Crowds flock to Rawtenstall park for first ever open-air yoga class

-Credit: (Image: Catherine Smyth Media)
-Credit: (Image: Catherine Smyth Media)


Birds were singing and the sun was peaking through the cotton candy clouds as nearly 70 people enjoyed an open-air yoga class in the most picturesque of settings.

Rossendale Leisure Trust’s first free Yoga in the Park session at Whitaker Park in Rawtenstall on Sunday, May 5, was a huge success enjoyed by men, women and children, with the youngest being 16-month-old Olive Livesey, right though to pensioners.

Exercise mats filled the grass at the front of the historic Whitaker Art Gallery and Museum as instructor Elli Dixon led participants through a series of movements. The class was visible for all to see from drivers on Haslingden Road to dog walkers and families visiting the park.

Leisure Trust Project Officer Julie Holden said: “This has been a fabulous experience and great to see so many people turning up with their mats.”

Laura Watterson, from Haslingden, is a regular at Elli’s studio – Evolving Fitness in Stubbins. She said: “The classes ground me and give me wellbeing, empowerment, friendship, and inclusion. Today has been great and it is great to have it outside and have the opportunity to be in this space with like-minded people.

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“Today is National Day of the Midwife, and I am a midwife so it was the perfect start to the day for me.”

Sam Dillon, from Haslingden, attended with her daughter Hannah, six, who also joined in with the class. Sam has been doing yoga for eight years and attended Elli’s classes throughout her pregnancy. She said: “Elli was so good and taught me breathing techniques which helped with the birth. Yoga, to me, feeds my spirit.”

Although the yoga sessions are free, participants are asked to donate if they can so that the classes can continue beyond September. They are run by experienced yoga teachers: Elli, Nikki Pearson, Sue Doyle, Donna Rawding and Lesley Campbell.

Open air yoga in Whitaker Park, Rawtenstall -Credit:Catherine Smyth Media
Open air yoga in Whitaker Park, Rawtenstall -Credit:Catherine Smyth Media

Also soaking up the energy was the Mayor and Mayoress of Rossendale Cllr Andrew Walmsley and Pat Smith. Pat said: “I feel really relaxed. I have been listening to the birds sing, enjoying the calming music, watching all the poses and soaking up the atmosphere.”

The Mayor praised the leisure trust initiative and said the venue was perfect with the backdrop of the museum and surrounded by the beautiful Rossendale hills.

He was also on hand to officially open the tennis courts in the park, which were refurbished last year, along with those at Stubbylee Park, thanks to a £100k Lawn Tennis Association grant.

Cllr Walmsley said: “The LTA has also funded tennis taster sessions and these will create an opportunity for people of all ages to try tennis and make sure they have the equipment. Who knows? We may find the next Tim Henman in Rossendale.”

Open air yoga in Whitaker Park, Rawtenstall. -Credit:Catherine Smyth Media
Open air yoga in Whitaker Park, Rawtenstall. -Credit:Catherine Smyth Media

One of the first on the courts was Yasmin Lodal, 15, a wheelchair-user who took up tennis a few months ago. She plays matches with her mum Kate against her dad Fax. They said the new courts were excellent and accessible.

Yasmin said: “I like playing tennis and this new court is a whole lot easier.” She also plays for Manchester Revolution Wheelchair Basketball team at Belle Vue.