Yoga is a grounding practice, a way to break through the aggravations of the day. Focusing on your breathing as you move allows you to relax and let go of stress. And it’s even better when you can break out of four walls and perform the ritual outdoors.
Yoga instructor Julia Fincher teaches just such a class at Ala Moana Beach Park but with a special addition: candlelight. For her Sunset and Candlelight Yoga Bliss class, mats are placed on a grassy area near the beach, allowing students to glimpse the setting sun as they stretch their bodies. In the darkness that follows, students bask in the glow of candlelight.
STRETCH & RELAX
Sunset and Candlelight Yoga Bliss
» When: 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays
» Where: Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park
» Cost: Donations accepted
» Info: Visit www.meetup.com/sunset-candlelight-yoga-hawaii
Fincher, a 26-year-old Honolulu resident, started practicing yoga in high school, but it wasn’t until three years ago that she dedicated her life to it.
The physical changes, including increased strength and flexibility, are what originally sparked Fincher’s interest in yoga.Then came the mental benefits, and now she says it’s just a part of her life.
Fincher says the hardest part for most folks is getting onto a mat since there is always an abundance of excuses not to practice.
"If I have a rough day, I go straight to my mat," she said. "It helps soothe me and calms me down. It’s a great way to refresh and restart my mind."
Fincher chose the outdoor setting because she likes to connect with nature during her own practice.
"It makes me feel more free, so I wanted to share that experience with others," she said. "There’s something about being outside that makes it more peaceful."
Sunset. Candlelight. Relaxing. Need I say more? The class is held at Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park. Bring a mat, towel and water.
The class provides relaxation and stress relief after the numerous demands of the day. The foot rub that Fincher provdes each studentwhile in savasana (corpse pose) is delightful, and Fincher saves plenty of time for this relaxing pose. Peace of mind,balance, strength and flexibility are a few of the benefits that can be achieved from the yoga class, Fincher said.
Fincher teaches the vinyasa style of yoga, where each breath is linked to a movement. The class includes lots of typical yoga poses. The warmup includes sun salutations. While in a warrior pose, we could watch the sunset, which was an added bonus. Yoga is a personal practice, and I wasn’t there to compete with others in the class, so I made modifications to the workout as needed. For example, during a bow pose, where you lie on your belly, bend your knees and grab onto your ankles, my back didn’t feel happy, so I opted to do a cobra pose instead, which felt much better and still offered a back bend.
Fincher offers up modifications, so do what feels right for you.
Mona Cardejon, a 38-year-old Honolulu resident, has gone to these classes for a little more than a year. She decided to check out the classes as a means to unwind after work, but she’s received other benefits, as well.
"I found that I’m way stronger in my upper body, especially my arms and shoulders," she said. "It really engages all of the muscles in your body. I’ve been to several yoga studios, but I like that this is outdoors. I can feel the wind on my face."
Kaimuki resident Zac Blotter, 37, began taking classes in November.
"I have a much quieter mind," he said, "and I’m so much more flexible. I couldn’t do much when I first started, and now I can hold headstands for 10 breaths."
Although the students are focused, the beauty of sunset sometimes grabs their attention.
"It’s hard to beat the magic of the sunset," Blotter said. "Sometimes we get misted by rain, which is awesome, especially when it’s hot. I can’t imagine a better setting."
Try it out?
If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Sure, you might need to make some adjustments to suit the needs of your body, but the benefits will be the same, as long as you’re challenging yourself. This class is more on the strenuous side because it moves from one posture to another in a swift manner. If you’re new to yoga, ask for modifications if the postures are too difficult. Always listen to your body to avoid injury.
"Tryouts" features exercise and wellness classes and other fitness activities. Reach Nancy Arcayna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 529-4808.