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Featured Mini-Grantee | Bergen Hill Park Association

2024-05-09T11:28:30-04:00May 9th, 2024|

Yoga in Bergen Hill Park

Bergen Hill Park Association in Jersey City was created to preserve and expand parkland and green space in the Bergen Hill neighborhood. It strives to achieve a 44% tree canopy and invite the community to experience the park and connect with nature to improve the physical and mental health of all community residents.

The Bergen Hill Park Association applied for the 2023 HealthierJC mini-grant to introduce a free “Yoga in the Park” program. It sought to build a yoga program with an intergenerational focus that would bring together adults, children, and seniors of all ages and abilities in the park. The “Yoga in the Park” curriculum would encompass meditation, deep breathing, creative movement to help build resilience, self-regulation, and healthy habits for life.

 

 

HealthierJC + Bergen Hill Park Association

For Bergen Hill Park Association, building a Culture of Health means leveraging the park’s open space to promote physical and mental well-being, foster positive community interaction, and improve the overall quality of life for residents.

 

Studies have shown that starting a yoga habit, even 10 minutes a day, can help improve mood, lower anxiety, and have a positive effect on mental health.

Bergen Hill Park Association understands the importance of introducing “Yoga in the Park” to help low-income, underserved Ward F neighborhoods combat environmental stress and trauma.

It also understands the value of experiencing yoga and meditation in a safe and ecologically healthy urban park environment. In alignment with HealthierJC’s community health priorities, Bergen Hill Park Association seeks to provide programs to improve mental health, manage chronic conditions, and address health disparities in a safe, scenic, and serene outdoor environment.

 

How was the Mini-Grant Used?

In 2023, the HealthierJC mini-grant funded a series of free “Yoga in the Park” sessions conducted in Bergen Hill Park. The mini-grant paid for three “Yoga in the Park” instructors, yoga mats, water, and water bottles. The community benefitted from these sessions in the following ways:

  • By offering yoga sessions in a public park, the practice of yoga became more accessible to a broader audience…
  • Yoga brought the community together – all ages, races, nationalities, and creeds – to participate in a shared activity.
  • Participants learned mindfulness, balance, sense of accomplishment, and personal agency.
  • Young people had opportunities to volunteer, develop job skills, and forge community connections.

The Bergen Hill Park Association estimates that “Yoga in the Park” served some 45-50 people, attended by 6-8 people per class. Most participants were from Ward F, and included a representative mix of minority, women, senior, children, and low-income residents.

    
Making a Difference…

“‘Yoga in the Park’ is a very useful way to relieve anxiety, meet friends, and interact with nature.”
— Irina Shalaeva, Founder and President, Bergin Hill Park Association

Free outdoor yoga contributes to building a community “where health and wellness are not mere aspirations but everyday realities, woven into the fabric of our community’s life,” Shalaeva said.

“During Covid, people were sitting home and not communicating, and not interacting with people, and we were trying to get people to use the park to its full capacity, not just for movies or Halloween. After Covid, people enjoyed practicing yoga in an open space, which also had the advantage of being accessible and free.”

She recalled a bright-eyed six-year-old girl with an insatiable love for dancing, twirling through a yoga session. As her mother sought balance amid the chaos of everyday life, the child’s joy was infectious and a reminder that yoga is not just about perfect poses – it’s about joy and togetherness.

Interested in Yoga in the Park? Visit the Bergin Hill Park Association website: