In West Philadelphia he was born and raised. But it was not on the playground that he spent most of his days. Meet Malik Wilson, the man who started the massive movement, Yoga on the Pier on the Delaware River Waterfront.
“We literally have people from the water all the way out to Columbus Boulevard, which made me start having assistants on standby,” said Wilson. “This year we even have a paid intern from Project HOME.”
Yoga on the Pier is a daily donation-optional yoga class on Race Street Pier taught by a range of teachers in ages and specialties from all over the city during the warmer months, typically from April to November. There is a yoga class every day of the week, some in the mornings and some in the evenings. Just show up with your yoga mat, water, towel and sunscreen.
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“I’ve taught over 35 classes a week for years,” Wilson said. “Yoga on the Pier is a space for the teacher to not just develop but interact with real people, know your students and get off of social media.”
The outdoors class gives teachers a wide range of students to interact with, he said.
“There are people who can’t afford healthcare, and doing yoga was recommended,” he said. “I have deaf people who come to class and lip-read. I have students of different ethnic backgrounds whose parents or grand parents don’t speak English but their children translate for them. There is an even mixture of men, women and children from every age.”
Wilson, who was introduced to yoga by a martial arts instructor in 1985, said he connected him with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, which hosts the class, by one of his students. The idea sprang up after taking a class for a stretch outdoors.
“I taught a class on Sundays at a studio in Old City that was kind of dark and dreary and it was really nice outside, so I said something about doing yoga outside,” he said. “The class agreed and the next week [a student] brought me the contact.”
Race Street Pier was a perfect public space next to non-profit Delaware River Waterfront Corporation because five years ago, there wasn’t much down there.
“I was told that whatever I do, that it must remain a public space,” said Wilson. “What if I used the pier as a private space? It would have never went anywhere and would have been exclusive rather than inclusive. … I trusted that the students would support us, and would tell the teachers that you’ll do better here off donations then you’ll do at any studio for the same amount of time.
Wilson went on to start Yoga On The Pier and added Yoga On The Banks, which he no longer runs, the next year, as part of “this idea of having the city covered from river to river,” he said.
His yoga philosophy is low on stress, high on the practice itself.
“Keep it simple. And if you got to fart, then you should,” he said. “People are too caught up with appearances and how someone is going to perceive them.”
Not only is yoga good for the mind, body and soul, but attendees can get discounts at nearby restaurants after class. Visit http://www.delawareriverwaterfront.com for more info.