I’ll never forget the summer I got my driver’s license. I practically lived at Horseneck Beach. Back then (way back then), packing for a lazy day at the beach meant throwing a towel and a battery-operated radio in my car. Two kids and a beach buggy later, prepping for the beach is a 90-minute ordeal. And once we get there, it’s less R&R and more S.O.S.
So when I walk towards Newport’s First Beach with just a towel and a water bottle in early August to try beach yoga, I yearned for another carefree summer day. But it’s a Wednesday morning; after my hour session, I need to head into work. As I approach the class hosted by Innerlight Center for Yoga and Meditation, the venerable studio based in Middletown, I’m taken by how serene it is at 8am. Christine, that morning’s instructor, greets me and I blurt out that it’s been a few years since I’ve done yoga. “No worries,” she calmly says. “Just be sure to sit close enough to hear and see me.” There goes hiding in the back, I think as I clumsily position my towel between two women. As I scan the class – about 15 women and one man – I wonder which pose will cause me to face plant in the sand.
The yogis and I are lined up facing Christine and the ocean. With the exception of a few joggers, we’re the only ones on Easton’s. Christine begins the class, instructing us in her ever-so-soothing voice to take breaths, close our eyes and “take an inward glance.” And with that simple prompt I’m no longer worried about making a fool of myself or fixating on the workload ahead of me. I’m in the moment, enjoying the mind-easing experience.
Christine gently shifts instructions, easing into meditations and poses. As it gets progressively more difficult, I’m impressed that I’m actually keeping up with her and the class. And though Christine offers alternative positions with the challenging poses, I’m so focused that I don’t need the modifications. “Our classes typically move slowly with a balance of alignment instruction and inspirational teaching,” Kim Chandler, director of Innerlight, tells me later. “Students are encouraged to move along at their own pace.”
All along, I’m experiencing the beach in a whole new way. The sounds of the waves, the feeling of the sand beneath my posed arms and legs, the smell of salty air – it’s an all- out sensory experience like no other. It’s so far from my “normal” days of chasing kids, applying and reapplying four kinds of sunscreen, and picking sand out of sandwiches. I think about how it’s been a long time (a very long time) since I’ve had a connection to my natural surroundings, and how uncomplicated and peaceful it is.
As the session comes to an end and Christine asks us to “feel gratitude for beach yoga,” I’m reminded about how yoga is a discipline for the body, mind and spirit. Thanks to Madonna and Gwyneth, we can all see the strong and lean effect yoga can have on the body. And though my muscles felt sore in a good way post-workout, it’s really the serene feeling that took over me that I found the most meaningful. I thank Christine for the amazing session, and shrug as I tell her that I’m heading to work. “Just take in what you can,” she says, smiling, and I do.