IMG_1008 (1)This year March is treating us to some lovely weather making it easy to see that Spring is just about upon us.  It’s time to get in shape for those summer months and enjoy the outside.  Yoga on the Pier is a great way to do both!

Yoga on the Pier is a free (however donations are appreciated) class that runs Monday-Friday at 7am, Monday-Thursday at 6pm and Saturday and Sunday at 9:30am.  Twilight classes are being held this year once a month in accordance with the full moon at 8:30pm on May 9th, June 9th, July 9th, August 7th, September 6th and October 5th.  Classes are held on the race street pier right below the Ben Franklin Bridge. The season officially starts April 2nd and runs through the first weekend of November.

We sat down with Malik Wilson, founder of the program and West Philadelphia native, to learn a little bit more about him, yoga, and the Yoga on the Pier experience.

PH: How did Yoga on the Pier get started?

MW: Yoga On The Pier was an idea hatched by myself and some students in a Sunday class that I used to teach, it was a nice day and we were inside and I was like, “It would sure be nice to do yoga outside somewhere” the students agreed and one of them who sat on a local board brought me a contact to a person at the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.

Yoga on the PierPH: What is your background in yoga?

MK: I was introduced to yoga about 20 or so years ago, by my martial arts teacher. It was a lot different then the vinyasa-influenced style that I teach now which allows me to teach from many intersections, but the objective was pretty much the same, focusing and stilling the mind.

PH: Who is Yoga on the Pier for?

MK:  Everybody will know that this class is for them, this is the 4th year and there are parents who I watched get pregnant, practice throughout the pregnancy, give birth, come to practice with a stroller and lay their mat out and put the child on a blanket and try their best to get their practice on. There are children who regularly run around and play during class and even begin practicing, there is a place in classes for seniors and most important to me is that there are assistants in class, so you can get any needed help as if you were in a private class.

PH: What are the benefits of practicing yoga?

MK: There are a multitude of benefits of yoga, too numerous to name, but there is only one way to take advantage of those benefits and that is through practice. The yoga works, it is a gift in and of itself, it doesn’t need to be gimmicky and promise that this or that will happen (although it will) but not in a lineal sense, even with effort there is still a need for the process.

PH: What are the benefits of practicing outside on the pier?
MK: Outside of the beautiful space and ambiance you can see inclusiveness. If you walk down the street and see an advertisement for yoga, very rarely does it look inclusive or feel inclusive. I remember the first year classes on the weekend began, so many students were coming from Delaware, Ardmore, Cherry Hill and I would recommend different studios to them and they would tell me that they’ve been but the teacher seemed to be teaching only to students they knew and/or that they were speaking funny languages etc. For myself there wasn’t anybody that looked like me when I began teaching and I worked hard to get more men and people of color involved and in the outdoors you can see all of that and more. I struggled with bringing a beginners mind to my teaching and to remember that everybody isn’t just there to do a handstand, and that someone is battling cancer, loss a loved one, or just having some tough times and showing up is a victory for them or a means that allows them to deal.

There is no need to register, although you can join the group “Yoga on the Pier” on Facebook.  Each class is about an hour and they are held rain or shine.  So BYOM (bring your own mat) and get ready to feel the benefits of practicing yoga right under the sky!