Come With Me

Dec 08, 2023 by Amber McClain Shaw, in Blog Posts

Come with me to beach yoga.

It’s not exactly raining, but it’s not not-raining. The air is sparkling, with millions of minuscule water droplets, just visible, obeying gravity but doing a little dance on the way to the ground. The light is diffuse, through clouds and fog swirling. Yes, a hat is a good idea, even if it won’t stay on your head once you are upside down.

Climb down to the beach but hug the side of the cliff, there is no railing. One step at a time, take it slow. On the narrow strip of sand between the lake of stagnant runoff and the pounding waves, there are just two of us. We greet the instructor and collectively gaze at the pounding foamy waves, so different from the sunny calm of last week. Another yogi arrives. We check the tide chart. Rising, or receding? Can you feel that vibration from waves pounding the point, in your body? Look out! Grab your stuff! A wave has washed up and covered the entire beach with white water. We can’t do yoga here today. Let’s make a hasty retreat back up the steps and regroup at another beach.

The other beach looks just as wet. See how the sand is saturated, smooth, and soft as we sink into it. Listen to the rumbling sound of the huge waves, a constant, rather than a usual rhythm. There are just four of us and an instructor. There are two others on the beach, doing their own thing. Greet them both with a wave that says, “I’m here too.” Let’s set our mats close together, over here, and let’s all be sideways to the ocean so our instructor doesn’t have to have her back to the water. Roll out your mat.

Stand on your mat and begin. Become aware of your feet connected to the earth. Stretch your arms up, stretch out your side body. Bring your navel in. Let the crown of your head reach toward the sky. Do not be unsettled by the roiling power of the unpredictable water threatening to come to sweep you away. Water is also falling on you in a way that now qualifies as rain. Listen for the instructor’s guiding words. Focus. Even though she is close to you, the roaring waves are canceling her words like white noise. Go ahead and express your worry over the human playing in the dangerous surf over there, rolling around, laying down, and letting the water wash over him. Let the others reassure you that he is living his best life. And he is. Watch him; he is dancing, he is doing bridge pose, he is rolling with seaweed, he is playing with sticks. He is smoking. Let yourself say out loud, “He is the teacher now.” You have lost your focus. Come back to your own body. Take a deep breath. Warrior’s pose, let your shoulder blades come down your back.

This is your awesome yoga instructor. The guy behind her is not in the class.

Take your right leg over your left and hold a twist. In this position, you are massaging your inner organs. In this position, you can see the other person enjoying the energy of the ocean. Facing him, you can just hear his music. Go ahead. Yes, you can hold a twist and dance at the same time. Watch him dancing with a short rope in each hand. The ropes have what looks like weights or balls on the end. Is he smoking too? You have lost your focus again. Bring your navel to your spine, and twist the other way.

Your mat is wet and your hair is wet, you are surrounded by so much water energy. Your lips and fingers taste like salt. Your camel pose is the shape of a rainbow. Your runner’s lunge is deep, your legs are strong.

At the end, the instructor calls you badass. One of your fellow yogis wants to get her feet wet. The surf is so big. Stay and make sure she is safe. As she kneels in the icy water, take her picture. She is a mother of four, her youngest a nursing infant. She is radiant and brave and so are you. 

Now let’s go get a cappuccino and warm up. The next yoga class on the beach is Saturday. Come with me.