Raquel began her yoga journey in October of 2013 with a Groupon at North Valley Aikikai, where Michelle teaches weekly yoga classes, just wanting to try a new form of exercise. She didn't know then that yoga would not only benefit her physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. She explains:
My mother had been diagnosed with cancer and my yoga practice helped me get through the tough journey of being my mother's caregiver through what would be her final year and a half. When I am on my mat, for that hour and a half I don't have a sick mother, a house that is never clean enough, children that are misbehaving, a husband that I sometimes don't get along with.... All the stresses and concerns of every day life. All I have are my poses, my movement, and my breath.
Yoga has taught me to be grateful for for all I have around me; my children, my husband, my family, my friends, my health, the vast and great outdoors.... To be calm and not sweat the small stuff. To have a positive outlook on life, because in the end all we leave behind are the moments we share with our loved ones. Yoga has given me an inner peace.
Her favorite yoga pose is headstand, Raquel proclaims, "because being able to stay upside down for sometimes up to four minutes at a time makes me feel so strong and proud to be a yogi!"
She's attended several Root to Rise Yoga activities-- from yoga in the park, to hikes in Malibu, to yoga overlooking the ocean. "Michelle makes every experience feel like you are at a mini retreat. I look forward to attending many more (events), " she says.
Raquel shares her most memorable insight about yoga:
For anyone that is starting out their yoga practice-try to be consistent with your practice, do not compare yourself to others. This is your practice not any one else's. The more you practice, the deeper understanding you will have on the meaning of YOUR life.
Trekking the rocky hillside path to the local farmer’s market, I took a mental snapshot of the sun-kissed landscape that felt so joyfully surreal: open-air houses well-kept with love, scattered amid luscious tropical rainforest trees with free-roaming dogs, cats, roosters and even monkeys, at just the right hours of the day. My 13-month volunteer teaching term in Costa Rica was nearing its end. So much insight and gratitude swelled in my heart from overcoming the struggles of the past year abroad-- adjusting to an unfamiliar culture and educational system, living in solitude away from close friends and family and confronting my inner shadow embedded in habits of thinking, doing, speaking and being. I had left a life of apparent stability as a 5-year schoolteacher in the U.S. and chose, despite several colleagues’ and friends’ dismay, to displace myself in a country of which I had little to no knowledge, merely because I felt a burning desire to share my passion for teaching somewhere where I felt I could make more of a difference and where I could grow out of my “box” of existing.
How does this all relate to yoga? My yoga asana practice became my daily refuge, an experimental church, a playground, a therapist-- my sanity. Since my teenage years, I turned to running as a coping mechanism for stress. It gradually became a competitive sport, in which my self-critical voice soon took over, manifesting in injuries. During my volunteer teaching service, my daily regimen–a routine I adopted to create a sense of familiarity within a foreign place—became a morning, and sometimes afternoon, trail run to the ocean and yoga asana practice. While running channeled anxiety and frustration, yoga spoke wisdom to my soul, encouraging self-compassion and thus, a newfound compassion for others, whose ways of living I didn’t at first understand. I began to run, not for competition or ego, but for enjoyment and gratitude toward my body and the inspiring natural environment I felt honored to be living in. Yoga unveiled courage and blessings at every corner, whereas during my first six months abroad, I suffered from deep surges of self-doubt, fear and sadness in which I craved to be home in the U.S. Yoga became my tool to accessing a sense of home, or inner peace, in whatever situation I was.
I’ve come along way and am still evolving in my practice of yoga. Funny to think about when I fell asleep within the first ten minutes of my first ever yoga class in 2001, leaving the aftertaste that yoga was boring. It took much persuasion by a dance colleague and friend to return to another yoga class, which was a contrasting experience of swimming in a pool of my own sweat and being intrigued by the practice. For years, I toyed with yoga classes here and there, until I was forced to overcome a dance injury and surgery requiring a year to recover before returning to my two sorely missed loves—dancing and running in nature. A vital tool then for restoring my physical, emotional and mental wellbeing was yoga, having turned to many paths of natural healing. Yoga became a gateway for building body intelligence and finding peace within stillness, for such a craver of movement.
Upon my return to California from Costa Rica, I followed my eagerness to share the empowering gift of yoga that continues to transform my entire way of being. While new struggles arose on my path to transitioning careers and becoming a yoga teacher, many blessings affirm that I am right where I need to be and serving now as a full-time yoga teacher since 2010. In gratitude for the land that inspired this transition, I now lead yoga retreats in Costa Rica through my community yoga and retreats company, Root 2 Rise Yoga. Excitedly I seek new ways to deepen my practice in and share yoga’s many realms, such as meditation and powerful application to daily living.
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