Locals breathe; free yoga pops up in Old Fourth Ward

Locals+breathe%3B+free+yoga+pops+up+in+Old+Fourth+Ward

Chloe Prendergast

Every Tuesday night, weather permitting, King of Pops, the small Atlanta-based popsicle company, hosts free yoga sessions in the Old Fourth Ward Park.

Hundreds of people walk off the BeltLine just before 7 pm with yoga mats strapped to their backs to prepare for the session. The bright pink, green, yellow or orange mats and attire of the emerging crowd brightens the park as some people station themselves at the top of a hill. Others set up on the large, flat expanse at the bottom of the hill.

Manoela Muraro attended the event before she became the marketing and creative director for the brand.

“I went to the classes before I started working [at King of Pops],” Muraro said. “It’s been fun.”

The rectangular park where the sessions are held sits adjacent to the BeltLine and a small skate park. Runners, bikers and cars continually pass the area and travel the Freedom Parkway bridge above the park. In one corner of the grass, family exercise groups run sprints and relays as they cheer each other on.

As participants settle down, the instructor, Charlie Baxter Graham, calls for new visitors to sign their names in the front of the crowd. Dozens of people swarm her clipboard as others cheerfully chatter.

Many who attend the event come with friends and neighbors from nearby. Tara Macarechi, a producer in Atlanta, happened upon the group months ago.

“I live right at the start of the BeltLine, so I think I walked past it a couple of times, and I was curious who was putting it on,” Macarechi said. “I didn’t know it was King of Pops, and then [I] saw the sign. Me and my neighbors walk every Tuesday together; we’ve been coming for a couple of months now, and it’s been really great.”

DSC_0102(1)
King of Pops originally began offering yoga in the mornings for its employees last year as a way to create a positive work atmosphere.

Baxter Graham, a former employee, helped start the yoga class for her co-workers. The company soon realized that the park space was big enough for others to attend, leading King of Pops to open their class to the public.

“Last year, the most we’d have in a class was 30 to 35 people,” Muraro said.

At the first class this year, the day before the official King of Pops sale season began on Apr. 1, the company offered free popsicles at the yoga class. While the staff expected a turnout of about 60 to 70 people, double the size of a regular class, over 290 participants swarmed the park.

Now, roughly 400 people attend the event each Tuesday.

The event’s popularity is partially due to its location, which sits at the intersection of several neighborhoods. Paris McAllister, a medical student at Morehouse College, moved to Atlanta only a few weeks ago.

“I moved really close off the BeltLine, maybe a mile away from here and my roommate has been here for a year, and she was telling me about it; that it’s right off the BeltLine,” Mcallister said.
Aside from the location, social media and word of mouth attracted more people to the sessions.

Clay Ivey, a federal agent, attends yoga each week with his friend Sara Paramore, a commercial real-estate paralegal. Paramore, who originally learned about the sessions on Facebook, brouht Ivey heard to their first session.

The two, who have been practicing yoga for about a year together, think King of Pops has helped unite the community.

“I think it brings people together,” Paramore said. “I think it’s a great way for people to meet new people, [and to] learn what yoga is.”

Although the King of Pops yoga is a variation of the usual yoga experience, the response from the crowd is positive.

“I was kind of concerned about the amount of people and not being able to see what was going on or hear, but I was able to hear and see perfectly,” Mcallister said. “I came at exactly seven. I was running late, so I was in the back, but it was really good.”

In fact, for many, the number of people makes the event even more valuable. Mcallister, Paramore, Ivey and Astrid Zellner, a property management consultant in Buckhead, have all met friends at the event.

Ivey explains the unique effect this activity has on the city.

“There’s no other event like this,” Ivey said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re in to. In terms of a large group of people getting together, this is pretty much it. Especially on a weekly basis. What I like about this is there’s so many people. The energy is palpable when everybody gets here and is having fun and a good time. It’s very positive.”

Participants find the yoga surprisingly relaxing but challenging.

“I thought it was really nice,” Jordan Morell, a senior at Emory University, said. “I wasn’t expecting this many people to be there, and I wasn’t expecting it to be this difficult because I don’t do yoga, but it was really relaxing.”

The vast majority of people attending the event are not seasoned yoga masters. Baxter Graham creates the routine each week for a variety of levels, so many people can enjoy their experience in the park.

“It has enhanced my Atlanta experience,” Macarechi said. “It’s the kind of thing that makes me love my city and my neighborhood that much more. This is why it’s so cool to live here.”