Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
I live in the busy city of New York, I migrated from Peru when I was 7 and have lived here ever since. I love my job, I’m a kindergarten teacher in the Bronx by day and a mostly self taught yogi by night. I teach a class of 24 4/5 year olds who are always keeping me on my toes.
How did you get introduced to yoga and when did yoga get serious?
I was introduced to yoga when I saw a YouTube video by Kino McGregor showing how to do a headstand. She is an amazing yoga teacher who provides videos for free on her channel. I was mesmerized and would not give up until I could do one of her headstands.
Several black and blues and falls later I could do one, this was about 4 years ago. What appealed most to me about yoga was the fact that you could do it anywhere and every practice is different. I couldn’t afford or could find a yoga class in the Bronx where I reside so being able to practice and teach myself was incredibly liberating. Yoga didn’t become a consistent staple in my life until 2 1/2 years ago when I started to practice at least 3 times a week.
I was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teenager and always used to get stabbing pains periodically. As I practiced more I started to notice that I didn’t get stabbing pains anymore. I did some research on the benefits of yoga and scoliosis and realized that my practice was improving my back flexibility and strength. I was hooked ever since.
Can you share your biggest challenges?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced is listening to my body. There are times my scoliosis makes my back stiff and listening to my body is hard when I want to achieve a certain pose. I have injured myself in the past when I have pushed my body without warming it up. I have learned to listen to my body and not attempt a specific pose without the correct prep work. The ego is left behind for the benefit of the whole.
How do you handle pressure and where do you find your motivation?
To be honest yoga has really helped me with any type of pressure. Finding the breath in poses and sequences has translated to breathing and taking a moment in stressful situations outside of my practice. Motivation comes and goes as pressures in life can be overwhelming but I find my way to my mat when I needed the most. I forgive myself when it doesn’t come and enjoy the time I have in my practice.
What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to yoga, of course) ?
The most embarrassing moment in my practice has to be when I was finally able to take a class with Kino McGregor. I was so star strucked that at the end of the two hour ashtanga practice all I could say was “I love you” and hug her. Seriously I had an entire script in my head of what I was going to say and nothing came out. I must have come off as a crazy fan.
How did yoga influence your life in other ways?
My practice has influenced me the most in my career. I teach little people who have strong personalities and who haven’t yet realize who they are in this world. I have brought meditation and self awareness into my classroom as a result of my practice. We move through sun salutations as calming methods through out our day and use breathing to find our spaces.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day starts with teaching kindergartners until 4, I get home and cook for my family and help my daughter with homework. At around 8 I carve out time for my practice, lately I have incorporated weights and parallel bars for fun at the end. My practice mostly involves ashtanga sequences and inversion play. I try to practice daily but there are days where my students get me way too tired, 5 year olds tend to do that. I used to beat my self up when I didn’t practice daily but now I don’t.
And what about your flexibility training? Where does that fit in?
Flexibility training is essential in my practice, you can’t get strong without flexibility specially if you have scoliosis. I incorporate stretches before, during and after each session, this helps me stay mostly injury-free. I normally use blocks, stretch bands and my own body weight for flexibility workouts. If I don’t incorporate flexibility poses in the yoga sequences my body doesn’t respond the same way and my body hurts too much the next day.
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?
My future plans are to attend yoga retreats and maybe even teacher training to further my practice. I would love to one day be able to teach children yoga in the classroom.
Any tips for passionate people who are starting to practice yoga now?
One of the biggest tips I can give people who are starting a home practice is to follow inspirational yogis on YouTube or social media and then research each pose or flow they do. Break down the flow or pose into smaller sections, don’t give up and don’t beat yourself up.