By Sean O’Donnell
The Hridaya Yoga Center in Mazunte is set in a really beautiful environment, where tranquility and intensity are seemingly engaged in a neverending dance. While you can enjoy witnessing the rise and fall of these energies, you may also savor interacting with and connecting to the sea of samsara by answering the call to go play at one of the many beaches located just steps away from our oceanfront home.
Like many of the most powerful things in life, playing in the water near Mazunte is not without risks. The dance of tranquility and intensity is often reflected in the behavior of the waves and riptides on this part of the Oaxacan coast. Even experienced swimmers and surfers know that they have to be fully aware of their surroundings and the changing currents in order to be safe in the exceedingly powerful Pacific Ocean.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali discusses the five kleshas, or obstacles to liberation. The fifth klesha, known as abhinivesha in Sanskrit, deals with the fear of death. Surely, overcoming this subconscious obstacle is a fascinating contemplation for any practitioner, but not one to test while in the Pacific—always try to make loving, respectful choices about when, where, and how to play with Nature. The beaches surrounding Mazunte, including Zipolite (“Beach of the Dead” in the Nahuatl language) and Mermejita, are well-known for extremely powerful riptides that have caused many fatalities over the years. Other beaches in San Agustinillo and Mazunte, while slightly less notorious, but are also subject to similarly life-threatening currents. Although you want to be free from fear and able to enjoy the invigoration and purification that comes from submersion in the Water element, it is best to do so with the understanding that an individual is no match for Mother Nature.
How Can You Be Safe at the Beach?
Please keep in mind the following safety tips whenever visiting the beach:
- Always go to the beach with a friend and keep an eye on each other.
- Observe the currents and waves for at least 5 minutes before entering the water, and only enter when you see that there are no big waves or strong currents.
- When entering the water, be aware of rocks and be careful not to step on manta ray’s tails.
- Always be aware of the waves. Watch other swimmers and how they react to large waves. Learn to dive under the waves. Leave the water when it is too dangerous!
- If you get caught in a strong current, swim with it instead of fighting against it. Try to edge towards the shore and exit the current when you get the opportunity.
Volunteer Lifeguards: Supporting Beach Safety
Ultimately, though, no matter how much respect you give the sea, accidents can still happen and conditions can change very quickly. Of course, you don’t want perceived dangers to cause you to avoid going in the water. So, luckily, our neighbors in Mazunte have formed a volunteer lifeguard crew. Crews like these have significantly reduced the number of ocean-related fatalities over the past few decades, though beach safety is still a very real concern. This essential task is left up to a handful of very well-trained and skilled lifeguards. With the main tourist season approaching and the number of visitors dramatically increasing, there is only so much ground the volunteer lifeguards can cover. Only four positions are paid by the government, and there are very limited resources to train new volunteers and provide essential equipment that will directly contribute to Mazunte safety and provide a sense of freedom for everyone who wants to enjoy these wonderful public beaches.
What Can We Do to Improve Mazunte Safety?
As the Hridaya Yoga Center continues to evolve and expand, we are more connected to and have a bigger impact on the town of Mazunte. At the last public assembly meeting, there was a direct plea for resources for lifeguards. In addition to more trained help, they require funding for basic needs―uniforms, stretchers, radios, cold drinking water, and wages, to name a few. In addition, having a vehicle capable of patrolling the beach would greatly enhance the ability of a limited crew to provide life-saving support in time to make a difference. In many other parts of the world, these services are taken for granted. In Mazunte, help is needed. There is a willingness in the local community to do this selfless service with pride and expertise. But, most of the visitors are transient and there is little awareness of the lack of support that the volunteer lifeguards receive. As permanent neighbors in Mazunte, Hridaya students, teachers, and staff benefit tremendously from these services, and are in a unique place to pool resources and energy to make a big difference―likely saving lives and providing a safe, natural space for everyone’s benefit.
This holiday season, please consider making a donation in support of Mazunte beach safety. Funds can be put into action right away, as the town and beaches become saturated with eager vacationers. Please donate via this link. All money received will be used to buy items that support the selfless crews that help save lives in every day in Mazunte.
Sean is a Hridaya Yoga student and a frequent contributor to our blog.
You can read all of his blog posts here.