It’s a beautiful sight to see on a summers’ day by the waters of Lake Ontario, toes curled up, gripping the hot sand, bodies leaning back into a parsva virabhadrasana reverse warrior pose doing yoga on the beach.
It’s even better to be the one extending and stretching in the sun on a mat doing the downward dog, curling into a cat pose, bending like a table top, looped like a lotus, lying still or twisted – for the clarity and relief that you will feel when you unwind.
Frances Dean’s calm voice calls out the instructions, telling you to bend your knees, place your arms closer to your sides, push your tailbone toward the sky, and not to force it, if it doesn’t feel right.
“You should never feel pain,” she says to her lunch hour class at the King West Goodlife Fitness last Thursday.
She says the same thing on the beach, where she teaches the class for free, as she does for the members of the fitness club.
She came up with the idea for Yoga on the Beach shortly after she completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training back in 2005.
The upcoming session on Sunday, June 10, will be her 11th year doing Yoga on the Beach. “I’ve always loved the beach and I needed the practice teaching and building clientele. I figured it would be a great energy exchange as I would teach a class and gain experience and everyone else gets to enjoy a free class at the beach,” she says.
Even though she teaches up to five classes a day, including her own studio sessions at Frantastic Yoga & Fitness, she still demonstrates the poses for the full hour for the people who take her classes because, she says, people are used to seeing her do them and they want her to show them how to do the poses correctly. She demonstrates at three different levels, beginner, intermediate, and advance, for all her classes.
Dean has kept with the tradition of teaching a free class once a year in the summer. Her first annual Yoga on the Beach was at the Scarborough Bluffs with only three people. For the last few years it’s been at Woodbine Beach in Toronto, because its more central and accessible so more people are able to attend. Some years she’s had about 40 people join her, including other fitness instructors and yoga teachers who love her style of teaching.
Dean started as a Group Fitness Instructor with Goodlife Fitness, teaching yoga, 13 years ago but now she also teaches Hot Yoga, YogaFit and Jillian Micheals’ BODYSHRED program.
“I started taking Yoga at GoodLife 15 years ago and fell in love with it. That first time you experience your first savasana meditation and that feeling of relaxation and peace it leaves you with, is something that everyone needs to experience. And it sure did help keep me cool and calm as a teenager growing up. I was also a huge fan of the Les Mills BODYFLOW class they offer, which is actually a fusion of yoga, tai chi and Pilates.
She did her training at Yogaspace in Toronto and has since done Yin teacher training, YogaFit and YogaFit Sweat training and received her fitness instructor specialist certification from the Canadian Fitness Professionals association.
Because of her wide range of experience and practice, the style of yoga that she teaches varies from Vinyasa, Hatha, Iyengar, to Yin. A typical class, she says,“ would be a blend of all those styles,” definitely something for everyone. And the favourite for many is the aromatherapy neck massages that she asks permission to give out while in savasana at the end of each yoga practice session.
As for her philosophy, she says, “In life we need balance to keep us happy and healthy. And life is too short to be anything but happy!”
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