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Midway’s free ‘Yoga in the Park’ about more than just yoga

Elise Jones

Midway City’s free ‘Yoga in the Park’ is a beloved community gathering on Saturdays in the summer.

For Matthew Heimburger, Yoga in the Park is about more than just yoga. Almost every Saturday, he and his wife Anna bring their “intelligent, funny and warm”16-year-old daughter to Midway Town Square. Lucy has Rett Syndrome, a rare genetic neurological disorder. She may no longer be able to use her hands or talk but what unfolds speaks volumes.

“Sometimes we're in sync with the class, sometimes we're totally doing our own thing," he said. "But she can breathe. She can feel her muscles release. And when we're in the sunshine, she relaxes. You can feel her put her hand on your chest and kind of beat a little bit with her heartbeat sometimes. And I think she's just so delighted to be included in the community.”

Matthew and Anna
Elise Jones
Matthew and Anna

Elise Jones, founder of Utah Yoga & Wellness, established the free event in 2019 and said it became a lifeline for many during the pandemic.

“So many more people came because it was just a time to get out. And it really was more of a community builder than it was a yoga class," she said. "So now it's really fun to see people in jeans. You see 80-year-olds, you see people with kids and maybe their dog, or you see people talking to each other saying, ‘I didn't realize that you lived by me’ and ‘who are you?’ So it's really been a fun community builder.”

The event is 9 a.m. every week through the end of August. Sherry Zemlick said she looks forward to it every summer. “This is my first time back since my hip replacement. I came back after my knee replacement, and stretching is really important to stay active and moving. So we ride our bikes down from our house near the golf course, we do yoga and then we go for a bike ride.”

All ages and ability levels are celebrated...but this doll's form could use some work
Elise Jones
Yoga in the Park is a judgment-free zone...but this doll could use some tips

In addition to yoga, the square brims with small-town nostalgia on Saturdays. Families cruise by on their bikes. Shoppers stroll the adjacent art gallery and quaint boutiques. Some migrate next door to the small farmer’s market that runs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. And, if they’re lucky, they’ll hear the Swiss Glockenspiel clock dance its lively tune at Midway Town Hall.

Heimburger’s reasons for doing yoga with Lucy extend beyond the physical therapy benefits. He said the United States is a world leader in addressing wheelchair accessibility, but access doesn’t always equal inclusion.

“We don’t want to impose so we grant access, but we don't necessarily mix," he said. "So this is a place where not only is Lucy allowed and welcomed, but she's included. She's hugged, her name is spoken, and people come to realize that there's really nothing particularly unusual about having this cute little girl in a wheelchair stretch out on the lawn. And they realize that it's nothing to be afraid of. And she realizes that people around her are there for her and love her, too.”

And there’s certainly a lot to love about summer Saturdays in the park.