Meet Deb Cunningham
Whether atop a paddleboard by the Amelia Island Marina, on a sandy meditation mat at the beach or during a beer yoga class at Pajama Dave’s in Fernandina Beach, Deb Cunningham helps her students find perspective.
As a young mom of one-year-old twins living in Chicago, Deb Cunningham first accepted a neighbor’s invitation to attend a yoga class simply as an excuse to get out of the house.
But at the end of the class, Deb laid down, closed her eyes and found stillness. “I was in heaven,” she said. “My neighbor, on the other hand was annoyed, because she couldn’t keep herself still, so she never went back—but I never stopped going.”
My Amelia Story
When her husband was offered a new role at work that meant relocating to the South in 2011, Deb was content to leave the cold weather behind—but brought her hobby with her. Since her family settled into their new Northeast Florida home and adjusted to the island lifestyle, Deb’s passion for yoga has flourished into a thriving career.
Despite having lived in different time zones and cultures (Deb grew up in Colorado and moved to Los Angeles after college), she said the move to Amelia Island marked a shift unlike anything she had previously experienced. “My perspective was coming from a big city,” she said. “On Amelia Island, having golf carts in our way was considered a traffic jam.” The slower, Southern pace of life aligned well with her yoga practice. “I wondered, ‘Why was I never in this mind set before?’ but it can be really challenging to get there while living in a concrete jungle,” Deb said. “How do you find the ability to find stillness in that? Even the most trained Buddhist monks would struggle with that on a whim.”
My Yoga Journey
The slower, Southern pace of life aligned well with her yoga practice. “I wondered, ‘Why was I never in this mind set before?’ but it can be really challenging to get there while living in a concrete jungle,” Deb said. “How do you find the ability to find stillness in that? Even the most trained Buddhist monks would struggle with that on a whim.”
Soon after Deb completed her formal teacher training at Yoga Den in Jacksonville, she began noticing a new trend on Instagram: photos of people practicing downward dogs on what looked like a surfboard. The new wave of standup paddleboard (SUP) yoga hadn’t hit Amelia Island yet, so Deb went in search of a surf shop to partner with her. Kayak Amelia got on board, and Deb’s SUP classes took off—literally—and into the water. An evolving art form, Deb structures her classes around tides and swells as well as all levels of students, from local regulars to vacationing yogis to first-timers checking off their bucket lists. She blogs about her experiences on and off the mat, from dealing with daily stress to finding joy, and has even launched her own SUP yoga teacher training program for those who share her passion.
Follow Your Passion
Fast-forward to the present, and Deb is still seeking new ways to learn and train as both a student and a teacher. Whether atop a paddleboard by the Amelia Island Marina, on a sandy meditation mat at the beach or during a beer yoga class at Pajama Dave’s in Fernandina Beach, Deb helps people find their own stillness.
“Now we are seeing the prolific amount of clinical research that’s being done and the profound impact,” Deb said. “Whether you call it meditation, mindfulness, praying or whatever you want, the ability to disconnect from the frenetic chaos we live with on a daily basis can literally create change on a neurologic level.” At home, she continues to reap the rewards of her own practice resulting in her communication and patience with her three children, now teenagers. “It has completely changed my life,” she said.
Even when she’s not teaching, Deb’s favorite places to be are on her paddleboard or searching for sharks’ teeth on walk in Fort Clinch State Park at sunset. So, what’s next on her horizon? Deb is partnering with Crane Island to bring regular classes and resources to make mindfulness a part of daily living to the new community later this year. After all, she counts the social aspects, such as striking up a conversation after class or being an accountability partner, among yoga’s many benefits.
Deb has started the process to work with the Crane Island team on a range of projects related to yoga, sup yoga, and a host of wellness / mindfulness programs. Be sure to check back often for her latest posts and thoughts that can be helpful to bring greater peace and joy to those who listen to this amazing lady.
For more information and to view her schedule of classes please visit