Skip to main content

Times of the Islands Magazine

Thought Provoking: Ambu Yoga meditations, Yali Zawady’s larger purpose, donations to SCCF

Jun 26, 2017 01:36PM ● By Kevin

New Moon Meditation participants will this year eclipse donations to SCCF's sea turtle programs. Photo by Dawn Biery.

The new moon―the first phase, invisible to us on earth―is viewed by many yoga and meditation enthusiasts as a fresh start, a monthly opportunity to let go of negative thoughts and set clear intentions for the weeks ahead.

But for Yali Zawady, this lunar phase is a platform to bring awareness to natural resources and sea turtle conservation, causes she deems vital. “From the beginning [2015], my vision was for Ambu Yoga to have a larger purpose, to help students feel connected to our island and its nature, and understand what it takes to protect it,” says Zawady, Abu Yoga’s founder and a native Colombian learning to embrace natural resources at that country’s pristine beaches and by exploring diverse jungle and mountain ecosystems.

Zawady on Captiva quickly learned about the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s (SCCF) work, its efforts since 1967 to preserve land and to protect and study barrier wildlife. She reached out to Cheryl Giattini, SCCF’s legacy coordinator, together determining that the nonprofit’s Sea Turtle Program was the perfect cause which to build a partnership. Zawady already offered beach yoga and meditation, and wanted to add an educational element to those classes. The beach, she and Giattini realized, is an ideal setting to spark interest in ocean conservation. Because a sea turtle’s lifecycle is linked to the moon (mother turtles and hatchlings are guided by its light, for instance), they established a monthly New Moon Meditation. Instead of charging for the experience, cash donations would help fund sea turtle conservation programs.

Before these New Moon Meditations begin, someone with SCCF talks with participants about the Sea Turtle Program’s mission, that its collection of data helps scientists to protect turtles. “During the nesting season, our program monitors 18 miles of beach daily for sea turtle activity, keeping track of each nest, which species it belongs to, and how many hatchlings emerge successfully,” says Kelly Sloan, SCCF’s Sea Turtle coordinator.

After this brief overview, Zawady or one of her instructors leads the meditation. The idea is to reflect deeply on personal goals and broader intentions. “It is our hope that the enthusiasm of SCCF’s team, along with the ocean views and sounds, will influence students to not only set personal intentions, but to think about what they’d like to do for the community and the environment as well,” says Zawady.

Following the meditation, participants enjoy the sunset, clean the beach and contribute to a donation bucket. And if the funds raised last year are an indication, it is clear that the partnership is motivating visitors and locals alike to learn about and support SCCF’s work―New Moon Meditations last year brought $2,000 to the organization, including $1,000 from an anonymous donor. The project is on track to exceed that amount this year. The anonymous donor was so inspired by Zawady’s efforts that he will match all donations for another year. “All Sanibel business owners use the island’s resources to make a living here,” the man says, “and I appreciate that Yali cares enough to take a part of what she earns and contribute it back to a good cause. I would like to see more local entrepreneurs follow her lead.”  

Additionally, Ambu Yoga is the first island business to join SCCF’s Adopt-A-Beach Program, pledging to care for 2,000 feet along South Seas Island Resort on Captiva. “The interest and generosity shown by our Ambu community―a mix of locals and visitors―is incredible,” Zawady says.

“Yali has been an incredible partner, both personally and professionally,” says Giattini. “Her involvement in the Sea Turtle and Adopt-A-Beach programs is nothing short of extraordinary…I couldn’t be more appreciative of her energy and passion. Namaste, Yali.”

Yali Zawady (left) stands with SCCF's Kelly Sloan. The two use beach meditation to spark activism in the survival of Southwest Florida's sea turtles. Turtle nesting runs April through October. Sea turtles were federally protected in the 1970s.

Written by Leah Biery, director of communications for the Sanibel Sea School.

Points of Light

Ambu Yoga, Captiva. 239-314-9642,

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. 239-472-2329,

How to Help

Clean the beach when visiting.

Recycle fishing line, as it entangles turtles and other creatures.

Turn off your lights during sea turtle nesting season (April-October). Bright lights can confuse nesting mothers and emerging hatchlings.

Replace disposable plastic bags with reusable bags.

Flatten sand structures you build on the beach, and never leave furniture or other objects on the beach overnight.

Donate to SCCF’s Sea Turtle Program to support related research and conservation.