Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Fall/Winter 2006 issue.

Yoga in Mexico seems to be a natural combination, not only for vacationers but also for residents who came to Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area for a healthier life and more rational activities. Bringing together adepts and beginners of all ages, yoga still exudes cachet after many centuries. Coming from a tradition laden with searching for and achieving balance in our lives, yoga fits right in with modern wisdom about living in the present.

While not everyone faces the debilitating results of stress, we see them around us in increased levels of depression, weight problems, cardiac conditions, diabetes and even simple hair loss. Yoga, featuring movements that increase the circulation in central organs and glands, can directly combat and even reverse conditions as severe as scoliosis. For this article, I interviewed local yoga instructors and practitioners about how the practice can be integrated into our daily lives. Whether we come from outside or a local neighborhood, we certainly share the wish to live healthy, active lives.

As local yoga instructor Mikki Prost says, “Yoga is about striving for balance and harmony. The bodily functions when healthy are in conjunction with nature. Yoga is a conscious method to be present in the body while at the same time helping maintain a more youthful aspect.”

Prost, trained and certified at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco over 20 years ago, mentions the educational aspect of the method. “Before the first session, I do a questionnaire with new students for a review of health issues. Beginning yoga can trigger things; it can cause a novice to giggle or cry when things start to release inside.” One of the typical health problems observed is shallow breathing, with subsequent reduced lung capacity. “Proper breathing techniques not only supply more oxygen to fuel the body, but they give more energy and improve posture at the same time,” mentions Prost.

Focusing on breathing, Total Fitness’ yoga instructor Gloria Fuentes Quezada says, “Proper breathing calms the mind and relieves stress and tension. We become conscious of our breath, transforming the negative to positive.” Though she doesn’t usually speak or give vocal instructions during classes, Fuentes Quezada says, “Yoga is for everyone. Even in the silence of the group, during our movements there is a vibration. Competition is not a factor because harmony is achieved from within. The body is the tool to reach our mind. Since intention is most important, there is no obligation and no outside force.”

“Yoga is for everyone because each of us has our possibilities. Energy is vibration, and our bodies are energy, so it stands to reason that aligning our body also aligns our spirit. In fact, yoga is the balance of mind-body-spirit. Finding your own balance puts you in harmony with the cosmos. Everything is made of molecules that vibrate with energy, the vibration creating a form of magnetism.”

A practitioner of yoga for many years, Vallartan Maria Elena Rodriguez says, “Yoga gives me energy for the entire day. It allows me to focus on being who I really am, to do what I need to do. I rest better and sleep for shorter periods, while having more energy while awake. I meditate to put my mind at peace, to keep my mind open and to observe without judgment. It gives me clearer vision to see what is in front of me, as well as what is hidden.”

A yoga instructor must provide proof of 5,000 contact hours to the Yoga Alliance to receive the 500-hour teaching certificate. Prost, who has her own studio with over 16 years of local practice, was contracted as the yoga instructor at Cornerstone Hospital, saying, “It’s an honor to teach yoga in such a strong community-based hospital.” She cautions, “Make sure your yoga instructor has experience. If you decide to begin classes at a more advanced age, take it easy and slowly in order not to hurt yourself. A good instructor will not push you beyond your limits and will be aware of your physical limitations.”