It’s still early enough on a Saturday morning that the temperature hasn’t risen to an unbearable level, and people start to file into Edgewood Park, where they gather at the steps of the pool and unfurl yoga mats.
Yoga instructor Renee Jackson walks over to a decanter of water infused with cucumbers and lemons that she prepared the night before. She lights a stick of incense and cues up some relaxing flute music on a Bluetooth speaker.
Jackson is kicking off her fourth year of offering free yoga classes in Edgewood Park every Saturday. She’s offering the classes as part of the concept of “seva,” which is a Sanskrit word for service.
“It’s just to give back to the community,” she said.
Jackson teaches yoga at FitLife SportsPlex in McComb and has worked privately with veterans, saying the exercise helps them cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“A lot of VA centers work with yoga,” Jackson said.
The classes in the park are offered from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
Jackson holds class as long as at least five people sign up in advance.
Anyone interested in attending is asked to go to the Mississippi Mud Yoga Facebook page, look up the event and click “going.”
Last weekend, more than a dozen people came to take part in the class. Jackson said she’s had upwards of 25.
“When I first came here, people thought it was just bending and touching your toes,” Jackson said. “There are so many health and mental health benefits to yoga.”
Jackson said Edgewood Park makes for a nice setting to practice yoga.
“It’s always gorgeous out here,” she said. “This space is in the shade all the time.”
Throughout the hour-long class, Jackson walks back and forth on the raised platform by the park’s usually empty pool. She instructs her students by telling them to go from one yoga pose into another.
“Breathe in, breathe out,” she says in a voice as low-key and calming as the flutes playing through her tiny speaker.
There’s no judgment whatsoever, and Jackson often reminds people that in order to get the most out of the practice, they must find inner peace.
“Your mat, your space,” she says.
Jackson recently trained two devotees of the park’s weekly classes, Carrie Brown and Betheny Irland, to become instructors, and they’ll start filling in for her from time to time, she said.
Jackson said yoga is often misunderstood. It’s not a religion, but it is more than flexibility. “This just in general is just a great way for people in general to let the body move and breathe,” she said.
And, she said, after a tense year, who couldn’t benefit from that?
“Coming out of COVID, so many people have been struggling with isolation,” Jackson said. “So many yoga studios shut down or went online. This is all spaced, just a great way to get out.”