zen yoga nicaragua

I have a secret. I am a counterfeit. A fraud. My sordid secret? I seldom make it to my yoga mat. There, I said it. I can offer a million reasons why, but mostly, they will be make-believe half-hearted excuses to hide the real truth. The truth, for me, and I suspect countless others, is that the act of arriving on the yoga mat is a daily battle. It isn’t just my full schedule, or the countless pulls on my time and energy. No. It is much harder to admit that the act of showing up and being with myself, in that way, is what I find harder to confront. 

There have been times in my life when I showed up to my yoga mat every damn day and felt transformed by the dedication, physically, mentally, and spiritually. During those years, I even began to teach, such was my devotion to my newfound passion.

 I moved from California to Nicaragua, discovering, much to my delight, a mother/daughter team leading yoga out of their living room right in the center of town! I was elated. I had discovered yoga before leaving California and it felt good to move my body that way. What a blessing. Imagine – yoga in a small coastal town in Nicaragua! I showed up every day, 6 days a week. Some days the teacher looked disappointed. I was the only one there. Smiling. Keen as ever. ‘Come on in’ she would say, sweetly.

Then, without any warning, life changed in an instant. One morning, I arrived for class and my mother/daughter team announced that they were leaving San Juan del Sur. Shock. Horror. After class that day, my mind was racing. What would I do? How could I survive? The transition into Nicaragua from my pretty plush life in California had not been easy. In fact, some days it was downright impossible. Power outages, water shortages, parasites, heat, humidity, bugs, dengue fever. You get the general idea. Life was pretty third world. Add on first world complaints of missing my family, a warm bath, a Costco type store with all your consumerism needs under one roof and you have a recipe for discontentment. But I had yoga. Or did I? My teachers were about to leave Nicaragua and take my yoga class with them!

So, as you might guess, that is how I came to teach. I was never cocky enough or even trained enough to think I should teach. It just organically evolved out of necessity to keep up the practice. Being an extrovert through and through, there was no way I could do it alone. Especially at that time in my life. Everything was better with others! Before they left, my mother/daughter teachers handed me David Swenson’s, ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ Manual and there, the legacy began. I would go on to lead a modified version of the primary series with a whole ton of chatarangas and that was where it started.

I moved into the house my teachers moved out of and placed a sign on the gate to the house, offering yoga and a cup of tea for a few dollars. I quickly became known as the “yoga teacher” in town. Hotels would call me to lead private classes for their guests. For the first time in my life I was doing what I wanted, I was living a purposeful life. I still had that sinking feeling that I was a fraud. If a “real” teacher came through town, I would ask them to lead the class, as I was certain they had more knowledge than me. The strange reality was that I was starting to build a little following and my regular students would get upset when I would have someone else lead the class. They would say they came for my class. Wow, that was surprising!

Over the next few years, I became officially trained by a man named Vedantin out of San Francisco. He led several teacher training courses in Nicaragua and would let me partake as time allowed. Eventually he pronounced that I was indeed certified, from a combination of his teachings and the fact that I had indeed already been teaching for a few years. The majority of my learning though had been self taught, from books and life experience.

Over the next decade life provided plenty of excuses to forgo my own yoga practice. The most obvious was also the most challenging and without a doubt most rewarding role I had yet to take on. Motherhood. I had three babies in the last decade and I will not down play what that requires. In short, kids drain your life force, if you nurse they literally suck the calcium from your bones!  Simultaneously they feed your soul and grow your capacity to love.

My yoga practice for the first two years of each of my boy’s lives was just that. Being their Mom. Working through the night. Nursing around the clock. Trying to keep calm and steady while they required so much of me. Even as I write this blog, my third boy (yes, all boys!) has been sick with diarrhea. He’s plain pissed off. My middle son has pink eye. Life is a barrel full of laughs at present. Which reminds me of something I always tell my students. Something I need to take heed of myself…

Suffering comes from resisting what is. When you want something to be different than it is.

It was true when my teachers were leaving and it is true now as my kids are sick. Wanting things to be different than they are is a great discontentment feeder.

The sweet reminder that I am doing the best that I can, can not be uttered often enough. My Mother-in-law told me once that she wants her headstone to read, “She done all she could”. I love this. Aren’t we all doing the best we can?

I suppose, the truth is that I can teach even without my own consistent practice. For at the end of the day, I am practicing. I am showing up every day to my life. I am breathing, moving, loving, crying, laughing, growing, shrinking, “MOMing”, reflecting, meditating, being still, running in every direction,  in short I am doing the best I can. 

