Warriors, happy babies and downward-facing dogs are all welcome regulars at the weekly Yoga Nona sessions at Crescent Park. For the last year and a half, Sunlight Yoga founder Bree Parrish and Lake Nona regulars have been saluting the sun and finding different ways to embrace their fitness paths in this well-being community.
Parrish’s studio, Sunlight Yoga on Narcoossee Road, just celebrated its one-year anniversary in April and has become a regional draw. The popular weekly Saturday session at Crescent Park in Laureate Park began in early 2016, attracting a passionate group of regulars and newcomers looking for zen.
“They are always so excited,” Parrish says of her dedicated Lake Nona students. “They’ll come when it’s raining, when it’s freezing, when it feels 150 degrees outside. There can be anywhere from 20 to 50 people out there on a Saturday morning.”
The California native got her start in yoga a decade ago after a friend lost weight through yoga. “I started for the wrong reasons – the physical part of it,” Parrish said. “But if you stick with it, eventually yoga works its way into your entire self and your life, if you let it.”
Parrish says that she began practicing yoga for the health benefits. Eventually, her practice became a part of her everyday lifestyle. “Yoga starts to make you realize things and open doors in your life and your mind,” she says. “It makes you so aware of your surroundings walking through your daily life.” But, she adds, it’s also a great option for many Lake Nona residents looking for an “alternative workout” to add to their regular fitness routine.
Establishing fitness choices is an important component of wellbeing-focused communities like Lake Nona, and choosing an activity that is enjoyable and works for the individual helps to ensure the routine sticks.
Finding a new way to stay active is what first attracted Jen Brunk to the Saturday Yoga Nona events. Brunk, who moved to Laureate Park three years ago from Baldwin Park, was one of the first attendees of Parrish’s free weekly class at Crescent Park. Looking to make some lifestyle changes, she says, “When I saw they were offering yoga in the neighborhood, I thought, that’s the sort of lifestyle change I want to do.”
Brunk said she struggled with the mind-body connection at first but had a great experience with instructors helping her to get started. “It was great for learning the basics of the practice, and everyone there is so kind and willing to help,” she said. “I was pretty up-front that I had no idea what I was doing, and they get that a lot.”
Now more than a year into her practice, Brunk makes yoga part of her regular schedule, fitting in three sessions a week between Yoga Nona at Crescent Park and special workshops at Sunlight Yoga. “For yoga, it’s as challenging for you personally as you want to make it,” Brunk says. “There is always another layer and another way to push yourself individually. I’m much more willing now to try new poses than I ever would have been a year ago.”
Parrish and Brunk agree that part of what makes yoga special in Lake Nona is the dynamic mix of residents who show up each week. “Anytime I go to any of the active events in the community, like yoga in the park on Saturday, there are always tons of people,” Brunk says. “It’s pretty impressive when most people want to spend the morning sleeping in. Even if you’ve never done yoga before, someone will help you have a good experience there.”
Parrish points to the area’s yoga enthusiasts for her success. “Anytime that Sunlight is involved in some sort of fitness event, there’s a good turnout,” she says. “They’re showing up. Lake Nona has done a great job of making wellness and health at their fingertips.”
Yoga Nona is a free weekly class each Saturday morning at 9 at Crescent Park. For more information on Sunlight Yoga, visit besunlight.com.