“What are you afraid of?” Amanda Jones, yoga instructor, asks her packed yoga class as we sit cross-legged, staring ahead at the 300,000 gallon shark tank at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, in Draper.
Fear is something that strikes me as a foreign concept to Jones, formerly a reporter at KUTV 2News, and founder of Amanda Jones Yoga Experiences. She seems so comfortable on a microphone in front of 90 yogis of all levels and news cameras rolling simultaneously (KUTV 2News was covering the class). She is now a full-time yoga and meditation instructor, and began Yoga with the Sharks at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium this January. She also offers Rainforest Yoga, in the South America exhibit at the aquarium, which I also attended in February. This experience is similar to a mild version of hot yoga with the exotic experience of birds flying overhead. It’s worth the drive to Draper on a Saturday morning.
Rainforest Yoga was more of an immersive experience for all the senses, where Yoga with the Sharks was more purely visual, aside from the yoga.
Jones’ intention for doing yoga in front of the shark tank is to bring awareness to marine life. Granted, the sharks are not the only stars of the show: four white Unicorn fish dance in sync for us, a little yellow fish swims by to say hello, the sea turtle makes a few appearances, and the sting ray saunters up to our end of the glass a time or two as well. We became the stars of the show, too, when the KUTV2 news guys turned on their lights and camera, and the reporter filmed a 5-second teaser about his upcoming segment on Yoga with the Sharks, just as the class in the background said our final “Om.” Despite how much I liked Jones’ class, I found it difficult to stay centered with the constant eye of the news cameras. It was, on the other hand, a chance to observe my thoughts in those moments of discomfort, this time asking myself, “What am I afraid of?”
“We only feel fear when we feel separate,” says Jones. We explored the concept of fear in depth throughout the class. Her words and intentions carefully crafted to interweave the visuals of the shark tank, and how our fear of sharks, or really anything, can sometimes be deceiving. “So many of our fears are created by our minds and our egos. Ask yourself the next time you are afraid, ‘am I in real physical danger?’” asked Jones, “Try turning these fake fears into curiosity.”
Jones’ command of the class, and her genuine spirit shines through to the class. Her Vinyasa flow is constructed for all levels of yoga, with adjustments for pregnant women. There are also moments of class that challenge me, an intermediate to advanced yogi.
In final resting pose, I kept my eyes open to watch the fluttering light through the surface of the water in the tank, an intensely calming and wonderful sight, especially after an hour of yoga. I felt enveloped by our sea creature friends, and the comforting affect of the tank.
As the sharks swam by for the thousandth time, Jones asked again, “What are you afraid of?” I couldn’t answer that question as easily as the first time. Finding comfort and even sweetness in the eyes of some of the most feared creatures on the planet is a good marker for that shift.
The next Yoga with the Sharks class is April 3, 6:30-7:30pm, Rainforest Yoga is April 15, 9-10am. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to get a good spot. They say to check in a half hour before, however if you are leaving from Salt Lake at rush hour, I suggest leaving at 4:45pm to avoid the bulk of traffic. More info and tickets here.