Yoga is not theory; it’s a practice, it’s something you do, a walk that you walk.
And when we teach, it’s not just sharing that practice with others; we share the experience, the attitude and the insights that help us understand it.
Nothing else. I don’t think teachers should have spotless behaviors. Maybe I feel this way because I know I don’t, and it’s important for me to know that I don’t. I’ve got lots to learn, places I need to go, things I need to see, ways I need to develop.
But it’s a joy to be able to share my practice. And to witness other people’s practice. We are practicing being and witnessing consciousness. Simple yet amazing.
Serving others gives my practice meaning and allows me to take it seriously. It gives me the chance to indulge, to take the time. And when I find any kind of insight, it’s doubly sweet; I get to share it. I have the opportunity to support someone else on their own inquiry. I bring with me my whole life experience.
The first time I visited Peru and Machu Picchu was a truly transformative experience for me. On that trip I became a pilgrim. I found the awe that gives you the courage to go to places that call your heart.
Through experience I’ve become a better pilgrim; I’ve learned to travel lighter, to connect to places and landscapes, to find strength when I’m really tired, to keep my eyes open. To connect with others. To look outside of and beyond my tired feet.
And recently, I was able to revisit this magical place—this time leading an 18 yogi excursion. The effect was multiplied. The first time it was just my friend Mar and me. We went to the cheapest places and just followed our hearts, asked taxi drivers for recommendations. A guide who took us by car ran out of gas several times in the middle of nowhere.
This time was different. The places we stayed were amazing. We had a bus with great windows and a full tank. Our guide was truly knowledgeable in the rich history of the place. This time we had planned more carefully. There’s so much to see around Cuzco and the Valley of the Gods that it’s easy to overextend. But we found time for yoga practice, meditation in some amazing spots and mindful silent walking.
Taking the time for practice adjusts your perspective. We connect with ourselves and see things from our true center. These are some lessons I took from this trip and the tribe that came with me:
I am my own mountain. The day we visited Machu Picchu, one girl was really upset that we wouldn’t get a chance to climb the mountain next to it. I remember getting that same feeling my first time, and yet I could not understand why she was so upset. Before we left, she told me she’d made peace with it as she understand that “I am my own mountain.” We can create what we need wherever we go.
Living in harmony with nature. Travel light. We’re rich when we learn we don’t need anything. We don’t even need to go anywhere. Sipping coca tea, I always get this sense of wonder: “how did they know which leaves to chew?“ They found the herbs to energize and heal; they grow the world’s most amazing vegetables. When we are out of our homes and comforts and away from our people, we learn that we are at home in the world and family is just the people standing around us at this moment.
There’s nothing more divine than the people we get to walk with. Each of our yogis taught me so much. I heard through their voice the things I had been wrestling around in my head.
Mar called me days before I took off and, although we haven’t kept up on each other’s lives, there’s still somehow this really deep connection. We were laughing, and then delving into really personal stuff. At one point I said, “It’s not like I go around talking about this“ and she said, “Actually, I don’t talk about this stuff with anyone.“ We laughed, and somehow she managed to put my mind on the right track before my trip. The only way in the world that this plan could and did come together is that I have the most amazing yogi-sister in the world. Somehow we complement each other, and together we’ve been able to do some amazing things.
The group of yogis—most of whom I didn’t even know before the trip, and some of whom had not-so-much prior experience with yoga before— taught me the great big lessons of this trip. They showed us the power of community and how to make each other’s dreams come true.
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” Find your intention before your step. With every step, honor the teachers we find in this world. Bounce off from your spirit and walk the world; that’s what we’re practicing for.
Author: Ana Guardia
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Images: Author’s own