I always hated exercise. I never completed the classes in elementary, high school or even college… I always had to make up for the final exams to pass. In my college, sports were intended to be taken in the first semester. I, of course, did it almost at the end of my studies. That big was my love for exercise; at least the exercise that makes you sweat like crazy, that agitates you to the point you can’t breathe. Nope—not for me. I prefer coffee, cigarettes, and books.
That’s not to say I don’t like moving in general—I love walking and dancing; I even like to bike a little.
When I moved to New York, from Colombia in January 2000 (yes, it was planned), I quickly noticed that yoga was the activity d’heure. All the cool people I met were talking about it. I’d heard about it before, but I hadn’t paid it much mind. I was indifferent to it.
Beginnings of My Yogic Roots
I first came across yoga when I began studying and practicing Buddhism, in search for a better life. I had always been aware that yoga was touted as an activity that would bring balance to life, but it was only when I got divorced and had some much-needed time for myself that I tried.
My first yoga class was a Yin class—and, somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, I’m forever grateful that it was. I had found my paradise! Holding poses for 5–10 minutes, I’d found exercise with no jumping, no real sweating, and no agitation. Ignorance is bliss sometimes. I thought that was yoga; and it is, of course. But I can’t imagine if I had taken (by mistake or recommendation) a power yoga class. I’m sure I never would’ve returned!
My job, my ignorance, my son, my dog, my house, my friends, my vices, my doubts, my excuses let me go to that class only for a month. And that was it. I kept practicing at home, but as in everything I do, always with the doubt that I was doing something wrong, or not well enough. Maybe the teacher said it and I didn’t pay attention; or maybe at the time it seemed too obvious to sink in. Along the way, practicing at home, I didn’t remember that the key was breathing… Not twisting, not holding, not getting strong, not getting enlightened: just breathing.
Returning to Practice
I never looked to deepen my practice until I lost my job. Now, I thought—now was the time for yoga. But just as in love, I looked in the wrong places. In 2010, yoga had extended to every corner of Manhattan and Brooklyn, but Queens was a forgotten land.
I tried a studio in Brooklyn. They wanted me to sign for three months to get a good price (not that good). I asked them to allow me to interrupt those three months while going to visit my family and then finish the membership. They gave me a harsh email saying “No way!” That ended that studio. The gym next to my house was affordable and had classes almost everyday, so I started going there.
Over the course of the next year and very regular practice, I started loving yoga. My body took a nice shape, I felt proud of my discipline and the little achievements I made in the poses, and the best part was that my body started rejecting cigarettes, so I quit. This time, I got a real taste of what yoga was.
Yoga Takes Root
I had only one teacher who used to do dharma talks at the beginning of class, and I usually cried in silence.
Everything was a mess. I had no job, my relationship of the moment was broken, my son was a rebellious teenager… Not to mention the past chasing me. Exercising everyday helped me, but it didn’t really change anything. I was too proud to let yoga guide me, and the space where I was doing it wasn’t ideal, for me, either. I kept the feeling I was doing something wrong.
I do not remember any teacher adjusting me, I do not remember any teacher reminding us to breathe—but then again, maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.
As time passed, I started meeting more people involved in the yoga world. It was then that I decided to really give yoga the attention it deserved. Just as I do with everything that interests me, I decided to hunker down and really study the practice.
It wasn’t smooth sailing; the obstacles came. The prices were ridiculous, the schedules were impossible for me, and I didn’t have any idea of exactly where to go. I then started a full time job again, and yoga vanished from my daily activities. I preferred parties, coffee, books and cigarettes—again. These were easier and fun. If I had learned something, I rapidly forgot.
The pressure in New York to do yoga is no small matter. Nowadays, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do yoga, has done yoga, or who wants to try yoga. And the debt to myself was stuck in my heart. Yoga became a phantom, a call, a pressure, a must do.
Fast forward to 2015: I’d found myself in the same place I’d been in a half decade previously, with a broken heart and no job. What a circle I live in… But this time, the circle would complete. Being back in the funk meant “yoga” to me. I started looking for a studio again. This time I found Daya.
