Veiled from the beaming late August sun, nearly 50 yoga mats lay assembled in arc-formation tucked under a shadowy canopy at Astoria’s Socrates Sculpture Park, anticipating the start of one of the season’s few remaining waterfront yoga sessions.
The skyscrapers across the East River gleamed with morning sunlight as a myriad of yoga enthusiasts — college students, couples, parents, children, and even a bouncing baby — roamed the waterfront nook moments before the clock struck 10 a.m.
“I’m excited to see what’s in store for the next hour, and happy to be here,” said one of the first arrivals, Astoria resident Collette Campbell, who said she visits the expansive park regularly at her leisure but had never taken a class there.
“This is the first Sunday I had free time, so I came to take a yoga class,” said Campbell, who said she has experience from attending various other studios.
Astoria resident Gabrielle Torrano, on the other hand, said she has been attending the popular park yoga sessions with her husband for nearly 15 years. Torrano misses the former instructor, Monique Schubert, saying she went into more depth when teaching than others do. “The health of having a straight spine, various yoga postures, and the importance of having good posture throughout the day was really explained well by Schubert,” said Torrano, who added that it has helped her live a healthier life.
As Socrates says on its website: “Saturday Yoga classes, taught by Morgan Miller, combine physical poses, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation. Sunday Yoga classes are led by Yojaida Estrella, who offers a Vinyasa-style class in which participants flow through a series of connected yoga poses with an awareness of the breath.”
Sunday’s substitute yoga instructor, Afia Bediako, filling in for Estrella, explained that though she works independently teaching yoga within different communities, she believes teaching vinyasa at the park is a “good opportunity.”
“We probably don’t do that many vinyasas,” Bediako said, referring to the method of yoga which coordinates breathing with a flowing sequence of postures.
Bediako has taught yoga since 2005 independently at different studios.
“It’s nice, it’s free, we’re into it,” she said, highlighting that the classes will continue to run through Labor Day weekend. They are given on both Saturdays and Sundays.
While the free outdoor yoga classes end on Sept. 3, those still wanting outdoor fitness courses can attend a six-session capoeira class lead by instructor Camale„o from Sol Dance Center beginning Sept. 2.
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art combining elements of dance, acrobatics and music.
“[T]his six-part series will introduce participants to the basic fundamentals of the Brazilian martial art of capoeira,” Socrates says on its website. “This introduction will offer guidance with balance, flexibility, and agility while also providing a brief history of capoeira traditions.”
Karla Choko, the Sol Dance Center director, pointed out that her studio teaches a variety of dance techniques. “We offer seven classes per day, ballet, salsa, bellydance, and others, including capoeira, taught by Camale„o. The studio also organizes lessons for rare dancing styles, such as paso doble,” Choko said.
Choko, who founded the venue in 2009 after moving from Mexico and graduating Alvin Ailey Dance School, has an enviable dance resume, including a steady gig dancing on Broadway for “On Your Feet!” and a brief stint on the Amazon series “The Tick.”
For those pressed for time and still seeking to snag a complimentary yoga class in September, Choko is encouraging fitness and dance enthusiasts to contact the center at (347) 935-3955 for a free class.
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