Sarasota County Part 2: Where Locals and Tourists Go for Health, Wellness, and To Give Back

Disclosure: Thank you VisitSarasota.com and partners for the hospitality. As always, the opinions here are my own.

Sarasota County: Part 2

Wellness is one of many reasons U. S. News and World Report named Sarasota, FloriDa the #1 Place 2020-2021 to Retire and the #16 Best Place to Live.
LOVE LOVE LOVE Pineapple Yoga + Cycling Studio

So how are those 2021 health and fitness goals going? January 1, I kicked off  the new year making wellness a priority at Pineapple Yoga + Cycling Studio–a highlight of my Sarasota County trip

While vacationing on the west coast of Florida the previous two winters, I saw happy, fit folks of all ages everywhere. Snowbirds love this area–maybe now more than ever– because, unlike the northern parts of the state or most of the US, it’s warm enough to socially distance outdoors all year. Only an outside studio could have coaxed me into a class the morning after celebrating New Year’s Eve, but I’d missed my yoga studio in Nashville, closed due to Covid now for almost a year. I had just restarted the practice that gave me peace, joy, and community while living in Marrakesh, and though I’ve done some online classes since the pandemic started, it hasn’t been the same.  So I traded my comfortable bed at Art Ovation Hotel for one of the bikes they provide and took off on empty but sunny streets.

I enjoyed the ride through the Burns Court neighborhood. When I arrived at the studio–a haven that Claudia Baeza has created in Sarasota–I  instantly felt welcome,  energized. Something also seemed very familiar…like a Moroccan coastal yogi retreat.  

Please watch the video below to understand why, meet some amazing ladies, hear about a haven for locals and tourists…and a model for giving back.

I understand why locals love Pineapple Yoga + Cycling Studio, named in Sarasota Magazine Best New Yoga Studio 2019 and in SRQ Magazine, Best Local Yoga Studio 2020. On-demand classes, online teacher training , studio and live streaming, and here’s just a few events: history yoga classes, Dock Yoga at Marina Jack on Valentine’s Day, Poolside Yoga at the Moderns Sarasota Hotel, Moving Meditation at the Ringling Museum, Throwback 90 Outdoor Yoga Party. AND… check out other experiences offered on beach, boat or paddle board here. Take me back please!

Best of all, staying fit and having fun funds the Dharma Footprint Project so others can, too–so many incredible programs for those listed here AND their care-partners : Yoga and Cycling for Parkinson’s, Love Your Brain™ Yoga (LYBY) for those who have experienced a TBI (traumatic brain injury) or concussion, Y12SR yoga with 12-step programs for addiction recovery, Trauma Sensitive Yoga for Anxiety and Depression, Yoga for Veterans, Yoga for Differently Disabled.

I loved meeting Claudia, a kindred spirit. If you saw the end of the video, stay tuned… when the coast is clear we just may team up in Morocco for a writing and yoga retreat!

Some of Sarasota County’s many wellness opportunities, outdoor sports, adventures on the water and an unbelievable list of gorgeous beaches and parks make for a healthy 2021 body, mind, and soul.

Here’s a few I’d like to try:

Canopy Walk at Myakka River State Park 
Mangrove Tunnels

My podcast guest, Morgan Henderson, talked about the fun her boys had on this family field trip they did during remote school. 

Quick Point Nature Reserve at Longboat Key
Epic Equine Experiences
Photo Credit Epic Adventures
Turtle Beach Campground Waterfront Siesta Key
Bike Tour and Siesta Key Sunset Tour
And of course, my favorite thing about Sarasota County…. miles of beaches for walking, running, shell gathering … exercise, mental health, peace.
Siesta Key, Named #1 US Beach, Photo by VisitSarasota.com

 

 Where to Eat for Health and Wellness

After my January 1 class, I biked through a park, around the corner, and up Main Street for brunch.

 

Main Street, Sarasota, Florida

 

Sarasota has been named the Best City for Vegans in America.
My son. has been vegan for a few years and has opened my mind and tastebuds to some delicious dishes. Lila, recommended by locals, was a great choice. Pronounced Lee-lah, translated as fun, whimsical and creative, the eatery lives up to its name.

Grilled Tofu with Lila’s Dragon Sauce
Ginger Margarita, Macro Bowl with Chickpeas, Brown Rice, Fermentlicious Sauerkraut,  Avocado, Cucumber, Warm Kale, Togarashi, Tumeric-Tahini Vinaigrette. Dessert wan a cappuccino before I hit the road and biked back to the hotel.
I love that Sarasota County  is  known for  Clean Conscious Eating. Here are more suggestions.

MORE ON PINEAPPLE STUDIO and BEACHES HERESARASOTA COUNTY, FLORIDA, BEST OF ALL WORLDS: PART 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

88 Kisses and 44 Smiles: Sweet Success of Project SOAR

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To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Growing up southern, I’d hear my Mama Sargeant and Grandaddy say when they greeted the grandkids : “Give me some sugar.” A couple of weeks ago, I exchanged eighty-eight kisses  Moroccan- style, one on each cheek, with forty-four sweet girls as they excitedly entered the Project SOAR gates as they do every Sunday during the school year. My students and other volunteers were all smiles and laughs, too.

