This is not just a place for supermodels to sweat off water weight or body builders to stretch out their quads. What distinguishes Yogashala from the plethora of yoga studios and gym yoga classes in Miami is owner, director, and instructor Fred Busch. His positive attitude and serious attention to correct form and proper breathing not only enable people from all walks of life to get into yoga, he allows yoga to get into people from all walks of life. The studio offers classes in Ashtanga yoga, a branch of Hatha yoga. Nicknamed "Marine yoga" because of its vigorous nature, Ashtanga is a sequence of postures that synchronize movement and breath to create a moving meditation. It has become a favorite with one-word stars such as Sting and Madonna, but Yogashala is no temple for the body perfect. It's a sanctuary for those who want to calm the mind as well as strengthen the body. The space is minimalist in design, leaving room for Busch's soothing, almost liturgical voice to reverberate between its walls as practitioners of varying levels twist, turn, sweat, and om toward flexibility, strength, and serenity. Like any other yoga space, Yogashala on any given morning or evening heats up with sweating bodies, but it also radiates with something you won't find in a gym yoga class -- inspiration.

For offshore reef snorkeling we highly recommend Biscayne National Park (reservations: 305-230-1100). But for viewing sea creatures, and for convenience and price, nothing beats the rock jetty that demarcates the northern edge of Government Cut. You don't need an inflatable life vest. It's great to have a quality snorkel and swim fins, of course, but in truth all you need is a mask. The only other thing you'll pay for is parking in the lot at South Pointe Park, where Washington Avenue ends at Government Cut. Head out on the north (Miami Beach) side of the jetty. The farther you go, the deeper the water and the bigger the fish. You'll encounter virtually all the species you'd find out on the reefs further south, including grunts, butterflies, angels, parrots, eels, barracuda, and more.

Readers Choice: John Pennekamp Coral Reef and State Park

So close yet so far from the commercial frenzy of upper Biscayne Boulevard and Aventura, Greynolds Park is an oasis of green and calm from the minute you turn off West Dixie Highway. Designated picnicking areas, some with barbecues, abound. For a quieter, more contemplative time, consider a shady spot near the West Lake or one of the tables tucked away in clearings, the latter of which makes for an idyllic setting for sun-dappled, winter-afternoon nuptials. Should you need to burn off the eats, the park is crossed with paths, open fields beckon Frisbee players and kite flyers, and playgrounds are on hand for the smaller fry. And of course, duffers in the crowd can hit the links at the golf course. Operating hours at this county park are 8:00 a.m. to sundown. Admission is free on weekdays and just four dollars per car on weekends and holidays.

Readers Choice: Crandon Park

Everglades National Park
Rodney Cammauf / National Park Service
Over the years we've recommended nearly all the viable hiking trails accessible from the park's southern entrance. The Long Pine Key trail network and especially its unnamed but gorgeous offshoot just beyond Pine Glades Lake (details from the main visitors' center). The five-mile round-trip Rowdy Bend trail just north of Flamingo (don't bother with the nearby but monotonous Snake Bight trail). The Christian Point trail (four miles round trip) also near Flamingo. The Coastal Prairie trail (thirteen miles round trip) that begins at the western end of the Flamingo camping area and features an array of landscapes. Each trail has its charms and challenges, depending on the season and time of day. But here's something new. The park recently reopened its Mahogany Hammock trail, which wanders through one of the most lovely hardwood hammocks you'll ever see. But the boardwalk loop is only a half-mile long. So we suggest you park your car at the Mahogany Hammock turnoff from the park's main road and walk from there. Your passage will carry you into the vast sawgrass savannah, whose subtle wonders are impossible to appreciate from a car. Traffic on your asphalt trail will run from very light (weekdays) to moderate (weekends). Your reward at the end is the new boardwalk loop and the inviting coolness of the hammock. A round trip hike from the main road and through the loop is just under five miles.

