COAST STAR: YOGA PROVIDES RELEASE FOR BOTH BODY & MIND
BY: NICK MALFITANO
I arrived on the Trenton Boulevard beach in Sea Girt this past Saturday as the sun began to rise, partially obscured by the blue-grey clouds. The slight ocean breeze revealed the warm weather that was headed our way as I placed my blanket down on the sand. The waves gently broke on the dawn shoreline, and in one brief moment, I considered the notion that Paradise may look something like this. On this beautiful day, I was ready to experience something at age 26 that I had only seen previously in gym training rooms and on the cover of workout DVD’s: a session in yoga instruction.
I was told that Kathleen Davis conducted the classes in conjunction with the Sea Girt Recreation Department. My fellow participants arrived shortly after me, with blankets in hand and personal fitness in mind. Ms. Davis soon followed them, greeting an enthusiastic group of roughly one dozen. She was smiling and ready to lead us through this exercise, as the sun began to reveal itself through its cloudy visor.
As I mentioned previously, I had never done yoga before, and at the session’s opening my self-consciousness admittedly got the best of me. Rather than absorbing the rich details of a new experience, I was instead concerned whether or not my lanky frame was contorting itself in ways that passersby might find foolish. Or worse, that I might encounter an old demon: a severe groin pull that cut short my sure path to the NBA (well, it was a sure path in my dreams) where I had hoped to follow in the sneaker-wearing footsteps of my hero, Larry Bird.
Thankfully, I was soon able to focus on the task at hand, and put all delusions of both immature derision and lost basketball glory aside.
After a series of preliminary stretches and breathing exercises which were designed to harness our chakra, or energy centers, Ms. Davis had us take it up a notch with the first downward-facing dog position. This involves flexing your body into an inverted V-shape, with an arch in your back.
It was here that I ran into my first real stumbling block.
Though I listened carefully to Ms. Davis's instructions, the stance was awkward at first, and I'm sure that I resembled someone who was about to lose a push-up contest as opposed to an earnest yoga student. To my relief, Ms. Davis helped me make some adjustments, and I was able to complete the pose. This downward-facing dog had just learned a new trick, and was pretty happy about it.
It had been my assumption for years that yoga was strictly a physical regimen of stretches, but something that surprised me from this experience was the level of awareness it brought to my mind, as well. It was not just the breeze washing over me now, but also a feeling of total relaxation and calm. It was as if I had somehow acquired an inner peace that consumed me, body and spirit.
As the session continued, all of my thoughts, tensions and admitted self-conscious nature erased themselves into nothingness.
After the class, I met several individuals who had participated with me: Tony Raiola, a volunteer at Morristown Memorial Hospital who was so inspired by a prior session that he wrote a poem about it titled simply “Yoga On The Beach;” Pat Noodt, whose taking up yoga helped to cure her of severe sciatica issues; members of the Davies family of Sea Girt, who exalted both the town and the virtues of starting the day with such a wonderful exercise.
Later, Ms. Davis elaborated on the benefits of what yoga could bring to both my life, and the lives of the other participants.
“The secret of yoga lies in the fact that it deals with the entire person, and not just one aspect. It is concerned with growth — physical, mental, moral and spiritual. It develops forces that are already within you, and the transition is so gradual that you may not even be aware of it until you realize that a change in you has already taken place,” she said.
She claims change would occur if one consistently applied the yoga and meditation principles we learned on a daily basis for two consecutive weeks. After this introduction, I am certainly willing to try.
If you want to see what it feels like too, simply arrive at the Trenton Boulevard Beach in Sea Girt at 7 a.m. on any morning June through September --- it may be a positive, life-altering decision for you, as it was for me.