La Tortuga and the Power of the Breath

Flying into Managua looked like flying into any other city in my sense memory.  Bright city lights twinkling and busy roadways entering and exiting the city.  If it wasn’t for the two men on either side of me who didn’t speak English, I could almost have fooled myself that this plane’s landing was like any other.  Then, I caught sight of a very small tienda with the store sign  en espanol, and my pulse quickened.  Numerous doubts raced through my mind — or maybe just one phrase, repeated over and over like a mantra:  I must be crazy to sell all my things and move to Central America with such a small plan.  Crazy:  loca gringa, muy loca gringa!  I practiced some pranayam to return my heartbeat to normal and quell the shaking in my hands.  Some deep breathing in and out of the right nostril while chanting silently Om Surya Namaha reminded me that my entry to the land of the sun (as Mehtab called it in the Vedic Astrology reading I had last year) has been as clear a path as one can hope for in this world.  Calmed, I struggled with my much-too-heavy bags through customs, and left the airport to meet my friend and his family, and to go to the yoga studio I will be staying at for the next few months.

The studio is beautiful.  A divided central courtyard is lush with mango trees, jasmine trees, a large egg-laying duck, y una muy grande tortuga named Snoopy.

He's 55-60 pounds!


My private space is much larger than I anticipated, containing a large room divided by a curtain, a grand wooden desk for writing, and a recently painted wall mural of Shiva.  In true Capricorn fashion, I’ve already unpacked my bags, created a small altar, and hung some pretties on the wall.  I sit now enjoying the afternoon breeze and the sounds of many unknown birds as well as this amazingly reliable internet connection.  (What a pleasant surprise!!)

I had another moment of panic this morning as I lay in bed, listening the rooster who had been crowing about the dawn for hours.  (All night, it seemed!)  Even though the shaking in my hands had subsided, I was still aware of a twisted feeling in my belly indicating that my body was storing this nervous energy deep within.  I began to plot out a yoga practice to counter this feeling.

A quick aside — I had an ayurvedic consultation with James Bailey some months ago in which he informed me that my dosha is primarily Pitta: fire, and Kapha: earth, though I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by Vatta: wind energy when I become ungrounded.  I believe a move to a new country where I only haltingly speak the language counts as ungrounded. So, I was able to identify the twisty feeling in my gut as a Vata derangment, an overwhelming presence of wind energy, arising out of fear.  A great way to counter that energy in a yoga practice is to design a practice that will increase the other two doshas: Pitta and Kapha.

So, I lay in bed designing a practice that would both calm my mind and the vata energy in my body.  I had visions of a fiery practice focused on core strength featuring some nice, grounding lunges and deep squats, ending with a softer yin-style practice done close to the earth.  But first, I had to wait for the current yoga class to end so that I could use the studio.  In the meantime, I decided to shower & organize my space in the shared bathroom.  (More on the wonder of cold showers later!)

I was just finishing my morning routine when a vibrant woman walked in and introduced herself as one of the other yoga teachers.  She told me she had been teaching the  morning class, and invited me to take part in the 8 am class taught by Warren, the owner of this beautiful space.  How lucky that I was able to slip into class right on time!  Warren cued the class on a pranayam excercise utilizing a three-part yogic breath to completely fill the lungs & torso with oxygen and prana.  He then gave a space to silently sit and observe the breath, which allowed my nervous energy to calm and my body to begin to to find optimal alignment.  The asana practice was divine — full of interesting variations of familiar postures, accessing the transverse abdominus and providing just the challenging core workout I was craving!  I left the class feeling grounded and eager to take on the day.

I sit now, grateful for this amazing body awareness that I’ve been gifted by my yoga practice, and grateful for the always-centering power of returning to the breath.  I find it comforting that no matter what my location in physical space, I am always able to find home within by simply breathing.

2 thoughts on “La Tortuga and the Power of the Breath

  1. Libb, you are an outstanding writer already. I have kept your blog open since you left and have delighted in the posts. Please keep them coming dear love. I miss you already. May you find an increasing sense of home in your new life and a strong sense of self when faced with new challenges. Thanks for reminding me of the beauty of life. (:

  2. Wow I can really empathize with such trepidation. Nice to see that yoga is such a useful tool in overcoming stress as you manage your fear at the start of this endeavor.

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