I remember taking my first ever yoga class when I was 12 years old. I remember the man talking about “opening your third eye” and all these other weird things I simply didn’t understand or even though I tried really hard I just wasn’t able to do. I think I went to one or two classes, then…and this is why I remember perfectly how old I was. Before going to class one day I got home from school and realized that I had gotten my period for the first time. I skipped class that day. And every day since.
I did yoga a few more times in my life but never got into it. When in Bogota I had injured my back during a class (not yoga class) but went to yoga after a while hoping it would help. I ended up on the floor without being able to get up. I remember exactly the movement, it was going from a downwarddog to a warrior 1. It was terrifying. And although I wasn’t hurt because of yoga I simply became more cautious about it and realized it’s not the holy medicine some people make it out to be (it kind of is though…I’d learn afterwards).
When I moved back to Panama after going to university I got into fitness big time. I wanted to feel more healthy because due to my back injury I stopped doing physical activity for about a year…and I also traveled after university and ate every French fry along the way (no regrets.)
I started crossfit, became curious about nutrition and changed my eating habits. Then, I began paddling competitively and for the next three years most of my time was focused on training. I did yoga once in a while and really enoyed it but never seemed to have to time to do it constantly, it wasn’t a priority although I loved how it made me feel.
At the end of 2016 I decided I was going to finally do the trip to South East Asia I had always dreamed of doing. And, that I was finally going to give yoga priority and attend a yoga retreat somewhere where there were no excuses for not practicing. I did lots of research and found 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 environment I felt at work and I knew what I needed. So, beginning the 2nd week of May I was on my way to South East Asia!
I was quite nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect really but felt incredibly welcome. You can read all about my experience at Vagabond starting here. It was during my time in Vagabond Temple that I got it. I finally understood what yoga was all about and why it is so important in my life now.
It was during my frist week there, not sure if the 2nd or 3rd morning. Mary Sarah was my teacher that day and it was a full on sweaty power yoga. I had mainly done Iyengar yoga which focuses on alignment, it is not fast paced or “flowy” and I had always judged in a way the vinyasa classes because I saw so many people going through it with very improper alignment and there was no time for corrections. So, I was in this class and I felt 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.
You see, YOGA is not about asanas (postures), it’s not about getting toned arms or abs -those things might come- but if that is what your goal is with yoga then you’re missing out on the most important part of it. Yoga, for me, is the connection between mind and body. It’s about being present, about getting in touch with yourself, accepting the link between our bodies and our emotions, being able to learn from what we do and feel on the mat and put it into perspective of what we do and feel in “real life.” Sure, the headstands and difficult asanas are Instagram picture worthy – because they are a huge accomplishment! And to me, it means I conquered a fear, it means I worked on myself, on my breathing, my strength, my flexibility, and managed to do something new and the most important part of it is that while I do It on the mat I am also doing it in life. In the last 9 months since I’ve began yoga (and no, I don’t necessarily do it every day although I wish I did) 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 in a way that I feel more prepared and competent to take some of the decisions I have taken these past months and to cope with some things that life has ‘curveballed’ my way.
You can do yoga anywhere and at anytime. It’s not about having the yoga pants, or the cool mat, or the straps and blocks…you can do yoga in bed in your pjs or wearing a bikini 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 yourself that time to focus on you and you alone, of allowing your body to speak to you and giving it some love, it’s about noticing sensations, feelings, emotions…recognizing that light or soul or “thing” within you and tapping into what it’s saying, or missing. So, whether its 10 min or 3h a day, I recommend you give yourself that gift of time and presence…you won’t regret it.
And last, but not least, yoga has allowed me to meet some of the most amazing, inspiring people from all over the world who have taught me so, so much…I am incredibly thankful.