Manatee-watching may not be as consistently rewarding as birding. Often the only sign of the massive creatures are the concentric circles of water swelling upward from their underwater path. But if you keep an eye on the canal leading from Black Point Marina to Biscayne Bay, you'll see a snout poking above the water to snuffle in some of that fragrant Mt. Trashmore air before going back under. Occasionally a manatee's entire bulk will be visible, a sight worth whatever wait it takes.

The Biltmore's world-renowned, crescent-shaped pool is a record-holder. At 700,000 crystalline gallons, it ranks as the largest hotel pool in the continental United States. It is frequently used as a backdrop for movies, fashion spreads, and video shoots. The old grandstand bleachers, once used for popular aquatic shows, have been replaced with private cabanas and lush landscaping of palms, bougainvillea, and hibiscus. Its diving platform has been converted into a waterfall, tucked under the awesome sight of the hotel's Spanish tower. The 23,000-square-foot pool continues to delight hotel guests and sneak-in visitors who enjoy swimming in a man-made space with the feel of the sea.

This is a park within a park, and it has an identity all its own. In 1980, when Metrozoo pulled out of its 30-acre facility at the south end of Crandon Park, it left behind cages, pathways, several large ponds, meandering lagoons, and a colony of iguanas. Years of neglect transformed the place into a wild jungle populated by a variety of waterfowl and a vastly larger colony of iguanas, some of which grew to enormous size. A group of devoted park advocates, led by the tireless Valerie Cassidy, took it upon themselves to transform the old zoo once again, but this time into a magnificent garden. They formed the Gardens of Crandon Park Foundation and went to work raising money and mucking around in the dirt. Slowly they redeemed the landscape and diversified the waterfowl population. The iguanas continued to thrive. Eventually the county, which owns the property, acknowledged its responsibility and joined the foundation's volunteers in refurbishing the grounds. The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Today it is a wonderful place for a stroll, a bike ride, or a picnic. The birds alone are worth a visit -- not to mention the iguanas. You'll recognize Valerie Cassidy by her trademark yellow BMW, always parked under a tree near the entrance. Take a moment to thank her.

Round women, short women, sleek and tall women. Women with foreign accents. Iowa girls with sensitive skin, glistening pink through a coat of sunscreen and barely believing they're lying on hot sand while their friends at home shiver under layers of scarves and sweaters. Brazilian goddesses all brown and slick with oil, their hair in braids or free in the wind, chatting in Portuguese and barely noticing the soccer guys in Speedos who pass by them smiling. Hard-body health-club chicks, silicone mamas, young mothers basking on blankets in the warm glow of winter in Miami. As if conspiring with the sunlight and the wind and sea, these women overwhelm the senses. A gathering of womanhood on the beach, like the heroines in a Fellini film, at ease with their bodies and their strength, liberating their breasts from the yoke of society, defying age and gravity. They inspire any first-timer to join them topless in the sun at the edge of the Atlantic.

Jogging is an introspective activity for loners. You don't need friends to jog. You don't need to coordinate your schedule or talk to anyone along the way. It's just your stamina and your thoughts and your path. Of these three, the path is about the only thing you can really control, so best to make it a good one. Park on the far side of the big William M. Powell bridge and head out toward Miami Seaquarium. The white-rippled waves and brisk breeze might help you rev up those endorphins. You can hang a left at the Seaquarium and take a long loop through Virginia Key or continue straight to Crandon Park (cut across the road at Sundays on the Bay to hook up with the park's nature trail). Either way you'll find plenty of outlets, like the brush and dunes of Bear Cut preserve, to cut your midlife angst to pieces. Kick up some dirt behind you and let your mind wander freely.

Since management at Flamingo's tennis center changed last year, using the courts has become a more pleasant experience. A new team of pros associated with the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton have been reshaping the tennis programs, adding clinics, maintaining competitive ladders for all levels of play, and improving Flamingo's seventeen clay courts (many of those nasty lumps have been smoothed out). A very welcome improvement indeed.

Readers Choice: Sans Souci Tennis Center

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®