Tourists and locals alike frequent the soft quartz sand and calm waters of Siesta Key Beach, but in the breezy mornings before the crowds descend, there is more to the “No. 1 beach in the USA,” than mere sun and surf. Outdoor hatha yoga specialist Avananda Csiszar has been offering free yoga classes on Siesta Key Beach for the past six years. Csiszar teaches anywhere from 25-400 people Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and runs her classes exclusively on donations.
“It’s a spiritual practice after all, it’s not a thing, it’s not a product, and spiritual understanding should be free,” Csiszar commented. The classes start at 8:00 a.m. in summer and spring and 9:00 a.m. in fall and winter, usually lasting an hour and a half or longer. Classes are located near the red lifeguard stand.
“You would be surprised even in a class that large, you’re not disturbed… people are very quiet and respectful and very sweet, and there’s young and old, every age imaginable comes,” Csiszar said. She came to Sarasota from Hawaii, where she ran a surfing school for eight years, to take care of her late mother.
“I like to tell people I was born in 1952,” Csiszar said. “I’m 63 years old, and I am in extremely good health. I want people to know that because I want young people to know that it’s a myth! The whole thing about deteriorating as you age, it’s not true, it’s how you take care of yourself, and you have to start young because it’s a matter of practice.” Csiszar has been a vegetarian since the age of 14, has taught yoga for 40 years and advocates the lifestyle to anyone.
Csiszar writes on her website, “When you practice yoga outside you feel as if the natural environment becomes a wondrous spiritual sanctuary for enriching and broadening your experience of each pose and yourself.” Csiszar emphases the style of hatha yoga, which she says is derived from the body’s “natural inclination and rhythms.”
The class is open to all levels of experience. Beginners can easily follow Csiszar’s instructions, and no two classes are exactly alike. The only things one needs to participate in “yoga the way it was meant to be,” is a yoga mat or towel, sunscreen, water and the desire to participate in what Csiszar proclaims is “one of the most beautiful therapies… that will take you until the day you die.”
For more information on Csiszar’s classes visit http://yogaonsiestabeach.com/