“Que significa Namaste, Carly?”- “What does the word Namaste mean?” asks Ingmar. Ingmar has been taking yoga classes with us for two weeks. We find ourselves sitting on a plywood platform in a clearing amidst the jungle, the Papaya Grove. We're tucked away in a small coastal fishing village in Nicaragua, after our daily yoga class. We discuss how we can honour that light within self and community by using one simple word: Namaste.
Ingmar has no previous knowledge of yoga, no cultural reference point. Her question opens up a discussion about the philosophy of yoga 101- in Spanish. We consider the idea of the eternal soul, glowing from within. We contemplate “agradecimiento” or gratitude, and how we can incorporate it into our daily life and yoga practice.
At the end of our discussion Ingmar looks me in the eyes and says, “Namaste,” I respond, meeting her gaze. As she walks off, I sit on the platform alone, and I cry. What a beautiful moment we have shared. Yoga has this effect on people.
As regular practicing yogis, we have many reasons for stepping on the mat daily. Some for relaxation, meditation, and others to build strength, some experience better mental focus or better digestive health; the list is endless. In North American culture, yoga is trendy and therefore widely accepted. In Nicaragua, yoga is relatively unknown.
In Nicaragua, life is raw. People in the pueblos lead a life of necessity. It is a place where people work to put food on the table. Dwellings are simple; there is no excess here. Yoga and the entire wellness culture is a foreign entity. Dominant religions of the area misinterpret yoga, and it is mistaken as a conflicting religion to be avoided. By others maybe a posture has been witnessed as tourists practice on the beach.
As yogis living in this fishing village, we aim to connect with the local population; culturally, socially, and emotionally. Naturally, living together creates a desire for deeper understanding and sharing. We seek to create a bridge- a setu- for greater understanding, to allow us the opportunity to connect on a deeper level. Through yoga we are provided with a safe platform from which to focus on promoting healthy thought and activity.
We recently teamed up with two local non profit organizations: Project Wave of Optimism and The Sweet Water Fund. We began offering weekly wellness classes in Spanish. These classes provide the opportunity to learn about achieving a balanced state of health; incorporating a variety of daily exercise, nutrition using locally grown foods, a beginner level yoga, and meditation practice.
The results have been profound and a community has been created. Sharing our practice together has created neutral territory for us to gather, connect and laugh together! A safe meeting ground to grow and share together with no outside prejudice. Women who never took time for themselves now say they sleep better at night, their neck and shoulder pain has dissolved, and they feel more relaxed. These women notice that they feel great when paying attention to their breath, and enjoy things exactly as they are in that moment. Wow! I have seen women sharing yoga postures with their friends, and encouraging more community members to attend the classes. After the classes, we see the women walking together, or going for a run up the hill.
Yoga breaks down barriers. It deepens relationships to self and community. Every day I give thanks for the opportunity to live this, to share my passion in this community, to learn from my students, and to continue to learn from my own practice.
Winnipeg native Carly Chivers is a lifelong student of yoga, and the ocean. Always surfing her longboard, between classes, she lives her passions, and leads a life ignited. She loves to share that fire with others and see their fires burning bright with passion too. Learn more about cultural exchange in Nicaragua at www.projectwoo.org, and www.sweetwaterfund.org
To experience the Papaya Grove and learn to surf, see us at www.papayawellness.com