Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY
As they lay flat on their backs on the floor, they listened to their instructor's calm, gentle voice as he led them from one yoga pose to the next.
Put your right foot above your left knee, he said.
Now raise your right arm above your head and roll to the left.
They stayed that way for a while, stretching muscles that for some had never been stretched quite that way before.
Then it was time to switch sides and do it again.
Every Sunday at 10 a.m., 50 to 60 people gather at the Water Studio at Cobalt Moon Center in Neptune Beach to do yoga and tai chi movements together. The weekly event, called Movement for Peace, is free and open to the public.
For some, it's a way to practice yoga, an ancient practice of physical postures developed in India, or tai chi, an ancient Chinese martial arts-related form of movement.
For others, it's an introduction to those movement arts.
Along the way, as they twist and turn, stretching muscles and breathing serenely, they are sending out messages for world peace.
The movements are forms of meditation and prayer for some, said Cobalt Moon owner Donnalea Goelz, who offers a dedicated time and place for such prayers to help people who are suffering from wars around the globe.
She offers the event as a way to unite the community, and accepts donations to send to international peace-based charities.
Last year, she said the movement sent $800 to help families of soldiers through the American Red Cross and to an organization called War Child International, which helps families around the world who are suffering from bloody conflicts.
On Sunday, the center's new director of yoga, Michael Marchese, led the 90-minute yoga session, which was followed by 30 minutes of tai chi and then an open-group discussion about life called "Dialogue."
As usual, the yoga session at the Water Studio at 214 Orange St. attracted a mix of regulars and newcomers who all had similar, and different, reasons for being there.
For Katrina Lathrop of Jacksonville Beach, it was a first-time visit.
She'd done yoga before and came at the urging of friends because "it was free."
Bob Frosio of Neptune Beach and his wife, Chriss, are regulars. They take yoga classes at Cobalt Moon and elsewhere at the Beaches and seek out classes in other cities when they travel.
"We're in it for the exercise and stretching" because as surfers, yoga helps you stay in shape and flexible, Bob Frosio said.
"There are so many health benefits to yoga," said Chriss Frosio. "The breathing techniques oxygenate the body, it's an immune system booster for every organ. It's good for everything."
Jeff Sills of Jacksonville has been attending since May. …