Yoga in the Park

Fine-tun­ing at Kore­shan, health in iso­la­tion, farm­ers mar­ket after­ward

Cape Coral Living - - Publisher's Letter - BY JA­COB OGLES Ja­cob Ogles is a pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ist liv­ing in South­west Florida.

The whis­tle of wind brushes through the leaves at Kore­shan State Historic Site. Sooth­ing East­ern mu­sic plays as the yoga in­struc­tor, Geva Salerno, en­cour­ages her stu­dents to stretch their arms to­ward the sky and to fo­cus on the beau­ti­ful trees tow­er­ing above them. This idyl­lic scene can be found any Sun­day morn­ing in this park just off U.S. High­way 41 in Es­tero, where Salerno helps stu­dents de­velop flex­i­bil­ity and dis­cover tran­quil­ity. Salerno specif­i­cally teaches Sam­poorna yoga dur­ing these God­dess yoga classes, fo­cus­ing on full func­tion­al­ity of the mind and senses. And for ca­sual par­tic­i­pants at­tend­ing ses­sions, it’s a tech­nique in which Salerno can ap­ply sub­tle changes. But the in­struc­tor says the most im­por­tant el­e­ment of the God­dess class may not be the style of yoga but the at­mos­phere of the park. “It’s an ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful en­vi­ron­ment to do yoga,” she says, “con­ducive to re­lax­ation.” Tran­quil­ity at Kore­shan, site of the for­mer Kore­shan Unity com­mu­nal group that deeded the prop­erty to the state in 1961 and was listed with the U.S. Na­tional Reg­is­ter of Historic Places in 1976, is what at­tracted Jen­nifer Thomp­son, owner of Adim­mix, an Es­tero advertising agency. “I’m cooped up in an of­fice all the time,” Thomp­son says. “I feel like I need to be out­side at least once a week. It’s why I moved here from Michi­gan, but now I’m never out­side,” adding that by at­tend­ing the class, she strength­ens her phys­i­cal and men­tal well-be­ing. Salerno first di­rects stu­dents through low-in­ten­sity stretch­ing ex­er­cises, then grad­u­ally mov­ing through a se­ries of poses. She en­cour­ages stu­dents dur­ing the war­rior pose, for in­stance, to imag­ine a sword point­ing to­ward the sky. She sug­gests that if stu­dents have trou­ble mov­ing from a co­bra pose to a down­ward dog, that they may lift their body up as high as feels com­fort­able. As stu­dents close their eyes and flex leg mus­cles, she en­cour­ages them to fo­cus their en­tire mind on the stretch in their ap­pendage, med­i­tat­ing on ev­ery phys­i­cal sen­sa­tion. Sam­poorna yoga is a blend­ing of sev­eral styles and is cred­ited with its found­ing by Shri Yogi Hari, say­ing that health, peace and joy are within us and need only be un­cov­ered. The prac­tice came to the States in the 1970s.

Kore­shan’s soft pine nee­dles, the im­mense shade and the iso­la­tion make per­fect sense and put the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment to its best use. “Es­pe­cially with the river nearby and the pines over­head, the yoga Geva brings to the park fits per­fectly,” says Brit­tany Petit, park ser­vices spe­cial­ist at Kore­shan. “It’s calm, en­er­giz­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing all at the same time.” For the park, yoga also draws crowds on Sun­days, many of which may visit the farm­ers mar­ket or tour the historic site as well, Petit says. Kore­shans formed their “New Jerusalem” in 1894, peaked at some 250 res­i­dents who built liv­ing and work­ing quar­ters. Most struc­tures re­main. Founder of the sect, Cyrus Teed, died in 1908. Salerno, co-founder of Cre­ative Con­nec­tion, charges $10 for yoga ses­sions, and the price cov­ers park ad­mis­sion. The cer­ti­fied in­struc­tor also teaches classes at some coun­try clubs in the Bonita-Es­tero area and at Stu­dio 1084 in Naples. Cre­ative Con­nec­tion fo­cuses on cre­ative arts ther­apy and well­ness pro­grams, and the com­pany also or­ga­nizes classes in tai chi and fa­cil­i­tates drum­ming, as well as a va­ri­ety of other cre­atively fo­cused ac­tiv­i­ties such as col­lage work­shops and heal­ing sound cir­cles. Tra­di­tional yoga fits in with that se­lec­tion of of­fer­ings, she says, and helps en­hance the lives of peo­ple in this area. She notes that hold­ing some classes in out­door set­tings in­tro­duces them to a train­ing en­vi­ron­ment dif­fer­ent than any air-con­di­tioned set­ting. “Na­ture,” she notes, “has its own vi­bra­tion.”

“It’s calm, en­er­giz­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing all at the same time.” —Brit­tany Petit, Kore­shan park ser­vices spe­cial­ist

Kore­shan's tran­quil­ity is ideal for yoga, al­low­ing prac­ti­tion­ers such as Geva Salerno (be­low left) the peace of iso­la­tion to fo­cus on the func­tion­al­ity of the mind and senses.

Kore­shan Unity be­lieved the uni­verse was con­tained within earth's core. Set­tle­ment build­ings at the Es­tero site re­main in­tact.

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