The image is one of contrasts -- small human figures, bending, stretching, and contorting into yoga poses, against a backdrop of huge, rigid iron and glass buildings, standing erect.
The setting is perhaps symbolic, a swath of quiet green overlooking the urban center, which for some participants is the site of the daily tensions that drive their yoga practice.
While engaging in yoga out of doors is a millenia-old experience, in the modern context it is typically done in sterile, climate controlled studios, sequestered away from the outside world, including the errant critter that may wander through a set of sun salutations.
But that's part of the fun of melding "oms" and the outdoors, according to Kristi Rogers, director of BYS Yoga on the South Side.
Rogers, who founded the East Carson Street studio in 2002, has offered outdoor yoga classes since 2006 in a small parklet at SouthSide Works, and in Grandview Park on Mount Washington during the spring and summer. The classes have become some of Rogers' most popular annual offerings, allowing participants the chance to connect with the outdoors.
"So much of yoga is about awareness, and taking it outside is another level of awareness that most people don't get enough of anymore," she said. "As Americans and adults, we're conditioned to an indoor environment. We used to be people that were outside all the time, and now it's almost like a luxury to be outside and touch the grass. We've become so accustomed to not being in touch with outdoors and the ground. This kind of brings it back to that. It's nice being outside seeing clouds move and dance."
Stephanie Gonzales of Mt. Lebanon, a regular attendee of the outdoor sessions, enjoys the chance to get outdoors.
"At work, I'm tethered to a phone, in front of a computer, in a sea of cubicles with white noise, so just being outside and tuning into nature -- hearing the birds chirping or some rustling leaves while I'm doing yoga -- is an added relief," she said.
The middle of Mt. Washington and the South Side don't exactly provide the seclusion of the Allegheny National Forest. Nonetheless, Gonzales, who practices near SouthSide Works -- which can be busy with shoppers, joggers, bikers, traffic and construction on a Saturday morning -- embraces the potential for distraction.
"It's easy to go to the beach and tune into the ocean, or to go to the countryside and tune into crickets," she said. "When overwhelmed with hustle, bustle and noise pollution, you need to train yourself to touch natural elements you'd otherwise miss in an urban area: birds chirping by in the middle of the Hot Metal Bridge, a bee buzzing by, a dog barking"
Gonzales says that's her favorite part of outdoor yoga.
"It's just like the stretching ... where you're forcing yourself to relax," she said. "You're retraining your ears to truly focus only on certain things."
The outdoor setting also lends itself to an informality, which is good for new students, parents who want to bring their children to yoga classes, and the occasional unexpected guest. Rogers was teaching an outdoor class in Schenley Plaza near Pitt's campus when a groundhog scurried through the proceedings.
Rogers says the urban-yet-bucolic setting of Grandview Park is the best place she's ever practiced yoga -- inside or out -- including a Hawaiian beach and a New York City park.
"Being perched above the city with the hum of Downtown below you, with the sun shining on you and a cool breeze," she said. "It can't be beat. It's the most incredible place I've ever practiced. There's just something magical about it."
Dan Gigler can be reached at 412-263-1884 and email@example.com .