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They arrived before the sunrise, their yoga mats in hand as they headed toward the Cinderella Castle, three hours before Disney’s Magic Kingdom opened.
The world’s busiest theme park briefly became a yoga studio as more than 1,000 Disney cast members took a free, 45-minute class as part of the company’s wellness program.
Behind them, Main Street USA was almost deserted. No lines. No strollers to dodge. No vendor selling giant balloons. Just silence.
“This is night and day,” said cast member Erica Zeyn, 22, of Orlando, comparing the serene scene with the typical crowds and noises at the park.
Instead of the usual theme-park songs, there was Zen-like instrumental music playing as the cast members stretched on the ground. They formed an entire loop around the castle, past the famous statue of Walt Disney.
Part of the appeal was snapping the perfect Instagram photo, said Daniel Chang, 23, of Orlando.
“What more magical place could you be doing (yoga)?” asked Chang, a host at Grand Floridian Resort’s spa.
The sun rose over the castle, the sky turning a faint pale pink and blue. The park was so quiet, ducks quacking overhead stood out. It was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
“Feel strong and powerful to begin your day,” instructor Adam Brady told them, standing on the stage usually reserved for Mickey Mouse.
Make sure to breathe, Brady reminded them.
“This is a great way to energize yourself every morning,” said the other yoga teacher, Dana Brady, whose directions were Disneyfied: Turn your body and face Tomorrowland, she said.
At least one cast member had worked the overnight shift caring for wildlife at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and then headed straight into the yoga session that started at 6 a.m.
One woman did her poses without taking off her rose-colored mouse ears.
It was the third annual free class Disney has offered at the Magic Kingdom to encourage cast members to be healthy.
It was Zeyn’s first summer working at Disney, and by 7 a.m. the temperature already approached 80 degrees. She must maintain her happy disposition even in the humidity as she works at Pandora — The World of Avatar, where lines are long and the park is crowded.
Yoga helps, she said.
“It’ll help me keep my center balance,” said Zeyn who woke up at 3:30 a.m. to attend the class. “This was the most calm thing in my week.”
Added Candice Dillon, 35, of Haines City, “It helps ground me and be present in this moment. I’m here in front of the castle, and I’m doing yoga.”