Travel is usually a series of unsettling movement- turbulent planes, tumultuous taxis, and hauling your luggage between cities and foreign living spaces.  How can a traveller remain balanced in a constantly changing environment?  For some, it could  be drinking a couple of beers after a rough day or phoning home a loved one for support.  For me, the answer is yoga.  Not only is it refreshing to your body, but the internal reasons are aplenty in times of change.  So much about yoga is introspective and it gives the mind and body the perfect time to reflect on new surroundings and experiences. After a rough week in Medellín, Colombia, I knew what my body and mind needed, but I didn’t take into account how difficult it would be to find a place to practice yoga with my beginner’s Spanish and my remarkably faulty sense of direction.

Photo by Cassandra Esposito

Of course, the first place I looked for a yoga studio was the internet with minimal results.  I found a couple of illegitimate looking websites offering classes.  I have learned that websites outside of the US tend to appear somewhat unsanctioned more times than not, so couldn’t dismiss them.  Now, how do I contact them?  My Spanish can give me about one minute via telephone and there are no e-mail addresses in sight.  My only option is show up to the address and hope for the best.  Easier said than done, of course.  After a few attempts of getting lost, showing up at old factories, there was no sign of yoga.

Feeling disheartened and sick of trying to practice yoga in my tiny room (hitting my desk every two minutes) I needed yoga to settle myself in this crazy city… pronto!  I sent e-mails to all of my contacts here inquiring about a yoga studio and hoped for the best.  And of course, the next morning I was meeting with a friend of friend who works at Atman yoga studio and speaks English.  How did I overlook this amazing sanctuary?? We walked and talked for a while then he dropped me off at the studio (a hidden building in the neighborhood Laureles) for a Sivananda yoga session.  He gave me two warnings before leaving, “the instructor speaks very quick Spanish” and “good luck.”

Sitting on my mat in preparation, my heart was racing and I was strangely nervous for the entire class to realize I couldn’t understand a thing the instructor is saying!

But, something amazing started once the sun salutations began and my own familiarity with the poses kicked in.  It didn’t matter that I could only slightly differentiate between my “izquierda” and “derecha.”  I felt comfortable and grounded for the first time in two weeks of constant change.  I was still able to demonstrate headstand sans language.  Not only was my body happy to be back in the yoga groove, but my mind was also getting a great work-out trying to link Spanish words with body parts and action verbs.  What other way could I learn what my “rodilla” is?

Photo by Cassandra Esposito

After class, a couple people wanted to talk to me…and then the secret was out that I didn’t speak Spanish.  They all seemed shocked that I successfully completed an intense class without knowing the language and the only response I could come up with was “No entiendo Español — pero yo entiendo yoga.”