Outdoor yoga class offers relaxing start to mornings

Besides being an ideal place for boating, fishing, swimming and biking, the Iowa Great Lakes has also become a hotspot for outdoor yoga. 

“There’s just something awesome about doing yoga outside,” said Mindy Leinbaugh, manager of the Yoga Okoboji studio. 

The studio, located at 3735 Zenith Avenue in Spirit Lake, offers outdoor classes at 7 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Arnolds Park pier. 

Leinbaugh said she started the outdoor yoga class four summers ago as an outgrowth of an outdoor fitness class she helped teach with a friend. The classes are moderate-level and are therefore suitable to people of varying yoga skill levels. 

For Leinbaugh, doing yoga outside with the water of West Okoboji nearby, adds an additional, relaxing element to the practice. 

“Outside, I feel like people are able to relax a little bit more,” she said. “And we all know the quality water has, how it makes you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.”

“It’s just a different experience than in the studio,” she added.

A typical outdoor yoga session usually starts with everyone focusing on their breathing and doing muscle exercises in order to tune into their bodies. Then, Leinbaugh said they work their way into a range of standing and balance postures that focus on strength and flexibility. 

Leinbaugh takes turns leading the outdoor sessions with fellow Yoga Okoboji instructor, Michelle Parks. Like Leinbaugh’s friend, Parks came to yoga after first being involved in the world of physical fitness. 

One yoga enthusiast who recently attended one of Parks’ outdoor sessions, Linda Coddington, said she likes working on balance and doing the different stretches.

“It just gives you a moment to just kind of relax and be at peace,” said Coddington, who is from Mason City. 

The sessions end with final relaxation, where everyone lays on their backs and focuses on their breathing, before eventually transitioning into a sitting meditation position with legs crossed. 

“I think it’s a great way to start the day, I think it’s invigorating for people to get out and start moving,” Parks said of the outdoor yoga class. “And I always think that being outside, being in nature is always a boost to energy.”

Coddington attended the session with her daughter, Sara Estrick, who lives in Grayslake, IL. Estrick regularly does yoga but said doing it by the lake was a “very different experience to be outside and hearing the waves and the wind.”

She and Coddington said they preferred the outdoor experience of yoga to the inside and would do it again given the opportunity. 

Although she said doing yoga outdoors can be especially relaxing and refreshing, Leinbaugh said there are also precautions people should take regarding the weather.

“The biggest thing is always check the weather,” she said. “I always tell people to dress in layers.”