Many Disney cast members, which is what the company calls its employees, are used to getting up and out early to get a jump start on their day. However, thousands of cast members at Disney theme parks around the world took it to extremes on June 21, rising before even the sun to help greet International Yoga Day with a one-of-a-kind class.
And, while the thought of attending a yoga class at 6 a.m. with a few thousand of your co-workers in some of the busiest theme parks in the world may seem a little counterintuitive, Disney employees who attended the one at Walt Disney World couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get a little zen on Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom.
That’s a pretty cool way to start your day, huh?
As the sun rose over the iconic Cinderella Castle, cast members from all around the Walt Disney World resort flooded the hub and down Main Street USA to work out. As soothing music filled the air, which was a bit muggy and in the 70s, two yoga instructors on the castle stage (and a number of assistants around the crowd) led the class into a variety of poses and stretches to start the day with some focus and balance.
Jordan Gibson, who works as a merchandising cast member as part of the Disney College Program, was one of the class members. Just after finishing the class, she mentioned how she hadn’t even gone to bed, yet. But, she didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to participate in the sunrise yoga class in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
“I saw it advertised on our Cast TV,” Gibson said. “And I love yoga. Who gets to say they did something like this? I got to experience something new and exciting.”
The sunrise yoga class is part of Disney’s Be Well initiative. The program encourages cast members to practice personal wellness to improve their own lives through stress reduction and physical activity.
“Our Be Well initiatives…are all designed to create that healthy life balance between work and fitness,” said Disney Ambassador Stephen Lim. “When we service thousands of guests every single day it’s really important that we take care of ourselves first so that we can be the absolute best guest service providers when they come to our parks and results.”
Dana Brady, one of the Magic Kingdom’s main yoga instructors, has been with Walt Disney World for about 20 years. After getting certified to teach yoga about four years ago, she wanted to bring her dream of total wellness to her co-workers.
“Our cast members work so very hard and I know they put a lot of stress on their bodies whether they work in the parks all day or they are seated behind a desk,” Brady said.
So, she and her husband, Adam, began teaching classes to cast members. Disney eventually invited the couple to teach a large group class inside the Magic Kingdom. It became an annual event that has grown in popularity each year.
Fellow Disney cast member Dayne Leukenga said the sunrise yoga class was a fantastic opportunity for a wide range of people to try yoga and realize how it truly can be a great thing for anyone.
“You can start with some very simple, easy poses. So people who haven’t been into athletics or working out in the past can have an ability to jump and get started in it,” Leukenga said. “And then it goes all the way to very expert level and for someone who really wants to try to grow and gain. For me, it’s a sense of well being and centering. It’s a way to de-stress.”
Want to give yoga a try? Disney Parks Blog recorded the live stream of the Magic Kingdom sunrise yoga class so that anyone can join in on the peace, tranquility and yes, even some magical fun.
Walt Disney World’s cast members may have to start bumping that class up even earlier in the near future, as the resort will soon begin letting guests in at 6 a.m.!