Monsanto Park attracting record numbers

LISBON’S LUNG, Monsanto Park, is attracting more and more city dwellers, anxious to escape the stress and strains of city living.

Once considered unsafe, Monsanto is now a popular weekend destination for people practising yoga, tai-chi, chi-kung, as well as scouts and nature trailers.

In response to this trend, Lisbon Câmara has launched its healthy outdoors lifestyle initiative, ‘Relax in Monsanto’, which seems to be attracting people of all ages and backgrounds from all over Greater Lisbon. The programme runs on Sunday mornings at the Montes Claros gardens, where participants, who average between 150 and 200, are welcomed with relaxing oriental music and guidance from specially trained teachers on hand in each of the main relaxation techniques.

“The classes have been very well attended and have attracted far more people than we had anticipated,” said Alexandre Guedes, from Lisbon Technical University’s Physical Activity and Education Department. “At the first session, launched on May 29, 80 people turned up, whereas now there are well over 100, if not double that!”

For an hour-and-a-half, participants are all eyes on the instructors, following their gestures, learning posture techniques and carrying out the exercises designed to give maximum physical benefit in the most relaxing and stress-free manner possible.

“The very fact that we are holding these classes in well planned and relaxing gardens attracts people and ensures they come back the following week,” said Alexandre.

Yoga, by far the most popular class, has been around for 5,000 years in India and works by balancing the mind and body, and training participants to improve both their breathing and relaxation techniques. Treating the body as a whole, yoga gently manipulates the muscles, bones and other organs with its core philosophy aimed at the harmonisation of man with his natural environment. C.G.