the middle of 2011,
the center of an island in between an ocean and a sea
Here I am, in the balcony of my friend’s pad (situated on the high-end of a small mountain range in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico), comfortably seated in worn-out hammock, feeding on the harmonious atmosphere that surrounds me (the fluorescent city of San Juan and the vast Atlantic Ocean seem foreign), and silently telling the Universe that “Yes, I DO want to travel”.
When I do so, I whisper into Its ear and, in return, It responds by sending me a quiet message (with the help of both the wind and a nearby lime tree) in the form of a gentle echo. Our conversation reveals some sort of deep telepathic intimacy, a long-lasting relationship between the energy forces of the Divine and my Heart in its purest state. And, so I allow myself to communicate whatever it is I feel by throwing it out There:
“I intend on keeping my word and staying in Puerto Rico at least until the end of December, but I will be eternally grateful if I am in unfamiliar territory sometime next year. I MUST go to Bali (I had told a friend that I’d head over to Indonesia during next year’s surfing season to help them film a documentary)…or to northern India (I did spend the last five years of my life studying so I could eventually help Nepalese refugees…and it seems logical to want to head over to an Ashram after being submerged in the Yogic world for the past years)…or perhaps to Thailand (Walking through the jungle with a Yoga mat and book in hand, passing by ornamented temples, slowing down to observe a flower and forgetting completely about all things mundane has always sounded so appealing to me…not mention that next year the It’s Yoga System is offering the amazing Teacher Training at its local studio…maybe this place IS paradise).
And then, there’s always the option of going back to New York City, a place where I could probably do all these things without having to stamp my new U.S. Passport (although I’m all for passing through Airport Security and Immigration, if it means jumping onto a plane that will take me anywhere outside this tiny little island)”…
Traveling, to me, is much more than filling a suitcase with necessities; traveling means situating myself in an alien body, as though I am reborn each time I arrive at a new port. I’ve become so accustomed to changing coordinates that an internal clock ticks every so often to remind me that it’s time to untie the dock ropes and move along. Traveling has taught me a lot about attachment and detachment. I’ve noticed that even as a visitor, I aspire to become a local, since I thrive on understanding a culture from the inside out. I’m faithful to the phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, and in order to do so without experiencing seasickness, I find a nice solid piece of land on which to anchor myself. Sometimes, this land is an engrained mentality or a practice.
This time, it was actually land. I had decided to begin and end the year in the same physical coordinate: 17º 50´- 18º 30´N, 65º 30´- 65º 15´W (the island of Puerto Rico). The task was to stay put, while allowing everything inside me to shift. So far, every month has revealed a distinct character; but no matter what title or identity, I am still THAT women, or as Thai people put it, I am the “same same, but different”. And so, next year might be THE year to travel, because after so much internal movement, internal stability will arise, allowing all external forces to fluctuate. My friend mentions that “the Universe will work it out”. I want to believe him.
…six months later…
the end of 2011,
the shore that overlooks the Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic.
Each morning wake up. Do as much Yoga as you want. Maybe you’ll eat, maybe you’ll fast. Maybe you’ll sleep indoors, maybe you’ll sleep outdoors. The next morning, wake up. Do as much Yoga as you want. Maybe you’ll eat, maybe you’ll fast. Maybe you’ll sleep indoors, maybe you’ll sleep outdoors. Practice Yoga, and all is coming (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois).
I wake up with the will to do what the voice inside tells me: TAKE IT TO THE MAT and let your breath deal with whatever your mind can’t wrap itself around. When the day’s practice is over. I roll-up my mat and it hits me. My ego has taken a blow. I feel like running, but this time I can’t escape it. It’s too late. I have already gone way to deep. Suddenly, emotions that had been carefully placed in tight little corners of my body begin to arise, and all I want to do is keep them there. As I breathe, I’m yelling.
“Oh, no sir! You are NOT coming out. You are staying right where I placed you”.
But my heart is so in pain that my shell cracks and tears begin to roll down my cheeks. And, it actually feels…GOOD. Right then, I notice that it has nothing to do with how strong or indifferent I am. I have been hit, the gasoline is leaking, and I need to slow down and land as safely as possible. But I don’t want to. I want to stay in the air, fighting. I want to avoid feeling anything in order to stay focused. The funny thing is that by ignoring them, my emotions are becoming more and more intense. The Yoga, rather than distracting me, is making me connect with these emotions to the extreme.
The universe is holding me in its arms with love, and at the same time squeezing my insides, so as to make me burst. IT asks me to let go, but I cross my arms and hold my breath (I’m turning a shade of purple). And then, the voice again: “NOW, TAKE IT TO THE OCEAN”. So I get up, grab my mat, leave the studio and head towards the shore. When I jump in and begin to swim, more and more tears come. The truth is too much for me to handle: I’m COMPLETELY alone. I start asking:
“Can’t someone hold me while I deal with everything? I really don’t WANT to be alone.”
I hear IT laugh.
“You’re not alone”, IT says as a perfectly round rainbow appears in the sky.
I also start laughing. I was fearful about having to be with myself, and here I am having a beautiful moment of silence and solitude. I know that what is about to flourish will not be as beautiful, but I’m finally at peace with the idea of wanting to face it. I have myself. I have the universe…
“If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.” (Yogi Bhajan).
