Guest post by Kathy Flaminio & Laurie Ellis-Young
It was serendipity – our meeting at a Health Expo: two yoga teachers who shared a passion for wellness, peace and human connection, and a vision for expanding that passion to a global audience. Having lived in Guatemala, Laurie suggested connecting with a local school in Santa Cruz la Laguna to facilitate an authentic cultural experience for the group of teachers who would accompany us.
While Laurie worked on those arrangements through Amigos de Santa Cruz – a nonprofit whose mission is to support the education and health care needs of this small Mayan village – Kathy recruited passionate teachers from across the US who shared our enthusiasm for making global change through yoga and mindfulness activities.
This past July, we made our first trip – 13 of us total, traveling to Villa Sumaya, a yoga retreat center on picturesque Lake Atitlan that would serve as our home for the next couple weeks. Once settled and rested, we engaged in personal reflection and community building to lay the foundation for Yoga Calm training. The group radiated gratitude as they gathered inspiration from their amazing surroundings to enhance both their personal yoga practice and lesson planning. And those surroundings were part of our practice. We learned about breath work on a dock as the waves rolled in. We experienced grounding work while gazing at three majestic mountains. We cultivated a relaxation story based on the local sounds of native birds and rain.
We also gathered at breakfast to brainstorm on the integrative lesson plan we’d design and take to the village. Creativity and cultural mindfulness were the foundation as the teachers explored ideas of yoga poses related to the local natural environment, Spanish translations and accommodations for cultural dress. Ultimately, the group decided on two Yoga Calm lessons centered on the principles of Strength and Community, honoring the volcanoes and strong sense of family present in Mayan culture.
Excitement built as we crossed the lake and made the rigorous mountain trek to the school. We reflected on lesson content and Spanish vocabulary, practicing to make sure we had the key words down cold: inhala, exhale…
The children – many dressed in their traditional traje – eagerly awaited their “guest teachers” from the States. Their eyes were wide and smiles, bright as we engaged them in activities such as breathing the Hoberman sphere, Volcano Breath and Tree Circle with distracters. Their school teachers happily participated, as well. One remarked on the calm feeling that filled the classroom when the children were breathing together using the sphere. Others spoke excitedly of using the Yoga Calm principles and practices in their school on a regular basis.
Ending the school day with a relaxation story, one of the local teachers carried the Hoberman sphere above her head, uniting the departing students in mind, body and heart.
They already have a second journey to Guatemala planned for summer 2012. Click here for details.