A centuries-old niche discipline, yoga has erupted in recent years into a mainstream exercise focused on fitness of the mind, body and spirit.
“It’s a combination of strength and flexibility, but you have a deeper sense of well-being because of the connectedness within it,” says Connie Beaudoin, who opened her Parasutra yoga studio in Palm Beach in 2006.
In South Florida, yogis are discovering their mind-body connection in studios, the ocean and even the air.
Tasha McWilliams combined her passion for yoga with paddleboarding and last summer launched Tasha’s Yoga Boarding, conducting private sessions in the ocean, the Intracoastal or clients’ homes.
“If people are nervous, I’ll ask them: How big is your pool?” McWilliams says.
Given the unique setting, some poses are modified for the paddleboard, like standing positions that are instead taught lying down. McWilliams says the lessons can improve in-studio practice because the board’s instability forces participants to concentrate on their breath and core for balance. Placing their hands in the water, or even falling in, adds a refreshing feeling to the experience.
|Tasha McWilliams instructs yoga on a paddleboard, usually in north Palm Beach County. “You leave dripping and covered in saltwater instead of sweat,” she laughs. “It’s so refreshing for your soul to be outside in the fresh air, and to experience paddleboard yoga is almost like playtime.”|
“Physically, it’s easier than most people imagine. But mentally, people hold themselves back,” McWilliams says.
From the sea to the air, yogis can take flight at the Bamboo Garden Yoga studio in Delray Beach, where Defy Gravity Yoga instructs aerial yoga classes, which involve performing poses in silk hammocks suspended from the ceiling. “It’s a little bit of Cirque du Soleil and traditional yoga,” says instructor Lisa Midlarsky, who says the practice can decompress the spine, release chronic tension and help with circulation.
“You tone yourself upside down and do poses you’d never be able to do on the ground,” she adds. “But the biggest thing about it is it’s fun. Unlike regular yoga, laughter is encouraged.”
No matter the variation, yoga can help practitioners tone, gain strength and flexibility and destress. Beaudoin says the yoga mat can also be a place of healing for various injuries, which is how trainer and Bamboo Garden instructor Joy Moates-Homan discovered the discipline. “There’s a place for all yoga in everyone’s life,” she says. “Do it all, and get the best thing for your body.”
Paddleboard Yoga Photos by David Scarola