Confessions of a Reformed Gym-a-phobe

Can I let you in on a little secret? I’ve never been much of a gym person. My boyfriend has tried to drag me along to various gyms over the years, and in that time I have come to the conclusion that gyms are not my favorite places to hang out. I’m more of a yoga, dance-class or swim-in-the-sea sort of person when it comes to doing exercise, not a ‘run on a treadmill’ sort of gal.

Gym machines in Playa del Carmen

I don’t want to feel like I’m exercising when I’m exercising, you know what I mean?

I’ve held on to my opinion that gyms are sterilized, soulless places, and therefore thought it highly unlikely I was ever going to step foot inside one again.

That was until we stayed at the El Taj in Playa del Carmen and were given free passes to The Gym for the entire length of our stay.

But to tell you the truth, even then, I was just being polite when I accompanied my boyfriend to check it out.

“Just come and see what they have on offer,” he suggested to me, “who knows, you might enjoy this one.”

I just about choked on my breakfast at the thought that I would actually enjoy a gym, but decided to go along and prove my point that gyms are boring, lifeless places I have no intention of spending time in, in the hope of silencing him forever.

Upon entering the shiny glass doors of the entrance, I have to say I was quite impressed by the stylish design and pleasant color scheme. To the right of the reception area was a juice bar and cafe, selling delicious looking healthy snacks and smoothies.

“Hmm, maybe there is hope I’ll enjoy it here,” I said to my boyfriend, picturing myself passing the time over a chaya smoothie and a tuna wrap whilst flicking through a glossy magazine.

“That’s for afterwards,” he said, knowing me too well. “Just have a look at the timetable to see if there are any classes you’d like to do.”

I sighed, and took the paper timetable from him begrudgingly, not expecting to find anything I liked.

My eyes widened as I looked over the class schedule packed with options; some pretty unique and interesting ones at that.

the gym playa timetable

“Woah, look how many yoga classes they have!” I said, surprised that a gym would have so many, at different times of the day. Gyms I had visited previously only ever had a few yoga classes at times which didn’t suit me. I like to do yoga in the morning, with a few different time options in case I feel like sleeping in. This gym, however, had numerous classes from 7am to 10am almost every single day, as well as evening classes just in case the mood struck.

Not only that, but along with the usual suspects of Spin, Fat Burner and Step, there were some classes that seemed like they might actually be fun!

“Where is the Aquatone class held?” I asked the fit looking girl behind the counter, looking around for the pool inside the building.

“Oh that is held in the pool at the El Taj hotel,” she informed me matter-of-factly, referring to the beautiful oceanfront Balinese style pool we’d just swum in that morning.

El Taj Pool small

I couldn’t believe my luck that three times per week, a water exercise class was going to be brought to me! I wouldn’t even have to leave the hotel!

It didn’t stop there. Afro-jazz dance classes, Ballet Fit classes and Cuban Salsa would cater to my love of dance, while Yoga and Tai Chi classes on the beach every weekend would allow me to exercise in the great outdoors just as I enjoyed.

A smile crept across my boyfriend’s face as he saw my look of shock and surprise.

“We might make a gym junkie out of you yet!” he teased as he threw me a clean white towel from the orderly pile. We entered the stylish premises lined with flat screens as the state of the art sound system pumped out upbeat tunes.

He headed for the cross trainer as I headed for the yoga studio, which was filled with the aroma of burning incense as the calming sound of yogic chanting emanated from the speakers.

‘Yes,’ I thought to myself as I positioned myself on the mat to begin the class, ‘maybe we will.’

yoga studio in Playa del Carmen

yoga at the beach

Access to The Gym including all of the classes is free for all Condo Hotel guests.

Yoga on the Beach: A Perfect Start to the Day

I was thrilled to learn that beach-front yoga classes were being held on Saturday mornings at the El Taj Oceanfront. Not only was I spoiled for choice by the fifteen classes of yoga per week in The Gym, but I now had the option of doing yoga on the shore of the Caribbean Sea!

As I walked through the Indigo Beach club past the huge white Buddha statue, I saw the teacher and my classmates gathering together on the sand to begin the lesson.

Yoga on the beach Playa del Carmen

“A very fitting setting for yoga,” I thought to myself as I breathed in the salty scent of the ocean which gently lapped against the white sand.

Sam, the teacher introduced himself and we positioned ourselves on the sand. No yoga mats were required, we would be going ‘el naturale’ for this beach front yoga class!

Sam began the class by giving us a small reading from the Mayan calendar, which he studies daily. Apparently the Mayans used many different types of calendars to assist them in their ritualistic lives, and today some Mexican people study the calendars for insights which guide them in modern life also.

I liked the idea of starting the class with some ancient Mayan wisdom. Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice originating in India, so the Mayan aspect to the class was a new addition for me. Sam assured us that it was still traditional yoga, just with a shift in focus towards ancient Mayan wisdom.

It sounded wonderful; practicing yoga on the shores of the Mayan Riviera, whilst learning a little about the ancient culture of the area. The word ‘Yoga’ means union, of the body, mind and spirit, so with my feet buried in the sand, I closed my eyes and listened to Sam’s words of ancient wisdom, breathing slowly and deeply, connecting to the moment.

Most of the class was carried out on our feet, through a variety of standing postures such as ‘tree’ and triangle’ poses. Toward the end of the class, however, we made our way down to the sand for the sitting postures. It was certainly different doing yoga in the sand, and not on a mat inside a studio, but with the beautiful Caribbean sea to rinse off in afterwards, I wasn’t too worried about having it on my skin!

Yoga on the beach Playa del Carmen

Triangle pose!

For the last five minutes of the one hour class, we lay back on the sand in ‘shavasana’ pose, or ‘corpse’ pose, for relaxation. Being early in the morning, the fine sand was still cool to touch, and provided a soft natural surface to completely relax in.

Through my almost-closed eyes, I saw a flock of pelicans soar overhead in an arrow formation, in perfect unison with each other. I wondered how they instinctively knew exactly what to do and where to go.

“They just do,” I thought to myself. Returning my focus to my breath, I closed my eyes, falling into a deeply relaxed state.

I was very grateful for the wisdom of two ancient cultures coming together on the shores of the Caribbean sea; allowing me to begin my day in a peaceful, centered state – the perfect way to start any day.

Buddha at El Taj Oceanfront


*There are yoga classes on the beach every Saturday morning at 8 AM. There are Tai Chi classes at 8 AM Sundays, and all classes are complimentary for all Condo hotel guests.