Yoga Shrink Blog

Cuba: Presence, Connection & Love

I just returned from Havana, Cuba where I led PYT’s Yoga in Cuba Retreat. It was a total of 11 of us. We stayed in an apartment complex in Old Havana, the heart of the city. I was blessed to have an assistant (Nikky D’Amour) who was born and raised there and moved to the U.S. when she was an adult. Nikky was an invaluable part of the retreat and I would not have been able to do it without her. Because of her and her friend, Yamile, our group had a truly authentic experience of Cuban culture.

Overall, it was amazing. There was so much that we did in terms of sightseeing as well as experiencing Cuban culture through food, music, and artisans. I found that when I was there, I was just there. I was in it. I was experiencing it in the moment. I found that I connected deeply with people when I spoke with them as I was only focused on the conversation we were having. For some reason, perhaps because the experiences were new and I was in a new environment, I was extremely present and mindful. It was a great way to experience Cuba.

My favorite part of the days were when I got to teach yoga. I typically don’t love teaching the physical practice of yoga. I get more excited teaching meditation and self-inquiry. However, I got so excited to teach while I was on retreat. I believe a lot had to do with teaching some of Nikky’s friends and one young boy, who had never done yoga before. It was so inspiring teaching to them. They did not know the language but they watched and did it. They were given some cues in Spanish by Nikky but for the most part, they just did it. The little boy who was practicing with us was attempting headstands in his first practice and then later on, he was teaching his younger brother yoga. One woman who practiced with us cried at the end of her practices because she was so moved that she could do it and it felt so good. All of this inspired me because that is why I teach yoga. I believe yoga can be transformative on a physical, emotional, and/or spiritual level. It moved me to tears. The two Cuban women who practiced with us said they planned to keep it up by getting some books and other resources. It is unbelievable what can happen when you stay open to possibility.

My biggest take-away from the trip was about connection and being a part of a tribe. The accommodations were 3 bedrooms to each floor and there were 3 floors. So it was communal living. I always say that we were meant to live in tribes and not as isolated as we are. The communal living, especially among women, is a big part of why I love to lead retreats. It was so much fun. We hung out in bed together, did each other’s hair, were each other’s nurses, and just connected. It feels natural for me to be in that kind of environment. It is akin to college dorm living. What was fascinating was that is how many of the Cuban people around us lived. People would hang out in the streets until early morning hours talking, singing, dancing, and just connecting. Most people did not stay in their homes. They would be peeling vegetables outside talking to their neighbors. There was limited privacy and that was okay. It was amazing to be surrounded by tribal living.

The experience I had in Cuba was of presence, connection and love. By being fully present with the moment and experiencing connection through teaching yoga and being with my Tribe, I experienced a profound sense of love. Yoga is transformative. Teaching Yoga is Transformative. I am blessed for the experiences and awarenesses Cuba brought meĀ and look forward to returning next year.

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