Monumental Yoga to strengthen community 

Hundreds gather at Monument Circle to celebrate the summer solstice through yoga. - ANNIE QUIGLEY
  • Hundreds gather at Monument Circle to celebrate the summer solstice through yoga.
  • Annie Quigley

Hundreds of bodies stretched around Monument Circle. Young and old and everything in between, masses of people listen intently as they are told to position their elbows over their heads. And then it is heard. One simultaneous exhale of breath, and everyone is linked.

The second annual Monumental Yoga event, organized by the Athenaeum Foundation, brought together yoga enthusiasts and newbies from across Indiana in celebration of the summer solstice. Cassie Stockamp, president of the Foundation, created the annual event last year after being inspired by photographs of a similar mass yoga class in Times Square.

"I kept dropping hints until it happened," recalls the yoga instructor. "My motivation was to create a free open class to bring Indianapolis's yoga community together."

Instructors from yoga studios across the city guide the masses in a variety of poses. - ANNIE QUIGLEY
  • Instructors from yoga studios across the city guide the masses in a variety of poses.
  • Annie Quigley

Yoga practitioners, or yogis, draw motivation from a wide variety of sources. Some see it as an exercise, with proven health benefits ranging from increased flexibility to weight loss. Others treat it as a sort of meditation, reducing stress through structured relaxation. But to many, yoga is an art form, a combination of all of the above to nourish a sound mind and body.

"In yoga, the physical takes you to the mental," explains Stockamp, describing the practice as a holistic experience.

Regardless of their relationship or experience with yoga, the summer solstice found yogis of all ages and levels engaged in a community-wide yoga class in the heart of Indiana.

Traveling all the way from Muncie, yogis Kari Ann and Angie, both relatively new to the yoga scene with only about two years experience between the two of them, came with a few others from their class after prompting from their teacher's Facebook posting.

"We do yoga for the serenity," says Kari Ann. "It's much easier than we thought."

"Yoga is so accepting of everyone," adds Angie. "And today is just us sharing yoga with a bunch of like-minded people."

Children join in on the pre-class activities, twirling colorful hula hoops. - ANNIE QUIGLEY
  • Children join in on the pre-class activities, twirling colorful hula hoops.
  • Annie Quigley

Before the hour-long yoga class began, activities were offered on the circle. Sponsor booths decorated the edges of the scene. Yoga studios from around the city passed out coupons for free sessions. Boutiques offered selections of yoga gear to purchase. Calming music was played from the booth for the upcoming music and yoga festival, Serendipity Fest.

Of the activities offered, some were certainly more strenuous than others. Hula hoopers Brooke and Alli demonstrated another way to practice yoga, dancing and moving with the hoops, inviting children and adults alike to join them.

"I teach a hoop-yoga fusion class," says Alli, who started yoga when pregnant. "The hoops can help isolate the body and assist with positioning."

Brooke, though new to yoga, has been hooping for 4 years, describing it as more of a social activity. "My best friend and I did it together, and it just got popular fast," she says.

Participants strike a powerful pose. - ANNIE QUIGLEY
  • Participants strike a powerful pose.
  • Annie Quigley
Though the event was free, it was also a fundraiser. Donations were collected throughout for two charities: Mighty Lotus and Fight for Life. Both charity organizations work toward bringing yoga into schools and other places that might not have the means to practice yoga. Fittingly, this year's Monumental Yoga saw the addition of a children's section, again bringing all members of the community together.

This year's summer solstice celebration had the same theme as the last: to share the practice of yoga and bring members of the community together forming camaraderie between people and studios.

The Monumental Yoga event saw a mass of people from across Indiana coming together with a common mindset. Regardless of their experience, motivation, or background, every participant came together in those few movements. In bringing together the mind and body of each individual, yoga facilitated the building of a community.

Through Monumental Yoga, yogis hope to build a stronger community. - ANNIE QUIGLEY
  • Through Monumental Yoga, yogis hope to build a stronger community.
  • Annie Quigley

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