As the class was ending, Eduardo Pimentel, President of the Cuban Yoga Association, bowed to our group and said, “And now your yoga practice begins…”
With those words our group went out into the busy streets of Havana. Our work is based on the belief that the part of our yoga practice that starts when we step off of the mat is vivid in Cuba, facilitated by learning about another culture and growing connections with people.
Over the years many people in the US have asked me surprised, “Yoga in Cuba?!?” In the US studios with bamboo floors and soft lighting, we are able to deeply explore the asana practice (yoga postures). In the streets of Cuba we are able to deeply explore our own nature and our connection to others.
Yoga classes often end with bowing to each other and saying, “Namaste.” We are acknowledging that we are one and that we are all connected. When we speak another language and the way we show respect, love, emotions is radically different, it allows us to trust on a higher level that we are connected beyond our customs and habits. We always find a way to communicate.
Sometimes the challenges of communication are what bring us close together. Many years ago I was traveling with a dear friend who spoke enough Spanish to get into trouble with the Cuban accent. She was telling my father in law about going to the Island of Youth and he said she was “Hopping around like a toad.” She told him it bothered her a little that he would say she “Looked like a toad.” The miscommunication was explained and they both entered into sweet full laughter about the challenge and sincerity of communicating from different worlds. She told me how that week showed her a great deal about how quickly she drew conclusions. She felt more open and laughed more after her time in Cuba.
The physical practice of yoga allows us to observe our habits as they manifest in physical patterns. Traveling in the world and sharing across cultures allows us to observe our mental habits as they manifest in customs. The combination of a physical yoga practice with days that are filled with salsa music, drums, dancing, expressive hand gestures, laughter and hot tropical weather has a way of opening our minds and hearts to a yoga of connection.
“If we are lucky, sometimes life shows us beauty everywhere. That was Cuba with you guys.” John A., in a note to his fellow trip participants
As we move through the music, sounds, expressions of Cuba and we call upon our humor and patience on both sides of the cultural divide, we are deep in our yoga practice. Join us on and off the mat on our next adventure!