Florida’s stunning seasides elevate yoga, tai chi & wellness workouts
Imagine stretching into an upward dog or crescent lunge position on your yoga mat, and instead of staring at a video screen or TV, you watch the sun rise over a beachfront park, 19th century lighthouse or a tropical garden. These are just a few of the Florida venues that offer breathtaking views as beautiful backdrops for group fitness classes, yoga, tai chi, aerobic workouts, and wellness on the water.
Some are free; others require a nominal fee. Located seaside throughout the Sunshine State, the following sampling welcomes locals and visitors alike for one-time or ongoing classes that encourage wellness on the water and healthy living.
The focal point at this two-acre, palm-studded, beach-front park is a bronze statue of a young boy riding on the back of a dolphin, which symbolizes Jacksonville Beach’s commitment to preserving public access to the ocean. Near this sculpture, Deirdre Dwyer and her fellow instructors at Tai Chi for Health & Wellness hold morning “Last Saturday in the Park” tai chi classes each month. These classes are free and open to the public. “This is a wonderful place to see the sun rise and hear the ocean while moving in harmony with tai chi. Deep breathing in a place of natural beauty deepens our mindful approach to all of life,” says Dwyer. Cost: free.
Where to Dock: Beach Marine
27th Avenue Park
New Smyrna Beach
You’ll find a delightful ever-changing scene where Rhonda Donahoo, an instructor with Tai Chi by the Sea, leads beginner and advanced tai chi and qigong classes. Birds fly overhead, dolphins jump in the waves and whales breach the shore. This really is wellness on the water-right on the water! Sailboats, shrimp boats and other vessels cruise past, while people jog by or build sandcastles. “The beach creates a lovely setting for learning these slow-moving meditative exercises,” says Donahoo. Beginner tai chi classes, which cover the first 12 steps of the Yang 24 Tai Chi Chuan form and qigong, are held Tuesday through Saturday morning. No reservations needed. Bring water, sunglasses and dress for the weather. Cost: $7 per class or $50 per month.
Where to Dock: New Smyrna Marina
Sunset yoga is dreamy when practiced at the base of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum (built in 1860). Classes, which are held on the waterfront deck under one of the area’s largest ficus trees, take place on Monday at 6-7:00 p.m. from November to March and 7-8:00 p.m. from April to October. “With the gentle coastal breeze blowing across the deck, twilight reflecting off the inlet and the soft sweep of the lighthouse beaming overhead, your body and mind will relax as you breathe in the fresh air. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful spots in Palm Beach County,” says Kathleen Glover, director of marketing and community affairs. Meet at the museum gate 10 minutes before class. Bring a yoga mat, water bottle and flashlight. Cost: $10 per person.
Where to Dock: Admiral’s Cove
The downtown city skyline, especially from this close-up park location, is impressive. The double bonus: directly opposite is a regular parade of cruise ships departing Biscayne Bay for ports south. It’s no wonder that a regular group of folks gather at Bayfront for yoga classes on Mondays (6-7:15 p.m.), Wednesdays (6-7:15 p.m.) and Saturdays (9-10:15 a.m.). “These classes, taught by a certified yoga instructor, have created a community within downtown Miami. Friendships have flourished, yogis have met, married and started families,” says Karina Mestre, marketing director for the Bayfront Park Management Trust. All levels are welcome. Registration is first-come, first-served. Bring your yoga mat, water and towel. Cost: Free.
Where to Dock: Sunset Harbour Yacht Club
Key West Beaches
This southernmost beach in the southernmost city in America, Key West is where Nancy Curran leads Yoga on the Beach classes. On Tuesdays through Saturdays, at 9-10:00 a.m., Curran adapts sessions to the level of that day’s participants. Everyone enjoys striking a position on this 200-foot long beach located at the end of Duval Street. “Beach classes are designed to help students find ease in their body, mind and breath while strengthening and stretching,” says Curran, who heads north to teach yoga on Cape Cod, MA, in the summer. Yoga at South Beach is year-round, while classes on the nearby beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park are held October through May, seven days a week, from 8:15-9:45 a.m. Cost: $18 per person; mats provided.
Where to Dock: A&B Marina
Everglades Wonder Gardens
Practice yoga on soft Zoysia grass surrounded by a flamingo pond and lush tropical jungle. What started about 80 years ago as a reptile exhibition to entertain motorists traveling the Tamiami Trail is now an updated attraction featuring flora, such as tropical orchids and bromeliads, and fauna, such as rescued exotic birds and alligators. “Peafowl often stroll through the yoga lawn and strut their stuff,” says Susanna Tocco, operations manager. Tocco adds that the yoga classes at this 3.5-acre garden on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs “are taught in a way that beginners feel welcome and advanced students feel challenged.” Classes happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-8:45 a.m. Bring a towel and yoga mat. Cost: $5 for garden members and $10 for non-members.
Where to Dock: Bonita Bay Marina
Panama City Beach
Bright blue waters and a sugar sand beach are reasons why Panama City Beach ranked among the top 10 U.S. beaches in TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards in 2019. Studio by the Sea guests gather at the beach on Thursday mornings for wellness on the water and “obstacle-style work on the sand along with challenges in the water,” says Wendy Lewis, artistic director and owner. Studio by the Sea also offers boot camp on the grassy lawn overlooking the historic Grand Lagoon at the Treasure Island Marina, less than five miles away to the southeast. “In addition, our sunset beach yoga is a must for traveling yogis. The sensational views over the water will leave you in a new state of Zen,” adds Lewis. On rainy days, in-studio offerings include zumba, pilates, yoga and even hip-hop and belly dancing. Cost: $10 per person.
Where to Dock: Bay Point Marina
Dolphins swim, seabirds skim and sometimes manatees are sighted in the waters of this Gulf-front park. “In a recent Saturday morning class, Devil Rays were frolicking at the shoreline by the hundreds. It was really something to see,” says Sherry Duquet, who with partner Sandy Boulton, own Madeira Beach Yoga. Beach yoga classes are held Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, starting at 8:30 a.m. in the summer and 9:00 a.m. in the winter. Tuesday afternoon sessions start at 4:30 or 6:00 p.m. They also hold monthly Sunday morning classes. Bring a towel and drinking water; no yoga mats needed. Cost: $15 per person.
Where to Dock: Madeira Beach Marina