The Great Outdoors (of Alexandria)

Remember that line Jack says to Rose as she is standing on the back of the Titanic threatening to jump? “You seem like kind of an indoor girl.” That’s me. I’m an indoor girl. Yes, I may spend all day at the beach or the pool in the summers, but I’ve only been camping maybe twice in my life and I rarely go on hikes. Well, that was true until the pandemic hit.

During lockdown, I tried to think of how my family could safely leave the house for an activity. One of the only parks open was Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, VA. This park saved us, especially me and my dog Sansa. For us (my dog is lazy), Sky Meadows is like an edition of that do-it-yourself series, “Hiking for Dummies.” The trails are clearly marked, they’re given a degree of difficulty much like a ski resort marks their trails with symbols, and it’s not far outside the city, just about an hour. Some weeks during quarantine, I would drive out there last minute, just my dog and me. My anxiety would quell, vital signs would stabilize, and a sense of hope would emerge. I could breathe. Like I said… being outside saved me. Bonus: on the way back home, I’d hop off Rt. 66 and drive into the Town of Vienna to visit my favorite pie shop, Pie Gourmet (I highly recommend the Chicken Pot Pie).




So once Virginia started to reopen, shifting many of Mind the Mat’s programming outdoors seemed like a no-brainer to this once “Indoor Girl.” Since we are a Pilates and Yoga studio… all we need is space and what better space than outside in nature within our favorite city.

Here’s why moving outside in a group amplifies the benefits of exercise and our health:

  1. We are pack animals; we flourish in group exercise classes: It’s thrilling to watch people reconnect even if it’s from 15 feet away. I watched Nicole Jones in class this past Saturday and she was radiant with a smile I hadn’t seen since March. This outdoor opportunity is a chance for us to be together safely and with a common goal.
  2. It’s like being a kid again, and that’s good for our brains: Studies show that as adults, “play” has many benefits, including improved focus, energy, mood, and boosted creativity. Who doesn’t need that right now with the monotony of virtual school and Zoom-filled work? There’s something about the smell of the grass, looking up at the sky, feeling the occasional raindrops on your skin, that makes you feel like a kid outside playing with your friends. You better be home in time for dinner!
  3. Direct contact with the Earth improves our immune system: Concrete, synthetic flooring, rubber shoes, and even our yoga mats separate us from the Earth and its ability to neutralize free radicals within our bodies. Having direct contact with the ground, barefoot preferably, reduces inflammation, reduces stress, improves sleep, and our ability to fight off infections. I know it’s groundbreaking! Haha! For more on the grounding benefits of Earth, read Earthing: The most important health discovery ever! By Clinton Ober, Stephen Sinatra, M.D. and Martin Zucker.



So, join us outdoors all through the year; yes, we’ll even have outside classes in the winter. One of my long-time Saturday morning bootcampers said to me recently, “It’s going to get cold. How are we handling this?” I responded, “We’re putting on coats.” For our current schedule of classes, including all Outdoor Classes, click here.

Also… join me this Saturday at Lost Boy Cider for a fun “Sit-ups, SideAss, & Cider” workshop. Can’t make it? Catch Sara VanderGoot at Lost Boy on Halloween for “Namaste Witches.” Can you see we are trying to keep things light? See all workshops here.


  • The latest from Megan
Megan Brown, physical therapist, Pilates instructor, mother and co-founder of Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga in Alexandria, VA, likes to goof around. Yet her commitment to her students and her skill set in the field is no joke. After graduating from University of Virginia with a degree in Sports Medicine, Megan went on to receive her Masters in Physical Therapy and eventually her Doctorate in the profession. Although Pilates was never part of the plan, the method changed the way she treated patients, positively re-directed her career path and enhanced her own active lifestyle. Customized Pilates instruction is her specialty–she designs classes based on clients needs: athletes, new moms, rehabilitation or just for fun (why be serious all the time?). Pilates + Yoga is the best of both worlds, hence the creation of Mind the Mat studios providing classes for all—in every walk of life.

Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.

Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.     

2214 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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