Yoga on the Beach
This past weekend, Lululemon Athletica sponsored their second annual Salutation Nation. I missed the first annual in Washington, DC in 2010, but knew once it was announced that I wouldn't miss it in 2011. And I did miss it, in Washington, DC. I went to visit my family in NJ, who I hadn't seen in the last months. I decided I would venture out to the beach and take part in the even with the yoga community in Monmouth County, NJ.
This was the first time that I have ever practiced yoga on the beach. I love taking my yoga practice outside and am always looking for opportunities to do so. There is just something about the energy of being outside. And this first experience on the beach was incredible. I haven't been to the beaches on the jersey shore in nearly 4 years and that last time was for a work training. I had forgotten how incredibly picturesque they can be.
This saturday morning was especially gorgeous... clear blue sky with high and sparse clouds, ocean water slamming against the shore, a light breeze, and firm, clean sand. After the week of rainy, dreary weather, this Saturday morning was a refreshing change. It was completely worth getting up early and making the drive down to the beach.
From my parents' house (where i stay when I'm in NJ), it was about a 35 minute drive and around 20 or so miles away. It's not that far, but it's far enough, and definitely the furthest I've ever gone, just to enjoy a yoga practice. I hadn't taken a yoga class in 2 days and not only was my body craving a practice, but I really wanted to see what a beach practice would feel like. And this practice didn't disappoint in the slightest. The ocean was our music and the sand was our prop.
I visit NJ a lot and as I travel, I like to visit yoga studios in the area, to find studios that I enjoy practicing in. This practice was lead by one of the local lululemon athletica ambassadors, Christian Valeriani of EvenFlowYoga, in Long Branch. His presence and energy were incredible.
The practice started off with a metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation) and an intention for our practice of sending loving-kindness and compassion to all beings was set. The ocean waves in the background and such a calming voice lead us in sending loving-kindness and compassion to others as we sent energy to ourselves, loved ones, difficult individuals in our lives, and all beings on this planet - May all beings be happy; May all beings be healthy; May all beings be free from suffering; May all beings be at ease.
This happens to be one of my preferred meditation techniques and it was very fitting for the weekend of the practice. A weekend of remembering one of the worst events to happen on American soil and that had a significant impact on Monmouth County, the September 11th terrorist attacks. The attacks had a significant impact on this area of NJ. There are many people from here that have found themselves commuting into NYC on a daily basis at one time or another. I was one of them from 2007 to 2009. Many of these individuals worked in and around the towers and not all of them found their way home after the towers fell. I was fortunate that I didn't lose any family or friends in the attack but I know others who did. This meditation was a great way to start the practice; it created a positive, healing energy and somehow, I do think that I felt the energy not only of those practicing on this beach, but of all who were practicing at 9 AM ET as part of this coast to coast event.
After the meditation, the asana (posture) practice began. It was a great gentle, yet challenging flow. I really enjoyed the transitions and hope that I can remember them, as I want to try some of them in my own classes. I recently noticed that I find myself spending more time in classes that I attend listening intently to cuing and paying attention to sequencing that I enjoy than before I started teaching. I've been working on refining how I cue in my own classes and bringing more creativity into my sequences, and I hope to learn something from every class that I attend. On Saturday, I found that the cuing really resonated with me, reminders to breathe and smile, seamlessly woven into directions on coming into and out of the various asanas. I always find it a little awkward cuing smiling in my classes, but I think that I will try these cues and see how they work. Smiling definitely keeps me breathing and I love how it brings a certain lightness to a yoga practice. Smiling helps me to take myself less seriously on the mat and I think it can do the same for others.
Sand created an interesting "floor" to practice on. It definitely brought about a certain instability, that you don't find in a studio, and made getting grounded in balancing asanas a little more challenging. The sand though also served as a unique prop, while it caused instability in the standing balances, it created a luxurious prop for pigeon pose. We formed a mound of sand under our mats and used it in lieu of blankets or blocks to help maintain square hips. I don't think I've ever been in a pigeon that felt that good. My knees felt great and the sand "floor" was much more forgiving than a bamboo or cork floor is. Pigeon isn't always my favorite pose, but Saturday, it was probably my favorite pose of practice. The sand made it easier and more comfortable to open up the hips.
After the wonderful pigeon, as we began to cool down, we were given the option to practice inversions and if we wanted, we could get assists in our inversions (there were 4 teachers assisting the beach practice). So, my ego decided to takeover and I asked for an assist with my forearmstand. I've been working on it (definitely not consistently enough) for more than a few months, and for some reason, thought this was the place to try working on it some more. I managed to get up, but my body was so twisted and the alignment so bad, that even assisted, I had to come out of it almost immediately. The yoga practice was still incredible and this definitely didn't change my perspective on that. However, it did put other things into a little more perspective - (1) practice my inversions in my regular yoga practice (I think there may be a 100 days of headstand and forearmstand in my immediate future) and (2) if I haven't been practicing my inversions away from a wall, don't get the bright idea that a beach yoga practice is the place to start. Lesson learned.
All-in-all, this beach yoga practice was absolutely incredible and I will be looking for more opportunities to practice yoga on the beach in the future. And I have found a yoga studio, that I definitely want to take class at the next time I visit NJ. Yoga on the beach was the perfect start to my Saturday and I can't wait for next year's Salutation Nation, maybe I'll find myself in NJ for hopefully more yoga on the beach.
Have you practiced yoga on the beach? Would you do it again? Any other places you've done yoga outside a studio?