I remember the first time I went to a yoga class. It was with my mom, I was 12 years old. The teacher talked about “your third eye” and imagining a golden light…I felt strange and like I didn’t entirely get it. I was twelve years old. I didn’t really understand much of it and didn’t get ‘into’ yoga until many years later.
At the age of 19 I lived the tragic and unexpected loss of my younger brother. Five years after that I began a process of truly working on myself, of accepting life is a series of events that we must chose to learn from and face with the adequate attitude. I began focusing a lot on my physical strength and fitness. I learned more about proper nutritional habits, spent hours daily in the gym and eventually began competitive paddling. In that time, focusing more on the physical aspect of my life, I started attending yoga again as a compliment to my training. I went to an Iyengar-yoga class which –very different from my high intensity training routines- gave me a sense of peace and the ability to completely disconnect from the world when I was there. Also, a when I was 23 I had a back injury and went to a yoga class thinking it would help, it was a vinyasa class, and I was paralyzed in pain flowing into a warrior 1 pose. After that, “power” or “flow yoga” classes were quite scary.
Still, at that moment, yoga for me was more about asanas and getting the right posture, doing the movement as it should be, feeling stronger, feeling more capable than the previous class, learning about my body. I enjoyed yoga, but I hadn’t realized its true power. Also, because of my training and work schedules, I wasn’t able to practice it as much as I wanted to and was limited to one class a week. It wasn’t until May of 2017 year that I really “understood” what it was all about.
At the end of 2016 I decided I was going to finally do the trip to South East Asia I had always dreamed of. And, that I was finally going to give yoga a priority in my and attend a yoga retreat somewhere where I could find no excuses for not practicing. I did lots of research and found a place called Vagabond Temple in Cambodia. It had raving reviews, and was quite affordable. So, without hesitating I signed up. Originally I wanted to be there for 1-3 months but life happened and things changed. Eventually I had to decide whether stay in my job for an extra month (and earn a lot of money for that one month) or go to Cambodia for the last 2 weeks that the temple would be open. I didn’t even have to think much about it. My mind, my heart, my soul, at this point were breaking from the work environment and I knew what I needed. So, off to my two week yoga retreat I went!
It was during my first week there when I got it. My teacher Mary Sarah was teaching a a full-on sweaty, fast paced, power yoga. Because of my past experience with vinyasa I was always reserved, and even judgey, about it. I knew however that my experience –although not too vast- had prepared me to properly do the motions without getting hurt again. So, I was in the class and already frustrated because it was simply not what I liked. But Mary Sarah kept talking throughout the class and what she said simply made something in my head click. That day she made me really understand that yoga is not all about what I’m doing physically, but what is going on in my mind.
To me, YOGA is not about asanas (postures), it’s not about getting toned arms or abs -those things might come- but if I learned that if that’s your main goal then you’re missing out on the most important part of it. For me, is the connection between mind and body. It’s about being present, about getting in touch with myself, accepting the link between my bodies and my emotions, being able to learn from what I do and feel on the mat and put it into perspective of what I do and feel in “real life.” Sure, the headstands and difficult asanas are something I’d like to do sometime – because the’d be a big accomplishment! Getting to them means I dedicated time, I conquered a fear, it means I worked on myself, on my breathing, my strength, my flexibility, and managed to do something new. The most important part of it is that while I’m going through this process on my mat, I am also doing it in my daily life.
In the last year that I’ve understood yoga and practiced it in a more mindful manner, I have become stronger, more flexible, more balanced, and I believe with every inch of my being that yoga has helped me or shaped me so I feel more prepared and competent to take some of the decisions I have taken and to cope with some things that life has ‘curveballed’ my way.
The beauty of it is I know I can do yoga anywhere and at anytime. It’s not about having the yoga pants, or the cool mat, or the straps and blocks…I do yoga in bed in my pjs or wearing a bathing suit on the beach. It’s not about practicing an hour and a half every morning (although I loved being able to do that!). Yoga is about giving myself that time to focus on me and me alone, of allowing my body to speak and recognizing its voice, giving it some love and time, appreciating the sensations, feelings and emotions it hides within and recognizing it.