Saturday morning, 6:25am, my friend Shani texts me she’s outside. I pick up the oversized plastic tote bag with my yoga mats, sunscreen, sunglasses, SPF long-sleeve shirt, hat, keys and water and quietly walk out to her car so as not wake up my family. Even though it’s earlier than I want to be up on Shabbat, I am excited for the experience. Our drive to the beach is short and we catch up on life—her pregnancy, our parents, the yoga teacher’s life.
Ten minutes later, we exit a paved road onto a sandy one and follow it alongside the water heading north. She turns left and into an area where a couple of other cars are already parked. One by one, her students start to arrive, lugging their mats and water and checking in with her before heading down the path in the nature reserve to the appointed meeting place.
At 7am, after the last student has arrived, Shani and I walk a few hundred yards to a narrow deck sitting on the edge of a cliff. Below is the Mediterranean Sea, a dull, see-through blue. About a dozen mats are set up and people are waiting to begin. They shut off their phones and sit. It’s still early and the weather is cool, overcast, and I think maybe I won’t need all my protective layers. At first, I’m cold, contemplating putting on my extra layer but know the heat will build.
“Boker tov,” Shani says with her sweet smile. Her dark Yeminite skin glows against the hazy sky. She asks if everyone can hear her and then invites us all to sit in sukasana, an easy comfortable cross-legged seat, facing the sea. When we spend time outside, in nature, she says, we realize how small and powerless we are. And with that, she shuts her eyes and we do the same.
I hear the waves beneath me crashing against the shore. I hear birds caw as they circle above us. In the distance, I hear people talking.
Open your eyes, Shani instructs us, and stand at the top of the mat. I step forward and look out and down. Below me are a few sailboats dotting the sea. A lone fisherman with rubber boots up to his knees and suspenders to hold his baggy pants stands on the algae with his pole. The waves roar and he remains steady.
With an inhale, we stretch our arms out to the sides and up the sky and then dive toward the ground. Without thinking, I start to move through the poses, barely able to hear Shani’s voice with the water lapping at the seashore. But it doesn’t matter because I know what to do, where we’re going. My body is on auto-pilot.
As the minutes pass, I realize I am thinking less and less, simply in awe of practicing outside at the edge of a cliff, overlooking the sea. When I look down, I see another fisherman has stopped to talk to the first one. When we turn to the right, I see the tall apartment buildings of Poleg and Netanya to the north and the rock formations jutting into the sea.
Up and down we move. The air is so clean it’s easy to breathe deeply. I hear the click of a camera, another practitioner to my side taking pictures of us, and smile. At some point, as the sun starts to poke through the clouds, I put on my sunglasses.
Two men on bikes ride up toward the deck, dismount, take pictures of us and our surroundings then leave. Two women and a dog arrive and applaud us for our physical efforts as they walk from one end of the deck to the other.
Shani walks up and down the deck, back and forth between us, watching, instructing, assisting. I’m in standing straddle and she presses firmly on my lower back to fold my body closer to my legs. My body is so warm that I can almost kiss my legs.
The unevenness of the wood below me doesn’t disturb me at all. I have no trouble balancing on one leg for tree pose or for standing hand to big toe pose. Sitting on my knees for camel doesn’t annoy me either. We put our forearms down and try kicking up with one leg to forearm stand. On our backs, we push up into a backbend. For my third one, I turn around so I can see the water; from my upside down perspective, the horizon is on an uphill slant.
Finally, after 90 minutes, it’s time for corpse pose, shivasana. Just as we lie back on the mat, a powered parachute—also known as the Flying Buckeye—circles overhead. A few of us sit up to look because it’s such a crazy sight. Two men are seated in the contraption, which resembles a skeleton of a helicopter with two seats, bike pedals and a parachute, and one puts his hands in prayer and bows his head. Whether or not he’s a yogi or just poking fun doesn’t matter.
The sun is steadily penetrating through the clouds so I put on my sunshirt and hat before lying down to relax. I want to let go, to listen to the sounds of nature and appreciate the beauty. I am grateful for my little life, the smallness of me.