ParkTalk Blog: Stretching Out in the Sun

Friday, June 28, 2024

Yoga is a common exercise that has been practiced for centuries. Since its origin in ancient India, yoga has evolved and developed into a variety of styles that focus on different aspects of asana, which means posture or pose. While most yoga classes are held indoors, outdoor yoga enhances the overall practice by connecting the student with the natural environment surrounding them. 

While the Naperville Park District hosts a variety of yoga classes throughout the year, most of which are held indoors, two different outdoor yoga programs are offered during the summer: Beach Yoga and Paddleboard Yoga. Each program brings participants near the cool water of Centennial Beach with the goal of taking aspiring yogis at all levels of practice through a journey to strengthen their mind and body while appreciating the sights and sounds of the outdoors.

With beach and paddleboard yoga, participants gather near the sand or in the water at Centennial Beach to engage in their morning practice. Beach Yoga instructor, Meg’n Braida and Paddleboard Yoga instructor, Anne Gasperec, have seen outdoor yoga attendance grow every year thanks to the uniqueness of the program.

“They’re appealing because they’re done early in the morning, and of course the weather is always a factor,” said Meg’n. “If it’s a warm, sunny day, the students tune into that. You can hear church bells ring in the distance while lifeguards are getting ready for their shifts. There is a playful camaraderie, because you’re on the beach and its summer!”


An outdoor yoga class taking place on the grassy knoll of Centennial Beach.

Yoga not only challenges the unique aspects of each participant’s physicality, such as muscular strength and flexibility, but their mind as well. Yoga has been known to help reduce anxiety, depression and stress. It releases mood-boosting endorphins, and yoga poses tend to relieve physical blockages, like muscle knots, helping release tension and other negative emotions. The benefits of yoga seem endless, and experiencing yoga on the beach or aboard a paddleboard adds to the overall experience and challenge.

“I feel outdoor participants gain the awareness of nature,” added Meg’n. “You can bring your gaze to a tree versus a wall, or to water versus the ceiling. The sky, the texture of the sand, the breeze – it all increases one’s awareness, and there is nothing like lying on the beach for savasana.” 

“Some people find comfort within the four walls of a studio and have no desire to come outdoors,” said Anne. “Others love the fresh air, birds singing, soft wind and the light rippling sound of the water lapping.”


Paddleboard yoga participant showing off her flexibility.

Despite having the same foundation, Beach Yoga and Paddleboard Yoga are incredibly different to indoor practice. Indoor yoga is in a temperature-controlled environment with perfectly balanced floors. The ground outdoors is not always level, especially when conducting yoga practice in the sand. To mitigate those challenges, participants are required to focus on stabilization, concentration, and core strength. This is more apparent on a paddleboard, where the surface wades with the water throughout the class. Despite these aspects that certainly can test balance, flexibility and concentration, anyone can do Beach and Paddleboat Yoga, no matter their yoga background.

“Yoga is about the union of pose and breath and honoring where you are at and accepting this is where you are at,” said Anne. “In time, everyone will flourish when their body has accepted the moment, the flow, the pose and breath.”

Meg’n and Anne have been certified yoga instructors for over a decade each and have worked for the Naperville Park District since 2007 and 2020 respectively. Their passion for teaching is fueled by the progress of their students as they witness their journey from beginners who are wary of their abilities to experienced yogis with confidence in their bodies.

“One of the reasons I’ve stayed with the Park District for so long are the relationships I’ve formed with students,” said Meg’n. “Some of my students have followed my classes the whole time I’ve taught! I enjoy seeing student’s progress with their asanas, and to see peace and joy to their practice.”

For information on Outdoor: Beach Yoga or other yoga and fitness programs offered at the Naperville Park District, visit