January 19, 2013

Sea Kayaking: A New Way to Practice Yoga. ~ Kim Manfredi

Out in the Indian Ocean, far from shore, I experience Sri Lanka from a new perspective.

For the first time in a month, I cannot hear the waves breaking against the shore, and I cannot feel the ground beneath my feet.

There are two kayaks at Rocky Point—a blue boat with a right handed paddle, and an orange one for the leftie. James and I have been heading out each day for adventure on the deep blue sea. The waves at our beaches are generally pretty big and dangerous, so getting out is the hardest part.

You have to get in your boat and paddle like hell before the waves send you tumbling back into the shore. The trick is to point your boat straight, and be mindful of the rocks to the left and the right. If you do tumble, your boat is the biggest danger. In that case, abandon ship and swim away as fast as you can.

Doesn’t this sound like yoga?

Once you are out in the vast ocean, the direction of the wind and the size of the swell are the big variables. It seems best to go against the current on your way out while you have energy. If you follow this advice you can coast on the way back. Out in the water I often notice the size of the sky, the endlessness of the sea and how quickly the shore disappears in the distance.

Still sounds like yoga to me!

Small and far away is the first fear I have to face in a tiny plastic boat out on the sea. I realize I probably could not swim back to shore, and then I start to wonder about sharks, giant fish, orcas and storms. I begin to ponder all the ways I could die out here. I smile and think of Jayne, who often reminds me I think of death too much and then I paddle some more. In reality, I have been hesitant to write about kayaking because not much happens. On the other hand, I think it is more accurate to say everything happens in a kayak on the sea.

This is yoga, yoga and more yoga!

There is buoyancy in the ocean which lets conversation flow. There is space in the vastness of things where you can talk and gain perspective on new ideas. There is a sense of getting nowhere, yet being everywhere. Sometimes I experience struggle, hurt and a desire to quit; while other times I experience an acceptance of exactly that.

Yes, you’ve got it by now, yoga.

The coastline is made up of coves, rocky outcroppings and beaches. We travel past several landmarks heading north, toward Galle. When the waves tumble and spill on the biggest rocks, the water is its most beautiful, like topaz.

Today, when we stopped on the beach for a coconut, a big storm arrived (yoga). We sat for a while, and swam for a while, because the ocean was warmer than the drops. We waited, but it didn’t look like the rain would pass and as the cold set in, we started back.

Heading home into the wind, rain and choppy seas was nearly impossible for me. There was even a moment when I was paddling but the wind was blowing me backwards. I felt panic; I didn’t know what I was going to do if the gusts blew me out to sea.

Something happens when you face the massive power of the ocean, which illustrates the massive power of life. I had an instinct to survive. This clinging to life (Sanskrit: abhinivesha) gave me strength for hundreds and hundreds of strokes without rest.

It gave me determination and power. Earlier in our ride, James told me about two guys who tried to kayak from New Zealand to Australia—they both died just before reaching the shore.

Paddling around in the Indian Ocean churns every poison to the surface. (Sanskrit: hala hala). It also releases the hidden nectar (Sanskrit: amrita).

When we finally made it to shore, the water was hot like a bath against the pelting rain and wind. My hands were numb and vibrating. I was profoundly grateful for the ground, and felt, at least for that moment, I understood true happiness.

Sea kayaking is like going to the mat or maybe the yoga mat is what lets me see life with open eyes.

You know how sometimes you finish a class, and it’s hard, and you’re wet but despite all that you get home and check the schedule to register for your next session?

Well that’s me today, checking the sky and the waves, crossing my fingers for one more sail.



Kim Manfredi began studying yoga and meditation in 1988 to facilitate healing from a severe fall that resulted in four broken vertebrae. Although she found limited mobility in her spine and permanent damage to her right leg, the benefits of yoga were apparent to her even with her first class. She and her husband Chris Blades own Charm City Yoga Center in Baltimore Maryland. The studio boasts six locations, 12,000 student visits per month and has won best yoga 12 years running. Kim runs the 200 and 500 hour teacher training, offers her own public classes as well as specialty and nutrition workshops. She is dedicated to remaining a students as she dedicates her life to helping others. Follow her on facebook and twitter.




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Assistant Ed: Jennifer Spesia

Ed: Bryonie Wise

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