Yoga instructor Ashley Flowers leads a yoga class on paddleboards off East End Beach in Portland on Sunday. The class was part of the three-day Maine YogaFest. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Talk about balance.

Ashley Flowers led a yoga class Sunday on paddleboards in the ocean water off the beach at the Eastern Promenade in Portland.

After getting paddleboards from Portland Paddle, heading out from the shore and dropping anchors to keep from drifting, the class began.

Flowers, of Ashley Flowers Yoga in Portland, led her seven students doing the “cat-cow pose” and the “child’s pose.” They also did the “downward dog” and even the “three-legged dog” (hands down on the board, head lowered, hips and buttocks up, one leg on the board and the other pointed high).

The Maine YogaFest, held Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Portland, drew about 340 students and 28 yoga teachers. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

For about a half-hour all stayed on their boards doing yoga, until one lost his balance, fell in the water, then scrambled back on his board.

The paddleboard yoga class was part of the Maine YogaFest 2022, a three-day event held at the East End Community School.


The festival had been held for several years until 2020, when it was called off due to the pandemic. It didn’t resume until Friday, said organizer Andrea Gleason, who owns Scarborough Yoga. This year’s event, the eighth yoga festival, drew about 340 students, and 28 yoga teachers who donated their time, she said.

“It’s about celebrating yoga and the benefits of yoga and sharing it,” Gleason said. The last festival, held in 2019, was attended by 515 students, so this year is a time of rebuilding, she said, adding that everyone was happy to be back together.

Yoga instructor Ashley Flowers, left, leads a yoga class on paddleboards off East End Beach in Portland on Sunday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Many types of the yoga classes were held under tents on the school grounds on Sunday, including “yin yoga,” “restorative yoga” and “slow the funk down yoga.” There was also music and food trucks, along with vendors and sponsors selling their wares and services.

“Everybody is smiling. We’re social beings, we’re meant to be with people. The world is messy now,” Gleason said, adding that yoga helps people deal with stress. The festival allows people to come together, move together “and breathe together, to sing and laugh, and sometimes fall (during) yoga moves. It’s uplifting.”

No matter what shape a person is in, yoga can be for everyone, she said. “Anyone can do yoga.”

To her, one of the best benefits of yoga is what she called “breathing room, the ability to pause before you react, the ability to navigate stress with a little more ease,” Gleason said. Yoga forces someone to focus on movement and breathing, disregarding the noise of problems. In yoga, Gleason said, “you reset yourself.”


Kayakers paddle by a yoga class off East End Beach in Portland on Sunday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Other yoga benefits include lowering blood pressure, easing anxiety and depression, and making the body stronger with more range of motion in joints and muscles.

Susan Desjardins of Madawaska sat on her mat under a tent waiting for her yoga class to begin on Sunday.

She had attended the festival for years, until the COVID-19 pause. “I come all the way here because where I live there are no yoga studios,” Desjardins said. At home in The County, she does yoga by herself. Doing yoga at the festival recharges her, and it’s nice to practice with others, she said.

Yoga helps her to relieve stiffness, aches and pains that aging can deliver, she said.

Yoga instructor Ashley Flowers leads a yoga class on paddleboards off East End Beach in Portland on Sunday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

With her was Marilyn Michaud of Bangor, Desjardins’ sister-in-law. Michaud said she likes the festival because it offers different kinds of yoga, lessons to take home. And at the yoga festival “it’s such a positive energy,” she said.

Richard Gomberg of Newton, Massachusetts, was another who came to the festival. He was one of the students in the paddleboard class who fell in the water.

A yoga veteran, he said he took a dip because he was pushing himself, “trying something out” on the board, the “warrior two version.”

At home he does paddleboard yoga by himself on a lake. The ocean was harder, “a little more rocky,” he said. The teacher, Flowers, gave him tips on how to best use the paddleboard for yoga stretches. It was hard at times keep his balance on the ocean, Gomberg said. “That’s the fun.”

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