The benefits of regular yoga practice can be life changing, but access to those classes can sometimes seem out of reach.
That’s why Michelle Cousins decided to start her own outdoor yoga classes at the Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center, 4700 E. Warner Road. The classes are weekly at 8 a.m. on Sundays. There is a suggested donation to participate, but Cousins said no one will be turned away for inability to pay.
Cousins first became introduced to yoga about five years ago. As a mother of a special needs child she found she was able to escape through yoga and find balance and peace in her life. The practice went hand-in-hand with her work as a massage therapist.
“I discovered yoga as a means of self care,” she said. “It allows people to take a look at the ownership of their own practice and really combines mind, body and spirit.”
Cousins recently became a yoga instructor and was looking for a way to make yoga accessible to the people of Ahwatukee.
“Part of the challenge with studios, I think for most people, is there is always some sort of package or membership and sometimes people are leery of committing,” she said. “The weather is getting so fabulous right now. It’s so fun to be able to do something outdoors and be more in tune with nature. I wanted to create something informal and available.”
The classes at Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center are in the green space just east of the courts and near the garden.
“Outdoor yoga has its challenges,” Cousins said. “In some ways it’s more challenging than in a pristine studio because there are flies and ants and people chatting. There are distractions... It really challenges you to focus on your mat and really cultivate that self awareness.”
The classes are multi-level. Though the idea of yoga outside a studio may be more attractive to beginners, Cousins said all yoga allows for modifications to bring a greater challenge to those with more experience.
Class times may vary depending on activities going on at the park and the weather. As interest grows Cousins said she may add more classes, especially during the week in the evenings. Cousins also said she has a goal in the new year to add classes aimed specifically at veterans and emergency responders.
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