It’s midday, the sun is shining (the weather is sweet) and all I feel as I sit here and write about my relationship with Yoga is gratitude. Gratitude towards the Universe for placing me on this lovely island; gratitude towards all my teachers for introducing me to such a giving practice; gratitude towards myself for humbly allowing the practice to enter my body, mind, spirit and soul. I’ve been practicing Yoga for almost four years, but it feels like I began to understand it only six months ago (similar to what occurs when an acquaintance becomes a friend or a lover) during last summer’s Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training at my local studio and second home: It’s Yoga Puerto Rico. If you’ve ever been to our studio, you’ve probably come across two of the most genuinely kind beings: David Kyle and Elizabeth Sallaberry. I’m lucky to consider them my teachers, neighbors and dear friends. During my month of training, David said something along the lines of: “You CAN be a healer, but before you can heal someone, you have to be healed.”
It made so much sense to me. At that moment, I realized that I HAD to focus on myself. I wanted to be a teacher, but I had to first teach myself to become one. I was convinced that I would be healed by the love that was in and around me, and found this love from the It’s Yoga community. While sharing with these individuals, I feel at ease and happy. They’ve indirectly showed me the importance of harmony and union with their affection. As it is written:
Guru satyam guru jnanam guru anandam guru shantih.
(meaning: My teacher is the truth, my teacher is the wisdom, my teacher is the bliss, my teacher is the peace).
There’s something truly wonderful about touch, whether it be through words or physical contact. Touch is part of our nature as humans. For the past five months, I’ve gained a greater understanding regarding touch by assisting both David and Elizabeth during their classes. Adjusting a student is probably one the most rewarding privileges, but also one of the most difficult. Through touch you’re asking another to place their practice into your hands and trust your guidance. This is a tremendous responsibility. Teaching (in any way or form) is a tremendous responsibility. It requires you to stay true to your teachings, or as David puts it (giving homage to his teacher System, the late Larry Schultz), “Practice what you teach”.
I like to think that it’s not me teaching Yoga; it’s the Yoga teaching me. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga isn’t just a physical practice. While it does have a physical aspect (Hatha), that’s not its true purpose. It’s more than just breathing and moving. It considers how we function in the world, and promotes the idea of avoiding fear and focusing on love. Basically, Yoga teaches us to love ourselves and to project that love onto the rest of the Universe. How could you not want to practice something like this? After all, we are all (to some degree) trying to become better lovers. Love is an art we need to master, and there’s no better art to want to master.
The mat has always been a space for me to observe my mind, body, spirit and soul. It is still one of the places where I find peace with who I am and where I am in life. Coming to the mat everyday is a challenge, which requires willingness to come in and confront my limitations and explore my strengths. (I find my body moving into new poses and also working on those that are not accessible). The It’s Yoga System is one that promotes individuality and inner search, while maintaining a connection with the outer world and others. In order words, it allows you to fly without loosing a sense of grounding. And the only way to do this is by giving into the practice; by loving it.
At a recent Rocket I class, David said the following: “You’ve taken the task of coming to your mat because you’re a seeker”. With their life stories and perspectives, my teachers have taught me that we are all searching for something, and that most of the time this quest is a healing process. As of now, I meditate and practice every morning with the intention to heal myself, so that I can be prepared to help my students in their own healing process. My interest lies in being a guide for those who are seeking and those who want to break away from what ties them down; but in order to do this I must be fully prepared.
It’s amazing how when you have the right intentions, the universe surprises you with such amazing consequences. Intention is everything. Intention was what allowed me to move to San Juan and what allowed me to become a Yoga Instructor. Last summer, I made an abrupt change in my life. I choose to live differently. I gave everything up (my job, my relationships, my lifestyle) in order to explore unknown territory: myself. Maybe everything had to shift in order to facilitate the change that was about to take place. Maybe in order for me to go deeper into my body, I had to grab all the knots inside of me and loosen them, and the only way to do this was by letting go of the emotion behind the pain.
And so, I was faced with having to find love for myself, in myself. I’m ready to loose it all again; to empty myself completely, so that I can be filled by love. It might be a bit absurd to want to repeat such a mind-blowing experience. But that’s just it: I WANT my mind to be blown out of proportion. I miss the feeling of going deep into my core. During my last training, I grew. Somehow I changed (even if it was little by little). There was a learning process happening inside of me that was not purely academic. When you’re training you’re not just learning facts about Yoga. You’re LIVING in that world. You’re objective isn’t to survive in it; your objective is to BECOME it. You’re BREATHING Yoga. You ARE Yoga.
Sure, people may think I’m a little out of it for dropping everything in order to do my first Yoga training, and for wanting to do it again. But, sometimes what seems crazy is exactly what you should do, and I believe that the power of intention will also be what takes me to my second Yoga certification at It’s Yoga Thailand. Until then, my Heart will keep sending its message to the Universe through vibrations. If it should happen, next April will mark a new stage as I look to find a greater connection with what I consider to be my life purpose.
Although I have an idea of what to expect, given my previous experience, I know that traveling to another country and training with other teachers and fellow trainees, will only advance my growing process as a student, teacher and person. Being surrounded by the It’s Yoga family and the peacefulness of Koh Pagnan, is probably just what I need. I look forward to making the best of the It’s Yoga Teacher Training by leaving everything behind me, fully dedicating myself and continuing down the path of healing. In other words, I want to keep breathing, keep welcoming this practice into my life and (with time) become an open channel for love and peace, so as to inspire others to do the same.
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Catalina Gomez-Puerto
If you liked this article and want them to win a free yoga teacher training, then make sure to vote for her by leaving a comment (scroll all the way to the bottom), and sharing this article on Facebook or Twitter. Each comment, Facebook, and Twitter share counts as one vote and you can do all three!
Are you interested in becoming a yoga teacher? Then visit our Yoga School Directory to find the right teacher training. Or, visit our Yoga Retreats page to explore beautiful yoga vacations from around the world.