If you ever find yourself in South Beach (SOBE), forget about celebrity sightings and nightclubs, and head on over to the 3rd Street Beach to catch a beach yoga class! You don’t have to worry about what day of the year it is; these awesome beach yoga classes happen 365 days a year, and you have your pick of either a sunrise yoga class at 7 am or a sunset class at 5 pm.

These community yoga classes got their start back in 1998, when SOBE local and newly certified yoga instructor, October Rose, started practicing daily on the 3rd Street Beach. People started to join her, and before she knew it, she was teaching two classes daily. The word spread, and other teachers joined in the fun. In 2008, October moved to India, but her legacy lived on: Those two daily classes continue with the help of a talented group of local teachers.

As if practicing yoga on the beach is not cool enough in itself, 3rd Street Beach Yoga makes it even cooler by making the classes accessible and free to everyone. The teachers all offer yoga from their heart, but they do accept donations.

I was extremely lucky to attend two 3rd Street Beach Yoga classes when I was on vacation recently in SOBE. Yeah, it was a little tough crawling out of my comfy bed in the dark to make it to the 7 am class each morning, but it was well worth it!

The first day I attended a class led by Benjamin Smielowitz. It was dark and windy when class first started, but I was thrilled to see that another 25 or so beach yoga lovers had gotten their butts up early to get their yoga fix. We were rewarded when the sun started to creep out of the Atlantic, and by the end of class, we were doing our yoga accompanied by a gorgeous sunrise and sunny, blue skies.

Benjamin started class by asking if anyone was a yoga teacher. I raised my hand, and he was quick to ask me if I would like to teach the class. He was kidding (thank god), but I assured him that, as much as I enjoy teaching yoga on the beach, I was on vacation and was looking forward to experiencing his brand of beach yoga. I was not disappointed. Benjamin took us through a vigorous class (perfect for a brisk morning on the beach) and a few challenging poses like hanumanasana, which he skillfully demonstrated and then offered up the requisite modifications for those of us who aren’t quite as flexible.

My favorite part of class was savasana. It was cold that morning, and after only a few minutes in this resting pose, Benjamin, who thought that many of us looked uncomfortable lying in the cool windy morning air, invited us to come to a seated position in a circle. He then led us through a seated meditation with the mantra, lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, which as he explained to the group translates to:

May all beings everywhere be happy and free,

and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life

contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

It was a meaningful and moving way to end the class, and I felt a sense of community along with all of the other participants that morning.

I got to talk to Benjamin for a few moments after class and learned that he attended his very first yoga class right there on the beach in 2002 (how cool is that!). In less than a year from that fated first beach yoga class, he had gone on to become a certified yoga teacher. I love how the beach and the yoga had such a profound effect on his life!

Benjamin is also a gifted musician, and you can hear a track from his latest CD below.

Tuesday morning I got up early again and joyously walked to the beach in anticipation of a second blissful sunrise yoga session. It was another chilly, overcast morning, and as I started to approach the lifeguard stand at 3rd Beach, my heart began to sink. There was no one assembled like there had been the day before, and I worried that the class might be cancelled (that happens if the temperatures fall below 55 degrees). But, not to worry, I looked a little further down the beach, and instructor Heather Morgan was walking towards me. We met up at the lifeguard booth and walked around to find a spot protected from the wind – no sooner than that did other beach yoga aficionados begin crawling out of the woodwork.

I learned a lot from Heather that morning. For example, Heather turned me on to a very high-tech way to keep beach towels (makeshift yoga mats) from blowing away on windy days. She simply comes prepared with some plastic bags that she fills with sand to weigh down the towels. Genius! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that when I was scouring the shores of Lake Erie last summer looking for rocks and driftwood to weigh down the beach towels on windy days.

 

Heather also had excellent modifications to help the class deal with the wind and instability that can come at times when practicing on the sand. She is a gifted teacher who brings her extensive knowledge of proper alignment to her asana cues along with a delightful English accent and sense of humor.

One of the most memorable parts of Heather’s class is when we chanted Om at the beginning and end. I have never heard anyone who can hold their Om better than Heather. I would be out of breath and closing off my Om, and I swear Heather would keep hers going for what seemed like a full minute longer.

If you’re in Miami, Heather teaches extensively throughout the area, and her favorite yoga style, which I’m bummed I did not get to try, is Skanda. I guess this will be my incentive to get down to Miami again so I can check out yet another flavor of yoga.

Heather and I both share a love for beach yoga. After class, I got to spend some time talking with her, and as we chatted, a passerby stopped to ask her about the classes. Heather was so enthusiastic in explaining the classes and the fact that you get to be outside with nature, watching the sunrise while doing yoga, and how in essence, this is what life is all about.

“Yoga challenges us, awakening our inner warrior to help us be the best we can be – add that to the beach,

and you have perfection.” – Heather Morgan

I couldn’t agree more! Thank you, Heather and Benjamin, for giving me such a lovely gift on my vacation and for the awesome inspiration that you provided for my summer beach yoga classes.