My Full Moon Relaxation Aqua Yoga Experience: An Unexpected Delight

"Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being." —Rumi

When I slept passed my favorite afternoon gentle yoga class, that familiar twinge of guilt popped up into my mind. I let it pass. I have a little cue I give myself when the mind tries to stir up discontent. I say, “Not Now!” 
Besides there was an hour long Full Moon Aqua Yoga class at Bay Club Courtside that began at 8 PM. Our California weather has been a little manic depressive lately. It was 85° to 94° degrees recently. Last evening It was 62 degrees and the wind had been blowing strong all day. The offset was that the temperature in the pool was a comfortable 88° 

Our Aqua Yoga Fitness Instructor was Kathleen O’Malley. I introduced myself after one of her morning group classes. I was at poolside reading a book on Mindfulness from the comfort of my lounge chair and took notice of her unique style. Her command over her class was skillful and notable. She gave visual and verbal instructions from her captain’s chair in a clear and concise way. She showed her students how to move gently and rhythmically in the water to build tone and stretch isolated body parts. 

I noticed how she was able to create an instant rapport and sense of camaraderie with her students. She greeted her “wet babies,” as she affectionately called them, with her enthusiastic presence, good sense of humor and signature smile that made eveyone feel at home. At the end of her morning classes she even had her students engage in a few rounds of “laughing yoga.” 

But, the evening Aqua Yoga class added a new dimension. Unlike the morning classes Kathleen joins her students in the water rather than pantomiming the movements from her chair. It’s more mellow. The music is soothing. There were eight hearty souls that braved the unusual cool, windy weather, including Susie Brenner, a former fitness instructor in her own right and a long-time friend of Kathleen’s, Cecile and myself.

We did some warm-up exercises, a series of basic yoga stretches and Kathleen had us use the pool floor and wall to partially create resistance for some of the poses. She also encouraged us to find our balance in the water by employing the use of floating aids (i.e. foam noodles) to gain greater freedom of movement.

The benefits of aqua yoga are similar to studio based yoga. It eases anxiety, promotes relaxation and peace, reduces fatigue, relieves stiffness, increases joint range of motion, improves muscle tone, strengthens the core muscles, and improves breathing patterns. The water’s buoyancy takes the weight off your joints, making what would normally be challenging yoga postures feel effortless. It was humbling to witness some students who have certain day to day physical limitations thrive with a sense of ease, comfort and confidence in a water environment. Whatever preconcieved notions I had in the mind that, “this isn’t really yoga,” were put to rest when I saw how challenging it was to keep one’s balance with the water moving and shifting atround my legs and feet. 

Kathleen cautions students that while aqua yoga has many benefits one must continue with weight training in the gravity environment. It is important for bone health.”

In the first thirty minutes of the class, we did some basic yoga postures and the last half hour we did the aqua yoga version of relaxation pose. Kathleen handed out pool floating aids called noodles to assist us to float while on our backs. We placed one behind our knees, another behind our backs and underarms and third one behind our necks. It sure looks funny, but the end result is a heavenly experience. As we looked up to the sky, it didn’t take long to feel that joyful and magical feeling of weightlessness. I noticed the calming effect of my overactive mind slip into a deep, relaxing, meditative state and when I left the club the full moon followed me home. OMMMMMM!