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Surfing and yoga as a way of life

Having been raised on Long Island, I was certainly no stranger to the ocean. Some of my fondest memories were of frolicking around Field 4 at Jones Beach, doused with Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil and flirting with the tanned lifeguards as my teenage friends and I played damsels in distress in the rough Atlantic surf.

My love of the ocean never waned and grew into an even greater passion when I learned how to surf about 15 years later.

I moved to California when I was 20 and swam frequently in the ocean for exercise but, ironically, never surfed there. It was only after I had moved back to Long Island when I turned 30 did a friend ask if I wanted to try surfing at Long Beach. I asked, "Is there surfing on Long Island?" He said, "Sure, there is." I had no idea, since I only saw people surfing in Hawaii and California. So we headed out to Lincoln Boulevard one beautiful day with a local surfer who lent me his vintage 10-foot, 60-pound Bunger surfboard. I'm only 5 feet tall, so it felt like a small canoe.

Even though I was quite confident in the ocean, I was really scared to be so far out and had no idea how I would handle this huge board beneath me. Well, I will never forget my first wave. My friends were coaching me the whole time, and then a fairly large wave started heading my way, and I could hear them yelling, "Turn around and lay down -- now paddle! Paddle!" So I paddled with all my heart, and I heard them scream even louder -- "Stand Up! Stand Up!" And somehow, I got to my feet and felt the most amazing rush of my life -- a feeling of elation that I've never felt before -- and from then on, I was hooked. It was not long before the words "stoked" and "awesome" entered my regular vocabulary.

Now at 47, married, with 4-year-old twins, I still feel that same thrill on every single wave -- and I cannot wait to dust off my surfboard and head out there. I plan to pass on that thrill to my children, who have their own surfboards and caught their first waves last summer.

Surfing is a rather inexpensive sport, requiring just a board and a bathing suit -- and a wet suit if you go in the colder months. Although I must admit I've amassed quite a "quiver" over the years -- which, in surf lingo, simply means a large selection of boards.

Many people, like me, had no idea Long Island had such amazing waves -- especially in the hurricane season in September. Then, my best kept secret of surfing beautiful waves in my own backyard was exposed worldwide when the very successful Quiksilver Pro New York surf contest, with world champion surfers like Kelly Slater, contest winner Owen Wright and Long Beach's own Balaram Stack, was held here in Long Beach last year. I was so proud, indeed! And now I'm happy to say that people no longer ask if there is surfing in New York, but instead they ask, "Hey, how do you surf some of those big waves we get out here?" And I simply reply: "With lots of stoke and practice on some totally awesome waves!"

Hey, can you say "Surfin' L.I. in the USA?" I sure like the sound of that! Well, got to run -- surf's up, fellow Islanders! Time to chase my dream of catching yet another perfect wave. Aloha!

Carolyn Mandelino,Massapequa

I have engaged in the pleasurable practice of yoga for more than 35 years. I am certain of that time frame because I can vividly recall that the first year I started taking yoga lessons at a local dojo was 1977, when Elvis Presley died. I learned of his untimely death when my yoga teacher came to class that day so upset she was unable to conduct the class. Consequently, we all sat around talking about Elvis Presley for the entire hour.

Before attending actual live classes, I became acquainted with yoga through a TV program hosted by Richard Hittleman called "Yoga for Health." It was a half-hour show done in black and white that clearly went through the most basic yoga poses. I can recall practicing in my tiny bedroom for one hour each day without even having a yoga mat. Hittleman was a brilliant teacher who inspired me to realize the many health benefits of yoga. Based on the current growing popularity of yoga, he was certainly way ahead of his time.

Over the past 35 years, my yoga practice has taken me to numerous yoga studios in various cities with a wide range of teachers. This exposure has enabled me to learn different yoga styles and it has exposed me to a vast array of teaching methods and yogic philosophies. In addition to frequenting yoga studios, I vacation at least twice a year at Kripalu in the Berkshires, which is the most wonderful and unique yoga vacation and teaching destination in the country. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning about themselves and deepening their yoga practice.

Fast forward: In 2010, I finally made the decision to get certified to teach yoga and graduated in May 2011. I now teach four classes a week.

You would think that after practicing yoga for over 35 years, I could twist my body into any yoga position imaginable, but that is far from the truth. Although I probably have more flexibility that other women who are 58 years old, I came to realize that our bodies change as we grow older. That is probably why I have fine-tuned my teaching style to be user-friendly for seniors and include a chair yoga class for those who have difficulty getting up and down from the floor. My goal is to make the poses achievable for my students through the use of yoga props and modifications. My students come out of my classes with a sense of accomplishment and serenity while still garnering the many healthful benefits of this ancient modality.

It would be virtually impossible to add up all the money that I've spent on yoga over these many years. From attending classes, which currently average about $18 a session, to the expense of attending yoga teacher training and buying yoga clothes, mats, blocks, straps, music CDs, flameless candles, books, singing bowls, etc., I suspect the dollar amount would be in the thousands.

Whatever the amount, I have no regrets and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. To me, yoga is one of the best forms of exercise as well as a de-stressor and a lifelong philosophy of living. I plan to do yoga as long as there is life in me.

Cathy P. Tuthill,Garden City

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