Skiers find their inner Zen |

Skiers find their inner Zen

Graham Watanabe (blue shirt) and C.W. Creighton work on a yoga pose with an instructor during a Yoga in the Park class.

Who knew that a downward facing dog would improve a triple flip? Yet, after a summers worth of practicing yoga in City Park, the U.S. Freestyle team is finding that a little low-impact training goes in a long way in getting the team ready for the high-flying twists and turns that they will perform on the snow this winter.

The class they attend isn’t any specially designed class for skiers, it’s the usual community yoga class and it’s actually been open and free to everyone in the city all summer long. Each Tuesday, the Yoga in the Park class invites community members to attend a free class taught by instructors from Park City and the surrounding areas. As many as 55 people have shown up for the weekly class, and U.S. aerialist and longtime Parkite Emily Cook said that is one of the best parts.

"You see people from the community," Cook said. "It is one of my favorite parts of the summer."

The Ski Team got involved in the class when one of their former public relations staff members, Hattie Gardner, started offering the class through the business she manages, lululemon athletica. The team was looking for a good training regimen to increase flexibility, build core muscles and cool down after a hard day of practicing tricks. The team has been using yoga as a training tool for awhile. Before Yoga in the Park, the team would attend morning yoga sessions at the Park City Racquet Club. But when summer rolled around, they decided that the opportunity to be outside and finish their day on a quiet note would be beneficial.

According to U.S. Ski Team strength and conditioning coach Tschana Breslin, she, along with the U.S. freestyle coaching staff, originally made the decision to include yoga to increase the athletes’ flexibility. Since then, the idea has really caught on. Breslin figures that about 10 to13 athletes, plus their coaches, show up to the weekly yoga session. At first the athletes weren’t so sure, she laughs, but now they are definitely on board. She said that even members of the development team have started showing up to class.

"The team was there every week for the entire summer," Gardner said. "It was really nice to have them there."

Cook said that for her, there is an added benefit of making a mind-body connection with yoga, which has driven her to engage in yoga for years, long before the team got involved. She warms up with yoga everyday, but really looks forward to the weekly park class. She enjoys being able to share it with her teammates.

"To do that together as a team all summer long has been great," Cook said. "It gives me an opportunity to reconnect at the end of the day."

She said that is also a nice change for a team full of high-energy performers to have a chance to slow down.

Yoga in the Park classes have a wide range — everything from the basics to very challenging classes, but Breslin said that the variety is great.

"It’s a way to challenge them in a different way," Breslin said.

Besides yoga, the Ski Team also involves the athletes in other forms of exercise like paddling, hiking and other activities.

The yoga won’t be stopping now that the summer has ended. Although last Tuesday marked the last class outside, Gardner said that lululemon athletica will be opening a store in Park City on Saturday. The Canadian-based apparel store will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Gardner will continue the free yoga classes in the showroom. To accommodate the large numbers, she will now be offering two one-hour classes Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Sundays at9:30 a.m. The store is located at 6300 North Sagewood in Redstone.

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