Despite temperatures in the low 90s early Tuesday morning, the day was cool under the oak trees near the entrance of the McAllen Nature Center. There a group of 24 adults were participating in a yoga class, one of the programs offered by the center during the summer.
“Thank your body for everything it was capable of doing today, give yourself some love,” the instructor, Matthew Morales, told his students at the end of the hour-long class.
Matthew Morales, center, teaches a yoga class Tuesday at the McAllen Nature Center. Progress Times photo by Jose De Leon III
“Yoga Under the Oaks” is one of a dozen programs the nature center, located west on Ware Road on Business 83, provides to residents during the summer. The center also provides Tai Chi in the park on Saturdays, a Sunset Nature Walk along the center’s mile-long trail, accessible to people with disabilities, and a crafts night every Thursday.
Marielena Lopez, a Mission resident, has been attending the yoga classes for the past year to deal with a back injury she said she’s recovered from as a result from her yoga sessions.
“It’s a marvelous place here,” Lopez said of the center. “Taking these yoga classes here is so relaxing, it fills you with a sense of tranquility that makes me feel good.”
According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga can lessen chronic pain such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome as well as leading to lower blood pressure and a reduction in insomnia.
Morales, the instructor of the class, says his students always walk away from class completely relaxed.
“At the end, I see them be more peaceful as their body strengthens and their mind relaxes,” he said. “I feel like going out in nature calms the mind. Nature has a way of relaxing you so it adds to the element of yoga. Out here you’re under rustling leaves, feel the wind and hear the birds, it has a peaceful effect on you.”
Tiffany Kersten, the recreation supervisor for the McAllen Nature Center, says the outdoor activities are beneficial to the public.
“A study from the Department of Environmental Conservation says at least 20 minutes of outdoor activities can provide health benefits,” Kersten said. “So that’s why it’s important people visit here and take a half hour walk to take advantage of the center.”
That same study said the health benefits of staying outdoors includes a reduction in stress and blood pressure and an increase in energy levels.
Because the Valley is at the “intersection” of three different migratory flight paths for birds, the center is a popular destination for birdwatchers as 205 species of birds have been spotted there, Kersten said.
The McAllen Nature Center is open every day this summer from 8 a.m. through noon and reopens at 5 p.m. and closes at sunset. Entrance to the center is free but Kersten recommends each visitor donate at least $1 to the center.