The shifting sands of life and other thoughts following beach yoga

July 5, 2018

Stephanie Hill's view at Kitty Hawk Pier for her yoga class.

“Hove the sea’s sounds and the way it reflects the sky. The colors that shimmer across the surface are unbelievable. This, combined with the color of the water over the white sand, surprises me every time.”—John Dyer

“In this big ball of people, I’m just one grain of sand on this beach.” — Aurora

Walking across black pavement, I moved as if the asphalt under my feet was melting into a viscous mixture. The air was heavy with 83 percent early morning humidity. I rounded the corner of the Hilton Garden Inn, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and there it was! Looming directly in front of me: the Kitty Hawk Pier.

I followed the yoga teacher down the steps beside the pier. She explained that we would practice in the sand facing the pier. “You’re not going to avoid getting sandy,” she added with a wry smile.

I watched her leave the designated area for our morning practice, walking to the shoreline.

Sunlight glistened, dazzled, and danced over the expansive, seemingly breathing waves. I inhaled deeply, fully expanding my belly, rib cage, and heart space as if I could make the ocean air part of my very being at the cellular level, if that were possible. To and fro went the rhythmic slap of the waves overpowering the sounds of urgent morning birdsong, distant conversation, and the click, click, clatter of sand crabs. The resonance all blended into a shoreline tune full of layered harmony.

Gazing down at my feet, the most random questions struck me. How many grains of sand was I standing upon? How long had it taken for each grain to arrive at this very point in support of my feet? Furthermore, if I returned to this exact spot tomorrow morning, how many of those grains would be gone, or at the very least, be moved to another location, and how many would be new? Then, it hit me — my life is but one of those grains of sand in a world full of billions of people. However, I rapidly lost this train of thought as a few others gathered. It was time for the morning yoga class to begin.

True to the instructor’s word, we did, indeed, get sandy — really, really sandy. In fact, I was reminded of a TV commercial for a product of long ago, “Shake and Bake.” Meat, usually pork chops, was placed in a plastic bag. Then, a beautifully manicured hand poured a pre-filled pouch of spices and breading into the bag, and over those generously cut pork chops. Next, those same perfect hands shook the bag turning the raw, red meat into a white, ghost-like, powdery form. That was me practicing yoga on the beach, minus the bag.

The sun, still low on the eastern horizon, felt like a spotlight on each pose as the instructor taught. Sweat began to form at the nape of my neck and ran into my eyes whenever we bent forward — which was often at the beginning. We practiced what is called in yoga, appropriately enough, “Sun Salutations.” This is often used as a warm-up sequence in yoga classes. Warm me up, it did, but I wasn’t about to complain. After all, I was at the beach for heaven’s sake!

Half way or so through the class, at the request of one

of the students, the teacher moved us into the shade of the Kitty Hawk Pier. It completely changed my perspective. The beach, the sand, the ocean waves, the beach homes in the distance, the hotel behind the sand dune, people with cups of morning coffee making their way idly along the shoreline, sea birds dipping, darting, and diving for their breakfast, the cacophony of sounds, and the briny, pungent scents — none of this had changed, but my line of vision was now redirected. It was as if a whole new beach spread out before me.

This is what a vacation, time away, a day or two off from work, or even a good night of sleep can bring — a newer, fresher perspective. It is the feeling of the sweet release of a sigh after a deep inhale. It is the sunrise of life. The new sand washed ashore after a storm, or the blue of the sky after days of dark, doom-filled clouds.

As a teen, and even into my 30s, I used a typewriter to write essays and assignments for classes or work. There was nothing like pulling out that white sheet of paper, feeling its smoothness, and drinking in its blemish-free blandness. That blank page was full of promise and hope of work well written.

I’d carefully line up those paper edges into just the right spot. Then, I’d roll the bar until I could press the return button and count down the perfect number of lines down before I began typing. Fingers would hover over the keys momentarily as I sent up the silent whisper of a promise to myself, “You’re not going to make mistakes this time, Steph. This time, you will not need white out. The margins, the lettering, the spacing will all be beautifully aligned when finished.” Within the first paragraph, however, that fantasy typically came to a crashing halt as I was a terrible typist!

And so it is with our attachments, expectations, and even our challenges/problems. We forget that everything can, will, and is changing. Frequently we worry and fret over our vision of the world, of ourselves, of others, of our problems, of our jobs, of our family, of our current situation, and so forth. Sometimes, stepping out of the daily routine, habits, and schedule allows us to gain a new vantage point as I did on the beach that morning.

The number of sand grains under my feet as I practiced yoga, changed, shifted, and rearranged itself continually on that day. My body continuously wobbled, bobbled, and tottered on the shifting sand. In fact, I fell down on more than one occasion! Before long, the sun had risen well above the horizon, the beach was more populated with people, the class came to an end, and those of us who were brought together to practice yoga as one group walked away, one by one. Morning bled into afternoon, afternoon flowed into evening, and the sun was swallowed up by the western horizon. Tomorrow will be a new day with a different view.

It was my lesson to learn that I need to attach less to material acquisitions, status, ideas of perfection, worries, stress, problems, and other rewards or challenges social media and the world attempt to convince me are important. Instead, may I learn to accept the shifting sands of life, and may I continually see there is always another perspective beyond the image directly in front of me. May I continue to rise up, dust the sand off, and try again whenever I do fall; and, may I allow the same for others.

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net. Or you can check out her website, stephsimply.com.

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