Did little 5-year-old Alexia know that the book she pulled off the shelf from her grandfather’s library in Guatemala would change her life. It was a book full of yoga poses that Alexia began to imitate by twisting her little body into all sorts of shapes. Lotus pose was her favorite, because she could swing herself between her arms. Walking on her knees in lotus pose would earn her a scolding from her parents, who most likely hid the book so Alexia wouldn’t get hurt. Eighteen years later, Alexia found herself in Chicago taking her first yoga class and soon after getting certified at Moksha Yoga.
Now a permanent resident here in Chicago, as well as one of the city’s most highly regarded Ashtanga teachers, Alexia still nurtures her connections to Guatemala. Alexia’s recent call-to-action to the Chicago yoga community to support the women of Guatamala made her an obvious “peep to meet.”
Her request? For yogis to support the project called the I Am. idea – a yoga-inspired initiative that empowers Guatemalan women to earn a living using their traditional weaving techniques to create beautiful handmade yoga mat bags and straps. The project with supporters across the globe is still in the “Kickstarter” stage – which means the I Am. idea only has until 11/22 to get $37,500 in pledges for the project to be funded! Click here to pledge!
“I’ve seen people in my country struggling to find jobs and opportunities. The I AM. idea is a beautiful way to achieve this while also creating a sustainable, creative business,” says Alexia. “It is also deeply meaningful for me to see people from outside Guatemala honoring the beauty of my country and finding a way to make positive change happen within it.”
On and off the mat, Alexia, too, continues to make meaningful changes. Read on to find out about her life after lotus pose.
What was life like in Guatemala?
Very different than life in Chicago in many ways! The most dramatic change… the winter. Guatemala is known as the “country of the eternal spring.” We have perfect weather all year long and everything is green all the time. I grew up in Guatemala City, the capital. Most people from the United States find it very chaotic because of the traffic, noise and congestion. I lived with my parents, older brother and my younger sister. They still live together in the same house I grew up in.
Family life now?
I live with my husband and my 2 cats. I really want a dog, but we’re not ready for one yet.
When did you fall in love with yoga?
I think it was a gradual process. I was curious at first and little by little my interest grew. The more I learn, the more I love it.
What drew you to teacher training at Moksha?
I came to Chicago to live with a family as an “Au Pair.” My host mom was a yoga teacher and taught me some yoga. I went back to Guatemala after one year when my time with the family was over, and she gave me a book and some CDs so I could practice on my own. After a few attempts, I knew I needed some guidance. Two years later, my host mom and I talked. She knew how much I wanted to learn more about yoga, so she enrolled me in Moksha’s Teacher Training. I came to live with them and watch their kids for as long as the program would last.
How has yoga impacted your life?
There are so many things that I could write here. On a physical level it has made me stronger; I practice poses everyday that I never thought I would be able to do. On a mental level it has given me more confidence to pursue new experiences. A primary example is the way I’ve progressed as a teacher. When I first started teaching I was so intimidated by my lack of experience and the need to communicate fluently in English. But my yoga practice was teaching me the value of persistence and I applied that lesson.
Who is your teacher now?
I’m happy to say Kino MacGregor is my teacher.
Your most nagging samskara (imprints)?
There is a deep pattern of self-doubt that emerges in different ways at different times.
Favorite lesson learned on the mat that you use off the mat?
To accept where I am and deal with whatever is coming up at the moment. This keeps me from overreacting when things happen in everyday life that I didn’t anticipate.
What is your sankalpa (intention) when you practice?
Lately my sankalpa has been to deepen my focus and observe the subtlety of my practice.
I have a lot of those, but right now Kapotasana is my favorite one. It has been such a great teacher.
Least favorite pose.
Parsva Dhanurasana. And I think right now I call it my least favorite pose because I don’t understand it yet…
People will be shocked to know that I…
Would wake up to heavy metal if it didn’t drive my husband crazy!
Right now I’m reading…
The Mirror of Yoga by Richard Freeman. Ugh that sounds so yogic! I recently read Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende.
“Yoga is a process where the impossible becomes possible and the possible eventually becomes easy.” — Kino MacGregor
I like many different styles of music, but I think my favorite is rock.
What one message do you hope to communicate to your students?
Don’t stop practicing when you encounter difficulty and challenges in your practice: as hard as those moments may be, they are the best times to learn. Be patient and have faith!
What does living mindfully mean to you?
Living mindfully means to be fully present and attentive to both one’s self and the environment that supports and sustains us.