Eventually, my path led me to open the first “official” yoga studio in San Juan del Sur. Although for me there was and will always be the memory of our first little studio right in my living room, in the middle of the market square in San Juan del Sur, where it all started. When life was so much more simple. When my day required only that I show up to my mat and nothing more. I can not say I miss those days. How can you miss what you were fully present for? Rather, I am grateful beyond measure that I had that time. It allowed me to really know myself. It prepared me for what was to come. It stamped the memory on my heart of the sweet self care time. It gave me a home to return to, time and again, as life became more complicated. 

I guess I am not a fraud after all. For a fraud sets off to fool you. I never meant to do that. I only ever wanted to learn more and give my best. Fourteen years and multiple certifications later, that is still true. Maybe more true. Maybe the definition of a fraud is one who thinks they have it all figured out. If that is the definition, then I could never be a fraud because the longer I teach the more I understand how much I have to learn and then the process starts all over again.

Started writing this 2017, just reread and published 2019 ~ Vanessa Pattison

It’s something so many of us suffer with on a daily basis. Whether it is just small bouts of minor anxiety and depression, or severe, debilitating panic attacks, thousands everyday are enduring unneccesary stress. With these days come shaky and sweaty hands, racing thoughts, shallow breathing, and a sense of helplessness. It’s becoming a widely recognized problem for so many around the world today. Anxiety is a peace-thief. Researchers have searched for years trying to uncover the best ways to combat this growing condition. For those who opt to fight anxiety a more natural way, there has been one specific warrior they’ve found to be incessantly victorious time and time again– YOGA.

How exactly does a consistent yoga practice fight anxiety?

1.  BREATHING

The simple act of mindful breathing can help reduce anxiety. When you focus on the breath, your mind has a chance to rest and let go of negative thoughts. Yogic breath is also good for the body. Deep breathing increases oxygen levels in the blood supply, which helps remove toxins from the body. It also increases lung capacity and helps improve digestion. Anxiety steals our breath sometimes, so it’s so very important to set aside time to focus on giving it back to our body.

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2.  SWEATING

It’s amazing what a few stretches on a mat can do for your physical body and strength. Holding poses that feel comfortable for longer periods, create strain and resistance, causing quite a healthy workout. Sweating is another way our bodies rid themselves of toxins and burn pent-up energy. Many of us lack the daily exercise that we need to get natural endorphins flowing. This can lead to even more anxiety. Even thirty minutes of focused breath and stretching will increase heart rate, sweat, and the release of our daily dose of serotonin.

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3.  STRETCHING

The practice of asanas (or yoga poses) is good for both mind and body. Physically, asanas help release the tension that anxiety creates, allowing the body to feel recharged and healthier. When the body feels better, so does the mind. The challenges you face on the mat reduce anxiety by taking your mind off your worries and fears. You find yourself focusing on your strength, your body’s flexibility and limitations, and physical endurance, and giving your mind a much-needed break from reality. Taking your mind off of things that you can’t control and placing them onto things that you can control, eliminate the hold that anxiety has over your mind.

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4.  MEDITATION

Meditation is challenging, but not impossible. The ability to clear one’s mind of all thoughts is a skill that takes time. It is a path, not a goal. Meditation starts by simply taking the time to focus on your breath. It gives your mind a chance to slow down and teaches your body to relax.  In addition, with a regular meditation practice, you will begin to notice patterns in your thinking. The things that trigger anxiety, panic, and fear will become apparent to you. Once this happens, you can learn to change the patterns by recognizing your triggers. Learning to focus your mind on positive, thoughts full of gratitude, helps hold the effects of anxiety at bay.

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5.  NAPPING

Don’t we all do yoga for the savasanas–naps at the end?  After a concentrated time of focus, stretching, sweating, and meditation, the act of lying flat of our backs, no matter what life may have in store for us afterward, is exactly what the mind needs every single day. If meditation is the focusing of the mind, then savasana is the clearing of it. Whether it takes on the form of being completely in tune to all 5 senses and enjoying the smell of lavender in the air and the sweet sounds of the breezes on your patio, the pose of surrender and REST is exactly what each one of us need before or after a busy day. We all struggle to slow down. We move from one task to the next, and then onto a myriad of daily distractions, never allowing our minds to fully rest. Savasanas remind us that there is always time to  s l o w d o w n.  And it is extremely necessary.

