Outdoor Yoga SF – Find your Bliss on your Mat in the Great Outdoors
By Dana L. Lee
Yoga mats at the beach are a sure sign that special things are about to happen! I joined Julie Aiello of Outdoor Yoga SF and 100 other delighted souls as we reconnected to the essential joys of life under the embrace of a rolling California sky. The mood was relaxed and natural, as everyone meandered from the check-in table down to the large sweeping beach and laid down their mats, clad in comfortable attire. Julie has one of those smiles that is blessed with sunshine and a heart to match. Her smile warmed each face as her team quickly and happily passed out coconut water, applied free temporary sparkle tattoos, and politely checked out headphones to help with the jubilant vinyasa to come.
I wondered how our experience would be altered by wearing headphones, but my concerns melted away immediately as Julie explained that it was the best way to assure that everyone could hear her voice along with the natural symphony of Baker Beach. The results were a moving auditory experience that mixed the great Om of the ocean along with the sounds of sea birds, soulful music, and Julie’s sweet voice beckoning us to move with the joy of life. The headphones were comfortable and allowed the practice to be cohesive and fun for everyone at every level. Each person could adjust the volume to their specific desires, and make the experience perfect for them. I was enraptured with the entire sensory experience and could feel every drop of tension flowing away with each breath. Julie has such a gift for encouraging others to drink in the nectar of nature. She began the class with a hug for our neighbor, and a few moments of deep presence breathing in the healing ocean air. As if to show us a great treasure, and indeed she did, she asked us to lie in Savasana and open our eyes to the sky. Usually, we take that posture and close our eyes in an internal rest, but in Julie’s Outdoor Yoga class, it’s all about being here now, open and ready to receive life’s blessings. She wanted us to experience the sensations of deep love and expansion. As we watched aurora cloud mists drift overhead, moist and sparkling with the promise of rain, a large flock of ancient looking sea birds soared effortlessly overhead as if on que, filling us with wonder. Watching the sky immediately grounded us to the deep mystery of just being alive.
That’s part of Julie’s passion, connecting people to a yoga practice rooted in love and devotion. She sums it up this way: “For me, yoga is about sharing love, for ourselves, and with others. It's about practicing your yoga on your mat, so you can take it with you into your life and live with curiosity, purpose and love.” She has practiced yoga for about 13 years, since she was a teenager, and in the past few years she made the big leap to embrace teaching yoga full-time. She felt it was time to live her life in a way that was true to her heart, and allowed her to share her gifts with the world in humility and faith. She believes that everyone has gifts to share, and she encouraged us all to make our poses advanced merely by adding our smiles. Everyone face immediately rose into a bright smile, and we sunk in unison just a little deeper into our warrior postures, gazing out at the eternal ocean waves just beyond our outstretched hands. At one point, she encouraged everyone to joyfully dance off their mats and feel the sand in their toes as we vibed in gratitude together. It was one of the happiest sights I’ve ever seen! One hundred happy yogi’s dancing under the great blue sky, sparkle tattoos glistening in the sun, with the Golden Gate Bridge arching in joy in the background.
Not all of Julie’s classes are on Baker Beach, as she also teaches at other beautiful locations all around the San Francisco Bay area. She has a great network of like-minded teachers that she’s taught with including Bryant Resch, Sarah Schmid, Sarah Bove, Setahrae Javanbakht and Lacy Shannon. She also enjoys teaching smaller classes inside when the weather demands. Keep track of her class offerings on Facebook or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Five of the people I met at her class on the beach follow her on Facebook and met each other through social media. It’s just a fantastic way to meet new people, experience the glory of nature, and find your bliss on your mat in a trusting, caring community.
Nuts and Bolts:
You can contact Julie on Facebook or at email@example.com, and sign up for current class notifications. Wear comfortable layers, sunscreen and bring a mat and a water bottle. Julie and her team have spare mats, but with the popularity of her class growing, you might want to bring your own mat just in case. Don’t forget to bring a smile with you, but don’t worry if you forget yours, finding the smile in your heart in Outdoor Yoga SF is totally inevitable.