Don’t Nama-stay in Bed

Sunrise Yoga Classes Pop Up at Unique Locations Around Downtown

By Karlie Justus Marlowe

At the entrance to historic Oakwood Cemetery, a final resting place for hundreds of people for hundreds of years on the southeastern edge of downtown Raleigh, the fog slowly starts to roll in. It’s about 6:30am on a late-summer morning, and the sun that’s just now starting to rise casts an eerie but peaceful glow.

This morning, though, there are more than 100 living, breathing people gathered for the 2015 season’s final sunrise yoga class, their brightly hued yoga mats lining the sloping, grassy hill just below the first of the headstones.

“When the fog rolled in during savasana while we were at Oakwood Cemetery, it was magical,” said yoga instructor Carrington Jackson, who led the students through the hour-long outdoor class and meditation.

Together with local “clean fuel” restaurant Happy + Hale, she created the summer-long sunrise series to introduce new students to yoga, include live musical accompaniment, and find unique locations around Raleigh – but found she got something back as well.

Poses Inspired by Raleigh
Try your hand out at these yoga asanas, or poses, inspired by the sunrise series’ previous locations. Stay tuned for 2016 classes via
@happyandhale on Twitter and Instagram.

Historic Oakwood Cemetery: Corpse Pose
Corpse pose, another name for yoga’s final resting pose savasana, is a class-ending meditation on the back.

North Carolina Museum of Art: Sphinx Pose
The Museum’s ancient Egyptian collection calls for this chest-opening asana. Lying on your stomach, set your elbows under your shoulders with forearms parallel on the floor. Inhale and lift your upper torso and head into a mild backbend.

Raleigh Rose Garden: Lotus Pose
Lotus, also known as Padmasana, is an advanced seated meditation pose. The legs are folded into flower-like folds, with each foot nestled into the opposite hip joint.

City Center: Crane Pose
This arm balance is named after the bird, not the ever-present construction cranes that dot downtown. However, it requires similar balance in mid-air: In a squat with arms on the ground in front of you, balance the knees on the triceps.

“Someone sent a note to us after the cemetery class to tell us about her friend who had died from cancer in the last year, and they had always done yoga together,” she said. “It would’ve been his birthday, and she could feel him there. You know, we put these events out there and we never know if people will show up or get something out of them, so that was great to hear.”

Jackson first teamed up with Happy + Hale to celebrate its Fayetteville Street city center location’s opening in June 2014, leading the first class in the green space next door. Co-owner Tyler Helikson remembers being surprised at the turnout for that initial class.

“Two hundred people at 6am is a lot!” he says with a laugh, before noting the business’ natural tie-in to yoga and meditation. “Yoga is inclusive, and anyone can do it. We strive to do the same thing. Carrington’s students are our customers, people who are looking for whole, clean fuel.”

Sarah Findle, a public relations manager who works in downtown Raleigh, has attended three sunrise sessions, and counts the classes as a major motivator to get out of bed.

“I like to work out in the morning anyway, and having the chance to be outside and see the sunrise makes it that much easier to get out of bed,“ she said. “Sometimes it’s harder to balance because you are on uneven grass in an outdoor setting, so finding your drishti if the wind is blowing or clouds are moving can be tough. But that just makes it more challenging and fun.”

After a few more follow-up classes in 2014 at city center’s green space, Jackson and Helikson branched out to new locations in 2015, leading sunrise classes on the last Friday of the month from May-September at surprising pop-up studios – including the Raleigh Rose Garden and the North Carolina Museum of Art, which drew more than 200 people.

“At the museum, I led meditation around the reflective pool in the garden,” remembers Jackson, who also teaches at downtown studio Blue Lotus. “After class someone sent an email to Tyler, and said she didn’t get anything out of the class, but instead she left something there. The year before, she was supposed to get married there, but her fiance ditched her. The sunrise yoga session allowed her to let it go right in the same spot.”

The free events quickly fill up through word of mouth and social media. There are no tickets or sign-up forms, or even an official website or Facebook page.

“The unknown of when it’s happening or even where it’s going to be well ahead of time adds to the experience,” said Carrington. “It’s kind of magical.”

The pair is on the hunt for new hosts for 2016, hoping to replicate the magic of previous years’ meetings. Locations and dates will be posted to Happy + Hale’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, with additional boosts from Jackson’s social channels.

And while the sites may change, the classes’ early morning timing and spirit will remain the same.

“Our sunrise yoga sessions help to lighten the mood around yoga,” says Carrington. “It can get a bad rap for ‘yoga should be this, it should be that.’ The best feedback I’ve gotten so far is when someone told me, ‘I never knew yoga could be this much fun.’”

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