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Connecting with nature through yoga

WESTFIELD – For area residents who are seeking a way to connect with nature – as well as nourish one’s mind, body and soul – there is still time to enjoy “Fall Yoga in the Park” at Stanley Park.

Westfield resident Jacqueline T. Funaro is leading the Wednesday evening classes from 5 – 6 p.m. on the acre lawn behind the Rose Garden. 

Funaro notes that the Angel of Independence monument provides the backdrop for the gathering. The monument was a gift from Stanley Home Products sales persons from Mexico on Oct. 25, 1958. The monument is a replica of The Angel of Independence in Mexico City which stands for liberty and freedom. The base is Vermont marble and stands 30 feet tall.

Jacqueline T. Funaro uses the Angel of Independence monument as a backdrop to her yoga classes at Stanley Park. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

“Come and discover what yoga is,” said Funaro, who is a 500-hour advanced yoga teacher. “Being surrounded by nature is the best way to make a connection with your mind, body, and soul, and be empowered.”

Funaro, a dental hygienist by day, has offered this program for three years at Stanley Park. She will be wrapping up yoga classes this month on Sept. 16 and 23 and noted gatherings are designed for all levels of yoga practitioners and all abilities are welcome.

“Outdoor yoga is awesome,” said Funaro, adding, “by laying outside in nature it helps to calm your mind and allows you to settle your body to enjoy and experience the moment.”

Funaro noted she begins each class with a brief history of Frank Stanley Beveridge who co-founded Stanley Park.

“Frank loved nature and understood the importance of open spaces for people to gather,” she said. “Stanley Park is a great place to do yoga.”

Funaro said she encourages everyone to take in the sensations and smells of the park as one relaxes and concentrates on their breathing and mindful meditation during the class instruction.

“We will listen to the bells, the birds, and take in the smells surrounding us,” she said.

Participants are asked to bring their own mat, water, a small towel and any props as needed, as well as wear comfortable and stretchy clothes. Social distancing is required and all mats will need to be a minimum of six feet apart.

Donations to the park are welcome, with a suggested donation of $5 per person per class. Everyone is reminded to wear a face mask and practice social distancing at the registration table when checking in for class.

Funaro said her sessions are perfect for anyone ages 9 and older, however, children must be accompanied by an adult.

“I say come as you are and discover what yoga is,” said Funaro. “A lot of people are at a crossroads especially with the pandemic and people want to feel connected.”

Funaro said yoga means “union” and can be as simple as standing, quieting oneself in the moment, and being aware of your inner voice.

“Take an hour for yourself in a safe place,” she added.

Due to social distancing protocols by the state, class size is limited to 30 people per class. All participants must complete a registration form from the Stanley Park website – – and then email the form to [email protected]. Classes will be filled on a first come, first served basis. The registration form only needs to be completed once, however, pre-registration by emailing or calling the office is required each week.

For more information on registration, call (413) 568-9312, ext. 108 or 112, to reserve a space in the class of your choice.

For next year, Funaro is hopeful she will be able to expand her classes at Stanley Park, as well as seek out other ways to introduce yoga to the masses. Currently, she also offers classes at the YMCA of Greater Westfield on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 a.m.

“I want to open it up to different age groups and will be meeting with members of the Westfield Parks and Recreation Department soon to discuss options,” said Funaro, adding, “I’m looking forward to offering more outdoor yoga in the future.”

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