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Finding Island Yoga

As I write, one more week until I compete in the National Senior Games. I will compete in every event I qualified in at state – the 100, 200, 400 and 1,500 meters. I believe there is much more risk of injury than in endurance running and racing, which I have also done extensively. I’ve placed in 54 5K races for my age group since 2006. I did my first marathon in 2010.

In my final weeks of training for nationals, I’ve really been pushing the limits at the track, one of the only tracks in our area, Manatee High. The track is not rubber, like so many high school tracks are around the country. Manatee used to have rubber, but opted for the cheaper asphalt composite when it was time to replace the previous track. My daughter, who ran NCAA track at the University of Southern California, tells me that in some states, it is against the law to have anything other than a rubber track so that injuries are avoided. That whole liability thing – it’s actually cheaper for the districts to prevent injury than pay for them. Imagine that. I’ve offered to fundraise to get the $70,000 rubber track back. No takers.

I’ve tried to avoid shin splints, which is the most common injury from running too much on hard surfaces. But this week, a video crew showed up to record my final training sessions. And of course, I went all out. As a result, I’ve sought out all of the yoga classes I can find on the Island. Stretching is one way to avoid injury.

My weekly reminder: I am not a reporter. I am not paid to research and call all of the great yoga teachers and studios as any reporter would. What I’m sharing voluntarily is my own recent journey trying to stay injury-free.

I’ve lived on the Island almost 10 years, and we have many more great yoga choices now. When I first moved here, the only choices were yoga on the beach at Pine Avenue on Saturdays, maybe Wednesdays during season, and the Anna Maria Island Community Center.

We may have more yoga instructors per capita now than California. If I leave out any yoga instructor or class, apologies. My recent journey to find classes leads me to believe that we may be some kind of yoga Mecca. Who wouldn’t want to teach a yoga class on the beach, with the waves gently crashing in front of your students, with birds diving and calling to each other along with an occasional dolphin that surfaces on the horizon?

You don’t get that on the Mississippi River. Been there. Lived there. Did that. And as a yoga class attendee, ending the class on your back all stretched out and looking up at the bird and cloud-drenched sky, doesn’t get any better either.

One of my favorite indoor places was and still is Cindy Phillips’ studio, Island Yoga Space.

I actually paid Cindy for a one-on-one session, something I’ve never done, It was pure decadence. Cindy has given birth during the 10 years, but you’d never know it. Her knowledge of post-exercise yoga is deep, and she exudes what she teaches in her practice. I loved that she encouraged stretching well before the point of the end of range of motion. For flexible Type As like me, the risk is stretching too far which can cause injury. Cindy’s classes are great too.

On Saturdays, at the end of Pine Avenue by The Sandbar, you’ll find about four different yoga instructors rotating each week. On Wednesdays there also is a class there, but I haven’t been to that one recently. I experienced two different instructors over the past few weeks.

Janice Behling was wonderful, encouraging respecting limits, and not competing with others in the class. She gave clear breathing instructions coordinated with movements, something that is often overlooked in larger yoga classes. Classes charge by donations. Very cool.

There are also classes at Manatee Beach, which I’ve loved. Rachel Weber teaches there on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 as well as Anna Maria Island Health & Fitness next to Minnie’s.

For more, just Google “Yoga on Anna Maria Island” and you’ll find many options and schedules. Nirvana. Nameste! Gotta run!

You can follow Island resident Ellen Jaffe Jones on her Facebook page and keep up with her just released book:,”Kitchen Divided,” or her website: www.vegcoach.com. She is also a nationally certified personal trainer and running coach. For training in a gym or private hire, contact Ellen at ejones@vegcoach.com.