Since the first day, I was enchanted. I felt at home. I loved the teachers. I love the prices. The location was relatively close to my house. It was perfect. I wanted to belong there. I had finally found a place to start really practicing, and I was happy.
The feeling of “I am doing something wrong”, however, kept resonating in my mind. I really wanted this time to go deep into practice, so I started going to the studio everyday. I learned so much! I discovered things in my body like never before. I started understanding how yoga could help me breaking the eternal circle I was in, the cycle of depression, lack of self-confidence and self-love, boredom, and most of all, ego.
I also understood the differences in yoga, and how I could use them to my benefit. I was even up to for a power yoga class, and I loved it! It made me feel strong… So strong that I injured myself carrying a huge air conditioner. I had to abandon yoga, again. But this time I was hooked.
Loved knock on my door last December when I got an email from Daya announcing their first teacher training. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I read that email five times. Looking at the schedule, reviewing the price… It was for real. I signed up immediately. One of my dreams was about to come true: Knowing yoga in depth.
From the first day of January, I started going to the studio five days a week, to physically prepare myself for the challenge. I knew, had been told, that it was going to be demanding.
I thought I was ready when the day came. That first weekend, I met my peers. I got the idea. And I freaked out.
Some of the students could be my daughters. And the rest were at least 10 years younger than me. Another half were doing yoga forever, some were already certified teachers. Many, if not all of them, have full time jobs or crazy schedules—so I was far from being special. I understood that I had to talk in public, and in English. Plus the eight hours sitting on the floor taking notes, as if we were back in school, plus doing homework, plus reading at least six books in three months, plus waking up at 6 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday, plus the potential pain in my body… I was exhausted just with the idea.
Right there, I realized that time was going to be an enemy in all senses: My age (45), my full time job, my son, my dog, my habits. Again, all the excuses came to the surface. My fear of speaking English in public, my fear of people, my fear of communities, my fear of not being able to be perfect, to know it all.
After the first weekend, I didn’t want to go back. It was too much to handle. I didn’t want to become a teacher in the first place, although to get certified—to pass the training—I had to become one, at least for my own self (which was all I wanted from the beginning).
I felt defeated. I didn’t think I was going to be able to graduate, to resist the physical and mental challenges. I had a terrible week, full of doubts and second thoughts. I was disappointed of myself. I was not coming back. But I did.
Surrender and Success
One of the reasons, besides personal growth, I wanted to learn yoga in detail was to know the proper alignment of asanas so I could apply them correctly into my dancing routines, to create my own style for my enjoyment and physical gain. I wanted to mix yoga with Latin Jazz.
Dancing to Latin Jazz is good exercise, but it gets repetitive and mainly works your legs. Yoga can be too serious and demanding. Mixing the two disciplines feels like the real deal for me. So one night before the second week of training, I put music and started dancing in Tadasana in front of the mirror. I danced for an hour straight in the same position, applying everything I had learned in those 2 months and one week. Breathing, elongating, positioning the body, meditating.
It was right there when I noticed that I was happy and relaxed, and that all I wanted to do was learn yoga so that I could have more fun during my private dancing sessions. I realized it wasn’t a competition with anybody but myself—that it wasn’t a competition at all. All I needed to do was relax and do what I wanted to do: Learn yoga to mix it correctly with Latin Jazz dancing.
I fell in love with the idea of teacher training again. I surrendered.
So, here I am in the fifth week. And this one has been hard. My body hurts so deep that I think even my spirit is also soared. Sometimes I feel I am going to collapse into the floor from tiredness. I am practicing seven days a week, and dancing almost every night at home as therapy for “relaxation.” I feel about to explode.
But it’s me in all its essence. I am extreme. And I never felt better in my life. I am really loving myself, I feel relaxed, I am not reacting to everything, I do not even remember how my smoker self felt, I am making new friends. I am experiencing incredible things while meditating. I am growing. I am expanding.
I have learned to release expectations and it’s working well. I am learning how to accept myself, with all the limitations.
I am learning that growing as a human being, just like yoga, is a permanent work in progress that never ends.