People + Parks: Outside Om

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By Elizabeth McGuire

If everybody grew up with a meditation mindset and the ability to use it to reduce stress, the world would be a much better place.” That conviction anchors and motivates An Dang, co-owner of The Little Yoga House and supporter of Austin Parks Foundation’s Fitness in the Park program.

For the last several years Dang has been sharing the benefits of yoga with children and families, and she believes that teaching young kids how to control their emotions and relax their bodies is key to a healthier adulthood.

“Yoga teaches so many mindful skills that I wish every child—every individual—had the opportunity to learn,” Dang said.

Thanks to APF’s Fitness in the Park program, every child does have that opportunity. Dang and her business partner, Abby Nagler, began working with APF in 2014, with the goal of focusing the free, outdoor fitness program on families and children.

Family yoga is a great opportunity for families to do something engaging and healthy together. Unlike other weekend activities that have parents sitting on the sidelines, Fitness in the Park gets parents and kids participating right alongside each other. The family that downward dogs together, stays together!

“Yoga in the park is not your typical yoga class,” said Dang. “We’re going to be silly, we’re going to move, we’re going to make animal noises. It’s yoga in a much more playful way.”

Dang and her fellow teachers use interactive props such as singing bowls, breathing balls, feathers and small stuffed animals for kids to balance on their heads or put on their bellies to help them focus on breathing.

And, of course, Fitness in the Park is outdoors. Dang says this can completely transform the experience. “It’s almost magical,” she said. “Just being out in nature and breathing fresh air. We work so much with our breath that it’s nice to breathe in the morning air. So you’re smelling nature and hearing nature sounds…and it heightens all your senses.”

Dang says working with APF is an extension of her company’s dedication to supporting local organizations. “We all have similar interests and goals: to build the community that we share. Not every city has programs like this to help support parks and supplement what the city can do. We are so grateful for APF and proud to be a partner.”

Namaste, indeed.

Fitness in the Park is hosted by various local studios and fitness instructors in parks across the city March – November. To check days, times and locations, visit our calendar of events. Little Yoga House teaches family yoga on Sunday mornings in Patterson Park.

People Plus Parks is a series featuring the people behind the work we’re doing in Austin’s parks. Check out the “People + Parks” category for more.

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