Looking to find your Zen? It’s right here

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By Jane Bartnett

On a sunny morning, Turtle Beach is a place of tranquility. At 8:30 a.m., an hour or so after sunrise, the waves lap up on the shore and a soft breeze fills the air. Small birds dash about on the sand before taking flight. The natural day begins.
Could there be a better place to enjoy an hour-long morning yoga class? Namaste.
For yoga instructor Julie Turner, Turtle Beach is her winter “classroom.” From January through April, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Turner can be found leading a group through a series of gentle yoga moves. Calling her class “yoga for all,” she welcomes beginners, intermediate and seasoned yoga students. She encourages everyone to simply move and advance at their own pace.
On a recent Thursday morning, 30 men and women appeared for class on the beach. They placed their yoga mats and towels on the sand and stood barefoot ready to begin. Turner took her place in the front of the class and welcomed her students.

Julie Turner strikes a pose. (submitted photo)

The beach remained quiet with only a few morning walkers strolling along the shoreline. Wearing a microphone, Turner’s voice was soothing and encouraging as she spoke to her students while performing each move with them. “Inhale and stretch,” she said as the class followed her lead. “Reach to the sky.”
As the hour progressed, Turner advanced to more difficult poses. “Find your ease, find your steadiness. Always listen to your body. Take a moment to feel your breath,” she told the group. Turner then explained and demonstrated three options with increasing degrees of difficulty, allowing her more experienced students as well as beginners and intermediates to find their comfort level.
During the latter part of the class, Turner began a series of gentle balance exercises. “The slower you go, the more steadiness you’ll find,” she advised. “Let your body tell you what it wants for ease and steadiness.”
The sound of the waves breaking on the beach provided a natural and peaceful soundtrack for the class. Only Turner’s voice could be heard as her students focused on their tasks at hand.
When Turner began the cool down, she instructed the group to “Hear the water and feel the air.” She continued, “Feel the earth supporting the whole of your body. Feel the air on your skin, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, feel the space your body is occupying.”

The group goes through the paces at Turtle Beach. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

As she sat cross-legged on her mat, Turner quietly removed a set of yoga chimes from her bag and softly clicked them together several times. A stillness occupied the space. Only the sounds of the waves and the ring of the chimes could be heard. “Take a moment to pause and be at one with your mind and body,” said the yogi. “Reach up to the sky, let your arms float down. Thank you, Neptune.”
Turner rose from her mat and the students followed her lead. Several came to thank her and to place their donation in her glass class donation jar.
The popular Tuesday and Thursday morning class has become a staple for many Siesta Key residents and visitors. Kathie Marini, a local who is also a yoga instructor, attends the class regularly with her friends Debbie Szala and Christine Wells, both wintertime Siesta Key residents.
“She’s fabulous for all levels, said Marini with great enthusiasm. “Julie teaches proper alignment.”
Szala and Wells couldn’t agree more.
“It’s a great way to get the day started,” said Szala.
“And,” said Wells, “you’re outside on the beach!”
The three friends smiled at each other knowingly and gazed around at the natural beauty of the island.
Turner’s Chesapeake Yoga & Wellness Turtle Beach Yoga classes meet on the beach near the ramp and stairs, on the north side of the Turtle Beach parking lot. No reservations are needed; however, each student is asked to make a donation of $5 or more.
“In high season we can have close to 50 students at one of these classes,” said Turner. “We’ll be here through this month.”

Yoga students (from left) Christine Wells, Kathy Marini and Debbie Szala (far right) chat with yoga instructor Julie Turner. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

In case of poor weather or intense red tide, class cancellations are posted on the Chesapeake Yoga and Wellness Facebook page at 7:30 a.m. the day of the class.
With more than 1,000 hours of teaching experience, Turner has been practicing yoga for 33 years. She holds Usui and Karuna Reiki master-level certifications as well as teaching certifications for numerous yoga specialties, including seniors, arthritis sufferers, and those impacted by trauma and PTSD. She refers to herself as a “native of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and Florida’s southwest gulf coast.”
When not teaching or practicing yoga, Turner writes about yoga and wellness. A series of her articles, including a feature entitled “Benefits of Beach Yoga” with six yoga poses recommended for the sand, are featured at chesapeakeyoga.com.

Julie Turner points her students in the right direction. (photo by Jane Bartnett)
Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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