Perfecting Warrior II pose on Waikiki Beach

Wed. May 11, 2016 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

Park Shore Hotel is one of several in Honolulu that offer yoga-on-the-beach – a must for fitness enthusiasts

Yoga isn't my thing. Never has been, likely never will be.

Sure, I've done a few different yoga programs, perhaps 10 total yoga workouts over the past 10 years, but it just doesn't do anything for me. I'm just not sure about the breathing, the different poses with unique names, or the overall Zen-like approach.

Running marathons? Sure, I'll do those, and have completed 23 over the past eight years.

Weight lifting? Yes, almost daily.

But yoga, sorry, it's a big No.

That said, I've always been intrigued by yoga. Why is it that so many speak so highly of yoga, maybe even do it daily, but I just can't catch the yoga-bug?!

I'll admit ...I've long wanted to try a Bikram Yoga class, which became popular in the 1970s and is noted as hot yoga style. How hot, you ask. Well, it is ideally practiced in a room heated to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of about 40 percent. I even mentioned my interest to a local yogi, but nothing ever materialized. He didn't follow up with me and I never reached back out to him. Oh well, maybe someday. Maybe someday I'll even just stop in on a whim to one of the many CorePower Yoga facilities throughout the Chicago area.

I've done rounds of yoga through P90X and even own DDPYOGA, the multi-DVD workouts designed and led by former pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page (DDP).

DDP is a good friend and we worked together for years at now-defunct World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and he knows my lack of interest, to put it nicely, for DDPYOGA – or any yoga.

When I was here in Hawaii in mid-April, I stayed at the Park Shore Hotel, and noticed signs at the front-desk and elsewhere in the lobby promoting ...you guessed it, yoga. On the beach, no less. And it is free for guests.

I had to try it.

I signed up for a Tuesday morning class, starting at 8 a.m. So there I was, in shorts and a dri-fit t-shirt at 7:50 a.m., ready for yoga. Can't say I was super excited, but I will admit, I was kind of excited, at the very least intrigued. Maybe it was just the fact of doing yoga on grass steps away from the Pacific Ocean, or, well, maybe it was because I was trying yoga yet again.

The instructor was Salina Storozuk, the founder and owner of Flo Yoga Hawaii. She has been a yoga instructor for three years and led the program at the Park Shore for the past two years. She now leads yoga from the Park Shore five days per week, up from three last year. Her busiest class is Friday morning and the most she has at any class is 15.

There were about 10 in my class, and only one – a woman who appeared to be in her mid-30s – was the only one who was a yoga veteran. Others were first-timers and others had limited experience.

Most were tourists – from the U.S. and Japan. About 95 percent of the overall yoga participants that Storozuk leads through the Park Shore are tourists.

The Park Shore Hotel is an Aqua-Aston Hospitality property and one of several that offer yoga-on-the-beach. The Lotus at Diamond Head, for instance, provides a Personal Fitness and Wellness Concierge, in which travelers may request a private workout session, or take sunrise yoga classes on the beach exclusive to Lotus guests.

"Lotus Honolulu has offered complimentary yoga for a few years now, and we feel it has been a good fit for the clientele, as the hotel's environment is relaxing, calm and serene," said Ward Almeida, general manager of Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head. "Staying fit during business trips is important to keep the mind clear and ready for the hustle and bustle of a busy day. For the leisure traveler, yoga keeps the mind flowing with positive thoughts and flowing energy. Our classes are open to yogis of all levels, so we invite all guests to participate in our outdoor yoga classes in beautiful Kapiolani Park."

Storozuk has about 40 yoga participants each and every week – and about 35 of them are tourists. Of the 40, about 80 percent are female. She has guided kids, teens, adults and seniors. Mostly, it's 20-somethings through people in their 60s.

There often are many Japanese tourists, and Storozuk speaks both English and Japanese. She leads the session in English, but translates at times. Many of the Park Shore tourists who try yoga come from Australia, Korea, China and Taiwan, among other countries, Storozuk said.

I was one of the American contingent – and think I represented the U.S. quite well, though of course this wasn't a competition, but rather, a basic yoga class.

