Summertime in a West Michigan beach town means boating, swimming, suntanning, beach volleyball, and finally getting outside to exercise. While summer often means ramping up your social life and staying out later, it’s also a great time to slow down, get outside, and enjoy nature. If you want the best of both worlds, you can try yoga or Pilates in a beautiful, fun location around town.
Now is the time to enjoy the weather and embrace the sense of community you get by joining in an outdoor workout that will slow you down, lengthen your muscles, and leave you feeling refreshed. Here are some options:
Soul Flow in the park
Sandy Hutchins began teaching yoga in 2015, with Soul Flow emerging in 2016, when her beginner class grew stronger with the fundamentals.
“Soul Flow is a slower-paced Vinyasa Flow,” says Hutchins. “We begin with setting an intention (goal) for our practice. We warm up the body first then move into a slow-paced flow and add on the Vinyasa flow while incorporating a peak pose, core work, and balancing postures. We end with cooling down and finally closing with Savasana. I give an optional touch therapy to pressure points on the neck, shoulders, and head during Savasana.”
If you’re not sure what all of those words mean, don’t worry. Hutchins always teaches to the beginner with cues and demonstrations.
“My goals are to just help people feel better by teaching them how to use the tools they are already given to unite mind, body, and soul,” says Hutchins. “They do this by not only strengthening their bodies through poses, but also by finding balance physically and emotionally. By connecting to something.”
Soul Flow is held at Ross Park in Norton Shores on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $10 to drop in for a one-hour practice outside, and if you don’t own a mat or props (blocks, strap, yoga blanket), Hutchins has them available to her students. If it rains, Hutchins cancels class by notifying her Soul Flow Yogis Group on Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, she will send a text.
Not sure if you’re ready for yoga in the park? Hutchins also teaches Chair Yoga and Gentle Yoga at First Lutheran Church in North Muskegon in the summer. For more information or to ask questions, join Hutchins’ Facebook page, “Beneath the STARS Yoga,” or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pilates with Mandy
Mandy McCarl has been teaching Pilates and other fitness genres for 15 years. She was raised in the Muskegon area and currently lives with her husband in North Muskegon.
“At 26, I was a member of the Muskegon Y and my daughter attended day care there,” McCarl says. “I was taking classes myself and the instructor was leaving, so she asked if I might be interested in training and taking over. It kind of fell into my lap. I was nervous to be in front of people, but my husband told me I would be great and to just do it. I traveled for some courses and training and started it right up. It has become a passion of mine, and I've gained so many lifelong friends through the years. I love what I do and love sharing it with others.”
A few years into teaching, McCarl took her classes to the beach on Saturday mornings. There was no music — it was just nature and a great core workout — and everyone seemed to love it. So she kept it up and hasn’t looked back since.
“I want everyone joining my classes to feel comfortable with what we are doing,” McCarl says. “People tend to worry, ‘What will I look like? Will everyone be watching me?’ With Pilates, there is a lot to think about, between breathing, keeping your core engaged, and controlling your movements — so much that you shouldn't be paying attention to others. I show modifications for all movements so any fitness level or age can join us and still do the whole class.”
COVID-19 moved Mandy’s classes to Zoom and, because of its convenience, she continues to teach a few classes on Zoom to offer more options for her clients.
Not sure what Pilates is and/or haven’t done it before? Pilates is a low-impact workout that focuses on postural alignment, core strength, and muscle balance.
“If you have not done Pilates before, you can do this,” McCarl encourages. “This is for all fitness levels and ages. Modifications are offered, and my following is full of lovely people who are so great and friendly, and love welcoming new folks and first-timers. Maybe Zoom is more your jam, especially for the first time, and that is OK, too. I generally teach three to five classes a week, and some are a mix of weights and Pilates, where we do weight training for the first 25 minutes and, the last 25 minutes, we slow down with Pilates. Other classes are straight mat Pilates.”
Classes are $7 and run for 45-50 minutes. Search “Pilates with Mandy” on Facebook to find more information or reach out to her with questions. All of her events are listed on that Facebook page.
Yoga on the ship
This popular outdoor workout kicked off on June 28, 2015, about a month after the yoga studio and juice bar Rootdown opened in downtown Muskegon.
“I have a huge passion for yoga outdoors and in nature,” says Kelly Seyferth, owner of Rootdown. “Before opening our brick-and-mortar location, I spent two years offering outdoor classes around Muskegon. About a month after the yoga studio opening, I had lunch with some friends on the USS LST 393 Veterans Museum. We made our own lunches and ate them on the ship deck, and that’s when the idea sparked of how amazing it would be to do yoga there, with the incredible view of Muskegon Lake and downtown Muskegon. One of the friends I was having lunch with worked for the LST and helped make it happen.”
The goal of Yoga on the Ship aligns with Rootdown’s overall mission to make yoga accessible for everyone and to bring many types of people together who hold one value in common: health.
“We’re also committed to building friendships, long-lasting alliances, and giving back to our community,” Seyferth says. “We have donated to several different organizations over the past six years, including Kids’ Food Basket, Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership, Community enCompass, Read Muskegon, United Way of the Lakeshore, and the LST 393.”
When the 2020 pandemic shut down all fitness facilities, the ship became Rootdown’s home and allowed the team to continue to offer yoga safely outdoors as long as the weather permitted. Now they are back to their regular schedule of three one-hour classes a week: Sunday and Tuesday evenings from 7-8 p.m. and Thursday mornings from 8:45-9:45 a.m. If the idea of yoga on a boat is unsettling, don’t worry: The boat is stationary. And classes are for all levels of yogis and no preregistration is necessary.
Bring your own mat if you have one, but if you don’t, you can rent one for $2 when you get there. Sunday’s classes are donation-based, with 50% of the proceeds going to the LST 393; Tuesday’s classes are $8, and Thursday’s classes are $10. For more information, check out their website: rootdown.in/classes
Yoga practitioner helps create community along the Lakeshore