I’m not what you’d call an addictive personality.
I can cork a bottle after savoring a glass or two of pinot noir. I’ve been known to keep a bag of caramel-filled Dove chocolates in my cupboard for weeks. And I’ve even managed to resist the coveted iPhone 4, despite the insufferably slow speed at which my 3G now functions following that regrettable software update.
But when it comes to frolicking outdoors, I require a strong dose on a very regular basis. Cabin fever strikes me easily, and nothing else seems to cure it like a session of physical activity, spiked with sun, trees, and a gentle breeze.
When I lived in New York City and spent the majority of my waking hours amidst reams of legal documents on the 49th floor of the Met Life Building, I would go to great lengths to cavort somewhere other than Equinox’s claustrophobic cluster of elliptical machines.
On a rare summer Saturday when I wasn’t cloistered in my office, for example, I’d schlep uptown on the steamy subway to borrow my parents’ car and brave the outbound city traffic to meander through the Palisades across the Hudson River, or head upstate to paddle through the Adirondacks’ mountain lakes.
Given my infinitesimal threshold for cold weather, however, winter presented a more substantial challenge. When the partners for whom I was working actually permitted vacation, I’d board jets, puddle jumpers, chicken buses, ferries, etc. in earnest pursuit of tropical climates where I could dive, surf, and hike — in other words, where I could feed my addiction.
It was particularly nourished during a winter 2004 trip to Tulum, which, at the time, was still a sleepy gem on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Precious highlights included snorkeling with sea turtles on the shallow reef a short swim from shore, strolling the long stretch of ivory sand towards the seaside Mayan ruins, and kayaking through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve’s brackish wetlands.
My sweetest memory from that trip, though, was probably the most relaxing. After gently waking and enjoying a momentary walk on a palm tree shaded path, I set my towel down on the sand next to several fellow travelers. We greeted the day with sun salutations and other gentle yoga poses, to a soundtrack that came not from a studio stereo, but instead from the lapping of the turquoise waters onto the sand.
Pure paradise, I thought, as the morning sunshine warmed my bronzed face — and remembered, as I later trudged through the frigid wind towards the subway stairs.
Now flash forward six and a half years.
9:07 a.m. Friday, October 1, 2010. I coaxed my eyelids open and happily beheld the blue skies sparkling through my gauzy white curtains. A cup of coffee and glass of juice later, I swung my yoga mat bag over my shoulder, hopped on my cruiser, and headed west.
Yoga by the beach, it turns out, is a little more accessible these days, thanks to the lovely Shawn Bisi.
Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Shawn has for years practiced, studied and/or taught yoga all over the world, from Dharamsala, India to Park City, Utah.
Luckily for us locals, she now resides in Los Angeles, where she teaches a fusion of various styles. (For more information on Shawn, to confirm class times, and to learn more about her one-on-one, couples and family yoga therapy, see her website: http://www.shawnyogahealing.com.)
In addition to private sessions and her group classes at Aanand Saagar in Venice, Shawn has recently begun teaching yoga by the beach in Santa Monica, on Wednesday and Friday mornings from 10:00 – 11:15 a.m., at Crescent Bay Park, between Bay Street and Bicknell Ave.
This is a very good thing.
After a brisk 10-15 minute bike ride past the Venice Skate Park and several gargantuan bulldozers fashioning sand berms (shelf barriers) for the upcoming winter months, I arrived at the park’s grassy area just south of Casa del Mar. Shawn was already peacefully seated in lotus position under the shade of a tree.
This was certainly a far cry from the sweaty, body odor-ridden yoga studios I have frequented.
Over the next hour and fifteen minutes, Shawn gently guided us from cobra to warrior, and from triangle to crow; she also shared precepts of Zen philosophy, while ensuring our constant flow of breath in relation to conscious body movement, designed to eliminate blockages and promote relaxation and clarity.
Her method worked.
As I emerged from shavasana (a pose often used to conclude a practice session), opened my eyes and slowly sat up to the Southern California sun and Pacific Ocean breeze, waves of comfort and peace swept over me.
I was undeniably blissed out … high as an addict, you might say.