BY TARA LEISURE
“This is a day for people who have never tried yoga and [for] those who love yoga to come together. Like anyone who is passionate about something, people who practice yoga want everyone to love what we love,” says Lissa Sims, organizer of one of Lexington's celebrations of the International Day of Yoga, at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate. “We will likely be more excited to see people who have never practiced before than to see who we see in class every day,” she says.
June 21st, the day of the summer solstice, was declared the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 2014. To celebrate the first-ever International Day of Yoga in Lexington, Lexington yoga instructors will collaborate during a free, all-level outdoor yoga class on the lawn of Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate.
Participating teachers include Cindy Hutchison from the Massage Center, Lauren Higdon from Centered, Misty Pittman from Barefoot Yoga, Suzie Wheeler from Kula House and Lissa Sims, instructor at Sweat and organizer of this event.
Sims, a yoga enthusiast and Lexington native, explains what exactly one can expect if going into this yoga experience cold. The celebration class is made to be accessible to anyone and everyone. Like most all workout classes these days, instructors will offer modifications for people who have limitations. This environment is certainly not reserved for yoga fanatics only. In fact, it was acutely designed with newcomers in mind.
The idea behind hosting this event at the historic Henry Clay Estate grew from the neighborhood roots of Sims’s childhood and adolescence. Connectivity of the physical and spiritual realms is key to the practice of yoga, as it is inherently about ones body in relation to a place or the space around it. The estate, richly woven into Kentucky history as well as Sims’s personal history, makes the environmental connection all the more powerful.
“I have lived the majority of my life within three blocks of Henry Clay’s home, as we called it growing up. I climbed the trees when I was 8, I sat in the garden with my high school boyfriend, I brought my children here to climb the trees when they were 8, I have served on the lawn party committee, my husband and I walk our dogs here. It feels like home to me. Jim Clark [Ashland's new executive director] was nice enough to say 'sure' when I suggested yoga on the lawn to him so I figured it was time.”
Sims has also hosted sunrise yoga on the lawn at 6:45am, and admits that even she sometimes struggles against the snooze button. She suggests to push past the urge to stay in bed and instead join the few dogs roaming the lawn in the early hours of the morning. She says, “once I am there I am absolutely amazed at how good it feels to have my feet in the grass that early—it doesn’t seem as though it should feel so great. Or that it should make the rest of my day be better than a normal Thursday, but it does.”
In preparation for the heat that may accompany being outdoors in June at 1 pm, Sims instructs participants to stay hydrated and to not be afraid to come to the ground for a few breaths periodically during the workout.
“Our breath is really powerful—it can, to varying extents, control our bodies and our minds. Vinyasa refers to a type of yoga practice where movements are connected by the breath; we move our bodies in time with our breath. ‘Vinyasa flow’ means that we will move through a series of poses that are connected to each other and connected to the breath.”
The solstice is a time to relax and reflect upon the first portion of the year. It begins the long, warm nights of the summer, filled with cookouts and pool parties and fire flies. It’s a pretty good time for renewal, and as Sims pointed out, “Wouldn’t it be great to someday say, “I started my practice on the first ever International Day of Yoga?”
If you’re wondering what could inspire your senses and balance your perspective at the midpoint of the year, you may want to look to some literal, physical balancing.
The FREE celebration will begin at 1 pm on June 21 at Ashland (Henry Clay's Estate), 120 Sycamore Road in Lexington.