Yoga poses among the roses in New Britain's Walnut Hill Park

Published on Monday, 30 July 2018 20:45
Written by Kristina Vakhman

Special to the Herald

NEW BRITAIN - Though storm clouds rolled in and shielded the sun as rain appeared on Tuesday’s forecast, residents from New Britain and surrounding areas still came to stretch their limbs and ease their minds with yoga in the Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden.

“Being in the park with other people doing it with you is great and the instructor is really good,” said Sanela Dugalic, a New Britain resident and recent Central Connecticut State University graduate, sitting on her wet yoga mat; a brief downpour had surprised the group before the sky cleared up again.

“It’s our fifth or sixth time coming,” Maggie Gwozdz, Dugalic’s friend and also a New Britain resident and CCSU graduate, chimed in. “It’s free and it’s close.”

Offered by the New Britain Parks and Recreation Department, the summer yoga sessions came to the garden after a successful round last September, according to Craig Bowman, the department’s recreation services coordinator.

“We were presented with the idea (of doing the yoga sessions again) this summer,” Bowman said. “We’re pushing healthy lifestyles in our community and this is a really good way to practice living a healthy lifestyle by doing yoga. There are really good benefits for you that are not only physical, but also mental.”

Bowman added that the sessions are a great way to bring people - especially those who hail from outside of New Britain - to the garden, which is the largest volunteer-maintained rose garden in Connecticut, and an opportunity to bring awareness to the department’s programs. One person who found the prospect of yoga in the rose garden attractive was Lourie Dagostino from Newington.

“My friend put it on Facebook and said she was interested. She hasn’t showed one class, but I did pilates and wanted to try yoga,” Dagostino commented. Like Dugalic, she also said that the instructor, Kelly Murphy, was “great.”

Tuesday’s hour-long class put great emphasis on overcoming the fear of trying something new. Murphy constantly advised participants to not be deterred if they couldn’t perfectly replicate a pose.

“When someone first comes to yoga, they’re looking around thinking, ‘What’s that person doing? How am I supposed to look like that?’ So I try to remind them that they shouldn’t look at their neighbor. There is no judgment here. Exploring the pose and trusting yourself - that intuition - is the whole point,” Murphy said.

Having taught yoga for five years and practiced it for 12, Murphy was one of the main proponents of bringing the evening sessions to New Britain. She explained that classes later in the evening would allow more people to come and experience yoga’s benefits.

“Yoga is good for everyone at any point in their life,” Murphy stated. “Besides, we as adults are in an office so often that you’re not outside for an extended period of time unless you have young kids. This is an hour of just being quiet to yourself in nature. How often does that happen?”

Participant Antonina from New Britain, who asked that her last name not be used, shared that sentiment. At the age of 70, she enjoys doing yoga outdoors, citing the improvements to her health.

“I had a problem with my leg five years ago and started doing yoga. It’s better now,” Antonina said. “It’s good for the whole body.”

Antonina’s friends, Bogumala and Waeisa, who also wanted to be addressed by their first names, came from Plainville to take part in the sessions. It was Bogumala’s first time, but it wouldn’t be the last.

“Waeisa is my neighbor and she was always telling me to come,” Bogumala recalled. “I really liked it. I’ll come again.”

Given the success of the summer sessions thus far, Bowman and Murphy are both optimistic that they’ll take place next summer as well. They’re hoping that local businesses will sponsor the classes to expand them.

“I’m so glad that we could introduce this to the community and that the funding was in place to present this opportunity,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, in the future, we can keep it up. We still need support to keep this thing going and keep it free during the summer.”

“It’s great for the city and is a health-initiative. We hope to have more days next year with the help of local sponsors,” Murphy concurred.

The city’s free yoga series runs Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden. No registration is required. Participants can show up at their own discretion and are asked to bring their own mats. Cancellations in the event of inclement weather will be listed on the New Britain Parks and Recreation Department’s Facebook page.

Kristina Vakhman can be reached at

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Monday, 30 July 2018 20:45. Updated: Monday, 30 July 2018 20:48.