When I first moved to CA, I remember thinking that everyone sounded like rich hippies. Everyone was drinking their $8 green juice, paying $25 (or more) for yoga classes, and using essential oils that smelled pungent to me at the time.
Turns out, all that stuff is AMAZING. In case I haven’t told you yet, I’m reallllly into yoga right now. I figured out I’ve done over 300 hours of yoga in the last year or so. And I’m just scratching the surface!
I’ve found a yoga studio in all the places we’ve stayed thus far while traveling. And every time I walk into a studio, it’s the same experience. It’s peaceful, people are friendly and I feel immediately at home. Turns out, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, yogis are yogis. They’re patient people who are open to learning together. I plan on doing yoga for the rest of my life.
Practicing my handstand in Puerto Rico:
The view from Baja Zen yoga near Todos Santos, Mexico:
Yoga is all about focus. In yoga, we often hear the word “drishti”, which means “focused gaze”. It’s a means for developing concentrated attention. It’s when we become withdrawn from our senses in a way and we’re able to concentrate on our breath. We also focus our eyes on a physical drishti to keep our balance. Sometimes it’s a tiny dot in the wood floor or sometimes a speck on my yoga mat. So far, in my life, it’s been the most life changing experience to develop my own peaceful concentration by focusing on my drishti.
This morning during class at Ericeira Yoga, I was flowing through the regular poses and I felt an unpleasant twist in my back. It was pretty bad. It was one of the ones that took my breath away. I started panicking in my mind, “Omg what if I have to go to the ER? What if I need back surgery? What if this whole trips ends now?” PANIC.
Before I started practicing yoga, I would’ve walked away from class and limped home to ice/heat or rest. What I’ve learned, though, is that if I focus on my drishti, my mind and body can do way more than I thought they could. I decided to VERY slowly and VERY gently proceed with class. I was able to breathe through some intense moments and my back started to loosen. And at the end of class, I experienced something new: I was doing a forearm headstand and I was able to use my own breathe and abs/lower back/feet, to not only lift myself into the pose, but stay in the pose for a while. If you haven’t practiced yoga yet, it’s VERY humbling when you realize it’s not about accomplishing anything, but slowly, gently allowing your body to try new things. And when it does new things and it all clicks into place, it’s an incredibly satisfying experience. It can take weeks, months, years. And sometimes it’s just about the teacher coming to your mat and showing you one tiny change in my pose and everything just clicks.
This is very different from the typical workouts/sports we’re taught: “JUST DO IT”, or push yourself until you feel ready to puke or “no pain, no gain”!
I find it fascinating that yogis are such healthy people who instead of pushing themselves to extremes, they mentally allow their bodies to do more – gently but with strength.
As I continue this worldwide journey, I will continue to focus on my drishti. Both physically in yoga and mentally as I sort through the many, many thoughts that come through my mind each day. Have you ever paid attention to just how many thoughts go through your mind each day? I learned long ago to observe them. Let them pass. Focus on the breath, the peace. It’s where all the growth happens. I used to be so controlled by my own thoughts, I could barely rest. Now I understand that if I maintain my focus, I can control my own reaction to those thoughts.
Here’s a picture of the ariel yoga setup here in Ericeria, where you use the fabrics hanging from the ceiling to do all sorts of poses. Should I try it sometime?