We stretched, did breathing exercises, some balancing moves, and more.

"I think what makes Flo Yoga Hawaii special is, we do the yoga class outdoors, ocean-front," Storozuk said.

I agree – the view is priceless.

Standing on a nice blue yoga mate provided for free by the Park Shore, I saw palm trees and the ocean behind Storozuk. And Diamond Head was the opposite direction.

We weren't the only yoga-on-the-beach group. On this Tuesday, I saw three others, including one that was directly on the sand. Not sure I would have liked that as much as the grassy area we were on.

Storozuk said yoga-on-the-beach is a great way for Hawaiian vacationers to reset, a good way to overcome jetlag after the five-hour flight from the West Coast, or a nine-hour nonstop United Airlines from Chicago. Flying for such lengthy periods leads to tension in muscles, including back, hamstrings, and elsewhere. Yoga can help ease the aches and pains.

Plus, "the quality of air" is a benefit, Storozuk said.

The Park Shore Hotel offers sunset yoga on Thursdays, which Storozuk said is a flowing, more movement-filled vinyasa yoga, in which movement is synchronized to the breath. Poses in vinyasa yoga often run together and become like a dance. The breath acts as an anchor to the movement as you to flow from one pose to the next in time with an inhale or an exhale.

The vinyasa yoga is more intense than the morning yoga I enjoyed.

Yes, I did just say, enjoyed.

Storozuk leads a great class. She is positive, friendly, encouraging and very motivating.

I stayed positive throughout the hour-long class and will do it again when I return to Hawaii.

Many of Storozuk's yoga participants have not tried yoga, she said. And not knowing the yogi before the class can takes some courage to sign up for. Perhaps a bit of curiosity and sense of adventure will help, too.

It's worth it.

"Quite often, I can see concern and skepticism on (participants') faces at the start. By the end of the session, through their body language, I can see smiles. And people often are at ease," she said. "In one hour I can see a total body shift.

"Yoga is a broad lifestyle transformation tool; it is something that can help enhance your ability to be resilient in life in general, in many aspects. Plus, yoga helps teach you how to control your breath in a positive way. To be more aware of your breathing helps your heart, your emotions, and more.

"I know yoga is not for everyone, but it's one tool – a lifestyle transformation package – that can help you in all areas of your life. Also, it helps with stress-management. Yoga can be a sustainable, lifelong practice – movement, stretching, breathing, strength-building, balance, and more, and you can do it into your 70s and 80s, no matter when you start. Power lifting or running marathons is not quite sustainable for the average human being beyond a certain age."

I had to ask Storozuk for her assessment of my yoga showing. Mind you, she didn't know before or during the class that I was planning to write about my experience. I didn't tell her that until after the session.

"You were really open and curious. I could tell you were not resistant to try anything; you were willing to do everything. And that openness is a great quality to have," she said. "Physically, you are very strong, but you did have some tightness in certain forward folds and also some balance (issues).

"I thought you were a great student, with great positive energy."

Hmm, sounds like I have a future in yoga ...if I want.

If not, the Park Shore Hotel also offers a once-a-week, on-the-beach morning fitness class, which involves stretching, cardio moves, pushups, and more. This class was way more up my alley, but I still enjoyed the yoga.

Fitness and travel do mix. Just because you're traveling doesn't mean fitness should be forgotten. Most hotels have at least an average gyms. Walking or running around town is an option, too.

And yes, yoga too when you're at the Park Shore Hotel in Hawaii.


Yoga instructor Salina Storozuk can be reached via her website: www.SalinaMaxine.com.

For reservations at the Park Shore Hotel (2586 Kalakaua Ave.), call 866-536-7975, or visit its website: www.parkshorewaikiki.com.

Ross Forman has flown more than 3 million miles, including 2 million on United Airlines. He has been to 49 of the 50 States, yet still doesn't know yet when he'll finally hit Alaska. Ross prefers aisle seats when flying, hotel rooms that are close to the elevator, SUVs when he rents cars, and local restaurants as opposed to high-dollar chains. Ross' Travel Column, On The Go, appears at least once-a-month on the GoPride.com Network.