Posted Nov. 4, 2012
By CHELSEA PILLSBURY
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — “Inhale… and one, two, three, okay, exhale and move into upward dog position,” instructs Gabriella Mesza.
As I exhale, I concentrate on relaxing my head back and taking in the watercolor sky above me. A breeze is blowing off the ocean and a group of men are drumming to our right creating the perfect mood for my South Beach yoga session.
My friend, Charlotte Pallace, and I had walked to the bright yellow lifeguard building at 5:55 p.m., already reveling in the fact that we were outside enjoying the beautiful weather and not hunching over a desk.
“Do you think that’s it?” she asked me, as she pointed at a group of people playing drums and other instruments.
“Hmm, no they don’t have a drum circle scheduled tonight. But I hope they stay for the class!” I replied.
A few seconds later we see a small woman walking toward us that is wearing yoga clothing and carrying a towel and a water bottle. She confirms that we are in the right place and that the teacher, Gabriella Mesza, should be on her way.
We make introductions and I learn that her name is Meggie Louden and she has been coming to Third Street Beach Yoga for about a month now.
“I actually have two friends of mine coming for their first time today and I brought my friend from New York City last week,” Louden animatedly tells us. “You will love this class. There’s a mix of levels, so don’t worry about being new.”
I think Charlotte and I both let out a breathe at this point because on our way to the beach we had been worrying about the fact we had not taken a yoga class in well… a long time.
Our teacher made us even more at ease in her casual yoga attire, flowing scarves and friendly demeanor. She greeted those she knew by name and introduced herself to my friend and me.
“Welcome everyone,” Gabriella began. “Is anyone from out of town?”
Two young women raise their hands.
“We’re down from Chicago for the weekend,” said one.
Later I found that the two were staying at a nearby hotel and had been directed here by a friend back home who had recently visited.
The class began with basic breathing exercises and simple poses. As I went through the movements the stress of the week seemed to blow away with the breeze as I focused only on enjoying the moment.
Beautiful colors of orange and yellow began to fill the sky as the sun lowered and the steady beat of our neighboring drummers even added to the ambiance. Gabriella’s voice seemed in itself to be soothing me as she moved around the group issuing instructions and helping to correct poses.
“Okay everyone, I want you to put your hands like this in front of you and try to roll up into a headstand,” Gabriella said to us.
At first I do not realize what she has said because I had been so focused on staying relaxed and then all of a sudden I think… oh no!
I position my hands and glance over to the woman I had met before, Meggie Louden, and see she is already up and perfectly straight and balanced. However, I am reassured because more than half the class is struggling, as I am about to do.
While I did not quite reach Meggie’s perfect headstand, I can say that I tried, and with a little more practice, may eventually succeed. After the headstand we transitioned back to simpler poses and the instructor made sure to give variations based on skill level.
As I lunged toward the ocean with my arms raised to the sky and my back bent backwards in warrior pose, I felt invincible and free. I think that is the real difference between yoga in a studio and Third Street Beach Yoga, the freeness I felt as we all looked out towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Eventually the class came to a close as the sun set and we all sat silently reflecting inward. Finally, Gabriella rises and bows to us saying, “Namaste.”
We all slowly unfold from our positions, not wanting to break the sense of calm and stand to give our instructor a donation for her time.
“How did you hear about this?” I ask the woman who earlier said she was visiting from Chicago as we wait to talk to Gabriella.
“A friend of mine from home recommended it to me because she knows I love yoga. She did it when she was down a while ago and actually just found it when she was researching things to do in Miami,” the woman replied.
“We actually get a lot of tourists in our classes every week, especially during the summer,” Gabriella chimed in. “A few hotels recommend us, but mainly people just hear about us through word of mouth.”
“Well I can see how it would be recommended,” says my friend Charlotte. I nod in agreement as we give Gabriella $5 each and bid her a good week.
As Charlotte and I walk back to my car we grab dinner at Fresh on Fifth, only a block away, which lets you create your own salads and sandwiches. We both agree that this might become a Sunday night ritual for us to wind down before the craziness of Monday begins.
If you follow in our footsteps, I recommend that you arrive early to find parking, bring the heaviest towel you own so you are not fighting with the wind for it and bring a light sweater because the breeze can be nippy.
Most of all, just enjoy the hour away from working, studying or running after your kids. You deserve it.
IF YOU GO
- Schedule: 365 days a year at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. (5 p.m. in the winter). No reservation needed.
- Directions: Once you get to the intersection of 3rd St. and Ocean Drive walk through the park onto the beach. Everyone meets at the bright yellow lifeguard hut that is straight ahead.
- Parking: There is meter parking on Ocean Drive, which is free in the morning until 9 a.m. After that it is $1.25 per hour.
- Bring: A heavier beach towel or yoga mat, a water bottle and a donation for your teacher (preferred $5 minimum).
- Website: 3rdstreetbeachyoga.com – includes information on instructors and special events.
- Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 786-529-6423
- Special Events: Full Moon Meditation every full moon at 6:30 p.m.
- Extras: Third Street Beach Yoga teachers also offer corporate and private beach classes, which can incorporate yoga, stretching, and partner yoga. The teacher will tailor the class to your requirements.