I used to think Ashtanga Yoga had to be done a certain way.
It’s Sunday morning. I’ve just finished my practice.
My practice doesn’t quite look like the traditional, quiet, morning Ashtanga practice: my babies Gael and Theo are jumping all around me and dancing to the sound of Indian music. Downstairs, Matías (the little one) is crying and wanting to come up.
Of course, when I’m in the Shala (studio) in Mysore, the energy there is so powerful that I instantly focus and connect deeply. I don’t have that possibility where I live. I have my family, and yet I have found so much through them and the power of yoga.
I don’t have my teachers here in Costa Rica, so I practice on my own. They are spread all over the world: in Boulder, Colorado; Byron Bay, Australia and Mysore, India. I see them maybe once a year if I’m lucky—sometimes not that often. I miss them. Still, I’m grateful because I have my seven beautiful kids in my life every day.
My story is simple: I was a very sad, angry and frustrated single mother of four after a painful divorce. Life was dull trying to fit in a lawyer suit. I longed for passion and joy.
I was living a nightmare every day.
Through my good karma, I found a teacher who pointed me to India. I met Guruji, and I heard his words: “All is coming…”
In the midst of pain and sorrow, somehow I trusted those words and started practicing. Practicing with no teacher around was a challenge. Somehow I made it to Mysore, and then everything followed. Bliss came—bliss I didn’t know existed.
Yoga is the practice of giving. Ashtanga has a beauty beyond words, a deep silence that takes me within and has made me realize my path in this life—a life that includes a wonderful hubby, children, dogs and students; a life that doesn’t look like my past one anymore. So much joy.
Practice can easily become a narcissistic endeavor—a performance where we forget the context. My teacher, Sharath, reminds me how beautiful it is to be a father. We are practicing in India and his little boy always comes in the shala before going to school and yells, “Goodbye!” with so much love. Sharath goes out to wave goodbye. He inspires me.
Practice can become an escape and denial of our inmediate reality.
My kids keep me grounded. There is always something happening. Laughter, crying, broken hearts, adventures, intensity and love—so much love, my God!
As a mother, as a wife, as a woman, I always ask myself after practice how can I give today. How am I sharing all the blessings I have received from this practice and my teachers?
I realize that loyalty, dedication, faith, burning desire for truth and transformation, humility and joy fill my life in this present moment. The images imprinted in my heart are of a loving teacher who received me in his shala with an eight-month belly for a month in Boulder and worried about my bed and cold weather; also, another one who showed me the power of motherhood, travelling the world with her daughter and son; and many more amazing people that hold their loved ones close to their hearts every day.
And I wonder if losing my bandhas after seven pregnancies and struggling to get back those Tic-tocs is the direction today, or maybe just going downstairs to finish the details for my 4th son’s birthday tonight. I wonder if it’s not really the same—the same love, the same prana permeating it all. I open my heart as I breathe and long for my teacher’s embrace after backbends; I miss him so much.
One of my greatest teachers, a wonderful musician, told me once that the greatest blessing in life is knowing exactly how you can serve.
I serve by staying present and humble in my mat. I serve by holding my babies—some of them grown men—close to my heart.
I serve by going to India and nourishing my soul with the colors and paradoxes of this amazing country. I serve by inspiring others to find their dreams and work hard for them.
I serve, keeping the memory of my teacher alive—he who inspired me to go beyond my mind and let go of fear, to take care of my loved ones and to be a happy mom.
I love you, Guruji. Wherever you are.
Mariela Cruz is the happy mom of seven beautiful children: Hernán (22), Adriana (21), Ariel (17), Gabriel (15), Gael (5), Theo (3) and Matías (1 and a half). She’s also the super happy wife of her beloved Marco; without his daily support she wouldn’t be writing this letter today.
She used to be a grumpy lawyer all dressed up in suits. Her good karma took her to India and her teachers Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sharath Rangaswamy and Saraswati Jois. Her passion is Ashtanga Yoga, India and her children. Her heart explodes with joy every time she thinks of her dear Guruji and all the blessings he gave her. She just considers herself way too lucky to have found him.
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Asst. Ed: Kevin Macku
Ed: Bryonie Wise