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It’s time to step onto your mat… the practice will take care of itself. Through the simple steps of conscious breathing, regular asana practice, and meditation, anxiety is a thing that can be controlled, reduced, and ultimately overcome one breath, one pose, one day at a time. Take hold of your practice. Take hold of your life!

Namaste.

 

What do the Boston Globe, Travel and Leisure, Men’s Journal, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the Huffington Post all have in common? They have all named Nicaragua as a must see travel destination in 2015.

In “Where to go in 2015” the Boston Globe says, “Forget Costa Rica — old news. Industry experts are calling Nicaragua the hottest destination in Central America, and one of its best bargains…making it one of the world’s top 10 emerging destinations.” Travel + Leisure listed Nicaragua as 21st on their Best Places to Travel in 2015. The Huffington Post urges travelers to visit Nicaragua and “Discover the Paris of Central America.”

  1. Beaches/Surf

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Nicaragua is blessed with bountiful beaches and ideal surf conditions boasting more than 300 days per year of offshore winds.   Nicaragua, and San Juan del Sur, in particular, provides beach goers a variety of sandy options from the adventurous surfer (Playas Yankee and Maderas, named by Men’s Journal as one of the “20 Most Adventurous Beaches” in the world) to the lazy hazy book in a hammock days (Playa Coco and Marsella). CBS’s Survivor can’t seem to get enough of Nicaragua, having hosted not 1, but 4 seasons of the hit show on San Juan del Sur’s beaches.

  1. Eco Adventures and Wildlife

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Adventurers are quickly replacing Costa Rica with its neighbor to the north, Nicaragua, as an eco travel destination. After all, it is known as the “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.” Nicaragua boasts diversity in its climate and geography – offering tours of volcanoes, beaches, lakes, islets, rainforests, and reefs.

Nicaragua is home to nearly 5 million acres of protected parks and preserves, filled with wildlife, including exotic birds, howler monkeys, turtles, and giant iguanas.  Zip lines, canopy and rappelling, volcano boarding, boat trips, surf, SUP, kayak and more all make exploring the beauty of Nicaragua accessible and sustainable, without disrupting the biodiversity of the area.

  1. Yoga/Wellness

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Thanks to its laid-back vibe, vibrant culture, and soothing waves, Nicaragua is attracting a growing community of wellness practitioners. International Yoga Instructor, Vanessa Pattison opened the popular Zen Yoga Studios in San Juan del Sur. Peter Sterios, an internationally recognized yoga teacher from California, and James Bailey, a renowned Ayurveda and Oriental Medicine practitioner, yoga educator and yoga teacher trainer, are now offering annual yoga teacher trainings with Nicaragua Yoga Institute in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. YogaGlo’s own Jo Tastula is joining forces with Nicaragua Yoga Institute to offer an exclusive yoga retreat next May and Moksha Yoga International recently announced a 200 hour yoga teacher training in collaboration with the Nicaragua Yoga Institute for early 2016.

  1. Safety

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A recently published study by Gallup highlighted Nicaragua as the safest country in Latin America and the Caribbean. The once shaky political climate has long since calmed and the country is dusting off the welcome mat to visitors, investing in infrastructure and facilities. According to the economist, confidence in the police is the highest in Latin America after Chile and Nicaragua is less violent than booming Panama, and may soon be safer than Costa Rica, a tourist haven. The Nicaraguan government has also allocated more than $6 billion towards infrastructure in recent years, all of which add to the safety and security of the country.

  1. Accessibility

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Airlines are catching on, too! Due to its increasing popularity as a travel destination, major airlines are adding seasonal non-stop routes to Managua, Nicaragua’s capitol city.   Delta is offering a weekly nonstop service from Los Angeles to Managua during the summer months. Spirit Airlines recently added 3 new flight times from Houston to Managua and American Airlines recently added weekly flights from Dallas/Fort Worth to Managua. As of March 2015, Nicaragua is served by a total of 11 airlines and there are a combined total of 56 weekly flights operated by American, Delta, Spirit, Avianca El Salvador and United Airlines to Managua. Ground transport from Managua to San Juan del Sur is growing too, with safe, reliable, air conditioned vehicles ready to comfortably transport you to your Nicaragua Yoga Retreat.

There is no better time than the present to come and explore Nicaragua. As the Huffington Post noted, you will want to “Get To Nicaragua Before Everyone Discovers It!”

Contact Sarah at scrosley@nicaraguayogainstitute.com to book your travel!