Yoga hasn’t always been a part of my life. When I was a grad student in my twenties, I used to look at the older women (in their thirties and forties!) doing yoga at my health club and wonder why anyone would want to do that. It seemed so…tame, gentle, BO-ring.
But when I took it up myself 16 years ago, myself in my thirties and looking for something new to try (this was before it got trendy), I learned to appreciate the slow steady gains in strength, flexibility, and balance that came with a regular yoga practice.
The thing is, I believe in yoga and its many benefits. Despite that, when my triathlon training got more serious a couple of years ago, it started to edge yoga out of my life. First I dropped my regular Tuesday morning yoga class, easily part of my schedule for a decade, because of a time conflict with swim training. Then, I let go of my unlimited hot yoga pass because running took up more of my time at the end of the day and on weekends.
Before long, I hardly did yoga anymore. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized how I’ve missed it. I’m going to hot yoga a bit more on weekends now. But just last week, on a sailing vacation in the Bahamas, I totally fell for yoga all over again. On the beach, no less.
I’ve never quite understood why anyone would want to do yoga on a beach. Those photos you see in magazines, where they’re on cliffs with the ocean in the background, or on a sandy beach doing dancer’s pose, just seemed so staged to me. Isn’t it too hot to do yoga on a beach (nevermind that I already do hot yoga in a studio!)? Too sandy?
Well, last week that all changed. Most mornings on Stocking Island in the Exumas, you can catch a 9 a.m. yoga class with Agnes under the shade of a big tree on Volleyball Beach. I’d heard her come on the Cruiser’s Net every morning to say she’s teaching a yoga class, but it wasn’t until this time that I decided to go check it out with my friend, Cindi (the same Cindi who was with me when I wrote about muscles and aging women’s bodies last week).
About twelve people came the first time we went. Agnes took a rake to smooth out the sand and then everyone set up their mats or towels facing her, with the water lapping up onto the shore every so gently behind us. A perfect breeze, not stiff but steady, neither hot nor cold, kept us cool through the class.
Agnes took us through a variety of postures, including several sun salutations (what I have come to know as “flows” these days) and the warrior series. She gave guidance but also left us in silence from time to time. During one of these times, in a wide-legged forward bend, I had one of those moments where everything seemed to be just as it should be. The stretch was exactly what I needed. That breeze seemed to whisper soothing words into my ear. The sand felt warm on the tips of my fingers as they spilled off the edge of my mat.
After the 90 minute class, Cindi and I kayaked over to the big beach on the other side (so idyllic) for a long, leisurely swim. Here’s the big beach on the ocean side of Stocking Island:
I don’t know if it was the yoga, the great company, the calm water on the big beach side of Stocking Island, being able to do yoga in a swimsuit, or some combination of everything. But both Cindi and I felt so totally relaxed, yet strong.
That was enough to get me back out to yoga, this time with Renald joining me, a couple of days later when our friends had left. Here’s Renald getting ready to do Agnes’s yoga class with me, under the big tree. Those are our mats:
The whole thing so inspired me that this time, when we kayaked over to the big beach, I couldn’t stop! To get over to the open ocean side of the island, you need to walk up to the top of a ridge and then back down again. If you want, you can take a little trail over to a bench that overlooks the beach.
We went over to that bench and it seemed like a perfect spot to do a bit more yoga and take some pictures. It occurs to me now that there actually is something special about doing yoga on a beach, or anywhere outside in nature. It gives an added sense of freedom and energy.
Here are some pictures from my impromptu yoga photo shoot, atop the ridge overlooking the big beach.
Never again will I question why or whether anyone actually does yoga on the beach. It’s an excellent place to re-connect with your inner yogi. I know I did!