Last week the last session ended the season for summer break, but sadly, for me, it was another marker of the end of my season in Morocco.   Lord willing, or as Moroccans say, Inshallah,  I will be teaching students in the Caribbean when Project SOAR resumes in the fall.  I will miss the girls, my students who love working with them, and the wonderful people who started and sustain Project SOAR.  I am forever grateful for the hospitality shown to me by Maryam and Chris and the opportunities to teach their son, Tristan, and to serve Douar Ladaam girls.  I believe in Project SOAR’s mission to “empower underserved Moroccan girls through art, sports, and health education…(and to) help keep girls in school, breaking the cycle of girl marriages and early motherhood, and preparing girls to have productive and fulfilled futures.”

From afar I will continue to invite others to get involved in person or through financial support.  Though it is time to be nearer my family and leave Morocco, a country I have come to love the last two years, I will carry this place, these people forever with me in my heart.

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Sports instructor, Alice Elliot explains circuit training to ASM girls, Zineb and Rania, who will lead sports for the day.

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My former student visiting from the US, Jessica Markwood, will being interning in Mozambique this fall.  Four years ago we had just returned from a service trip where we worked with children in Ecuador.

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After sports at Peacock Pavilions we walk to the Project Soar Center in the village.

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Bochra Laghssais leads art class with an empowering project to make leaves for a tree that lists their personal goals and pursuits.

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Last winter students Abla, Najma, and Kenza also volunteered with me.  Project SOAR was chosen to pilot the Be Girl program in Morocco–the first Muslim country that is keeping girls in school by providing them with a hygienic, eco-friendly, vital product.

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Both beloved by the girls are Warda Belkass and Brenda Garcia Jaramillo.

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Volunteering with the girls of Project Soar has been good for students of The American School of Marrakesh as well.  They love laughing and playing with the girls.  Below, they demonstrated ballet moves and then asked the girls to strike a pose.  I am so thankful for their beauty, innocence, and enthusiasm.

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Memories Made at Project SOAR:

In Marrakesh Girls SOAR

Painting Party at Project SOAR

International Women’s Day

 

 

Amazing Animal Sanctuary outside Marrakesh

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Since meeting Charles Hantom and Susan Machin, Directors and Founders of Jarjeer Mules, last year at Café du Livre, I have wanted to see their sanctuary– a retirement home and nursery for aged, abandoned, and disabled equines and a learning center for visitors of all ages.  See their story below of how stray dogs changed their mission from building a guest house to sheltering and rehabilitating donkeys and mules.

With a history of helping people–Charles, a retired solicitor honored by the Community Trade Union for his service to iron and steel workers and Susan, a practicing barrister, representing vulnerable adults in the UK– they now rescue animals, sharing the love by teaching empathy to children who ride the older donkeys and providing adults opportunities to be involved from near or far.

My coworker Fiona organized a van for us to travel 24 kilometers out of Marrakech toward the Atlas Mountains–a gorgeous ride.  When we arrived, ten dogs, barking and tales wagging, met us at the gate. Inside twenty donkeys and four mules were having breakfast.  Curious to see what we brought them for dessert, they nuzzled in to eat carrots, apples, and sugar cubes.

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Above is Jerry who arrived as a tiny orphan, was attacked by a dog, but with extensive surgery and constant care survived and now thrives.  Read his story and that of Alan, Sally, Tommy and the the whole herd here.

Before the ride back, we enjoyed mint tea and biscuits from a peaceful, pretty patio as puppies rolled in the grass.  I have always loved the country–as a kid in Kentucky visiting family on weekends and as a newlywed living on a thoroughbred farm.  I was out of practice and more skittish than the mules for fear of being kicked, but I’m really glad I went.  Yet another reason to love Morocco.

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Crib of Hope

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Lining the wall of the Moroccan nursery, infants slept.

Twisting my hair in her tiny hands, her brown eyes,–no–her entire body laughed. Even before I picked her up, she shook with glee, stiffened her legs, and tried to jump from the straps of her baby seat into my arms. I thought of my own little girl at six months so precious and full of life. One by one we unbuckled them from seats lined in front of cartoons and held them. The sunny room was abuzz with babies four months to a year old smiling, blowing bubbles, crawling, playing.

Except one. His eyes followed the jingly toy but without expression.He seemed to be observing quietly but didn’t reach, didn’t move, didn’t respond to us.  I raised him above my head and flew him like an airplane.  He smiled, then chuckled. I laughed and cried.

Jodie, one of my coworkers, went to an older boy who lay staring at the lights on a toy truck. She asked one of caretakers the Arabic word for truck and began talking to the boy. Though he couldn’t walk, he came alive—delighting in playing with Jodie, then creating a game of crawling away at lightening speed and being carried back giggling upside down on Sylvie’s shoulder.  In another room Bev and Jason played with other disabled children confined to beds by disabilities.

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In the midst of an orphanage in a troubled world, beautiful bright-eyed babies look into eyes of older souls in a two-way exchange of wonder, poignancy, and peace.    The Association Enfance Espoir Maroc   or “Crib of Hope” cares for healthy and handicapped children, most aged 0-3 who were abandoned and found on the streets. Moroccans may adopt them, and volunteers may donate time or resources. Sponsoring a child for one year costs 1000 dirhams ($100 USD). For more information on how to help go here.  We were asked not to photograph the children’s sweet faces, but you can see their home (for now) below.

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