

Kat adds: “I’ve learnt that yoga can bring people together in a big way and people are constantly telling me how much they enjoy the classes and feel great after, both physically and mentally.”

The thing I’ve appreciated about Kat’s teaching, and Park Yoga in general, is that anyone can join in, even if they’ve never tried it before.   

“I absolutely love seeing the wide range of ages and abilities that Park Yoga attracts,” says Kat, “It really is for everybody and making yoga accessible to everyone is something that is extremely important to me.”

Southampton Park Yoga runs, weather allowing, every Sunday morning from 9.30 until 10.30am until 17th September 2023 (and will start again in May 2024). Why not give it a try? There’s been a record 175 in a session, and there’s plenty of space for more.

There is a Facebook group to help keep up with announcements and share photos, or you can contact Kat directly via Instagram, @kathutchings_yoga.

Park Yoga is a registered charity.  Donations welcome via their website

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