Picture this: the end of a beautiful Saturday, almost sundown, at the beach, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, palm trees, endless stretches of white sand, aqua-blue water that shimmers in the sunlight, people—bathing, sunning, picnicking, playing paddle tennis, packing up to go home, practicing yoga.
It is picture perfect.
Before getting out of the car last Saturday afternoon, I slathered on sunscreen, put on my baseball cap and sunglasses and grabbed an old purple yoga mat. I knew that as soon as the sun would set the temperature would drop, but I had to be prepared for the heat. Yoga on the beach could be intense. I walked to our meeting point, the elevator shaft toward the south end of the beach between the Daniel and the Dan Accadia hotels in Herziliya, and waited.
At 6 pm exactly, three women climbed the stairs from the boardwalk toward me. “Jennifer?” the blond one with suntanned skin and a wide smile said. Dressed casually with bathing suit straps sticking out under their clothes, they were giddy, glowing, relaxed.
“Karen?” I asked since we didn’t know each other and had been set up by a mutual friend, Nicky, via email. She said yes in perfect English.
“C’est elle. Elle est la,” she called to her friends as they approached from behind, 11 in all.
“Wait, what language do you speak? Your written English was perfect and since Nicky is South African I wasn’t sure.”
“My mother is South African,” said Karen in English, “but I grew up in Belgium and speak French. We all do.”
I couldn’t believe my luck. First, this woman hired me to do a one-hour yoga session at sundown at the beach for her friends who were flying in for a long weekend to celebrate one of them turning 40. Then, it turned out, they were French speakers, a language which is still more second nature to me than Hebrew. When I launched into my heavily accented, highly imperfect French, they were delighted.
Karen introduced me to the birthday girl, who had no idea what was planned. Assuming she was a yogini, I hid my mat behind my back. One by one, they introduced themselves with a mixture of French, American and Israeli names like Joelle, Melissa and Yael. Childhood friends, they are Jewish, married to Jewish men, moms, all regular visitors to Israel.
I led them back down a few stairs to a patch of grass overlooking the beach. Aside from a few strewn sunflower seed shells, it was clean and an ideal place to practice. They laid out their beach towels in a semi-circle facing the water and I unrolled my mat with my back to it. After a few questions and answers, I learned that the birthday girl had never been on a yoga mat, only two of them actually practiced, a few had already had a glass of wine, and some of them were not into yoga at all. We sat in a circle and warmed up and then slowly, carefully, as I got more comfortable with them, we headed into the more vigorous poses: plank, down dog, warrior I and II, peaceful warrior, triangle. Throughout the hour, they poked fun at one another, giggling, while I did my best to teach. One of them folded up into a twisted version of child’s pose either spacing out or sleeping, I’m not sure.
People stopped and watched us from the street level. I saw them point and smile. Someone even took out a camera and aimed at us.
We were a beautiful sight: 12 women moving, balancing on one leg in tree pose, lying on our backs and lifting our hips to the sky in bridge, breathing quietly in the final resting pose. Yoga outside, on the beach, at sunset is picture perfect indeed.