Who is Christina?
I was born and raised in a ranch in Mexico. I have always been surrounded by animals. Horses, dogs, cats, pigs, ferrets, sheep, donkeys, ducks, geese are all main characters in my childhood memories. It was actually through horses that I got my first taste of the benefits and pleasure of exercise. I have been riding horses ever since I can remember and I have even done gymnastics on horseback (vaulting). Of all the sports I’ve ever done this was the most magical. It is basically yoga on top of a moving animal. The challenge of vaulting is to adapt yourself to the movement of another. You have to flow with the horse as you perform acrobatic feats. It was also vaulting that taught me how to let go of fear. You cannot jump of a horse or stand on a galloping horse without letting go of the fear of injury. Sometimes you have to take a chance and hope for the best. To this day this has remained my philosophy in life. I like to try things which is why I have tried being a chemist, a biologist, a swimmer, a boxer, a photographer, a poet, a writer, and most recently a yogi and a runner. I think I will always be all of these things as once you have tried things you never really lose them. They remain a part of you either as memories or lessons. My newest goal is to become a physiotherapist and I plan to make this my career as it can help me reach my dream of living and working in India.
How did you start practicing yoga?
I have always been a bit of an exercise addict. I love the feeling of progress that is born out of healthy exercise and I like to test my body in different ways. Yoga was a natural progression for me. I used to be focused on strength. I measured my progress by how much weight I could lift or how many squats I could do in one go. It wasn’t the healthiest approach and I wanted to learn how I could build strength with the natural weight of the body while also working on flexibility and mobility. In yoga I have found that I can balance my hunger for strength with calmness and fluidity.
Why do you practice?
The main reason I practice yoga is that I like a challenge and yoga challenges you in all kinds of ways. Each practice brings a new challenge depending on what your mental and physical state is. Sometimes you have to overcome physical exhaustion and at other times you have to overcome mental fatigue. The end result of doing this consistently over a long period of time is what allows me to develop a sense of resilience and confidence in my own strength. I also really enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when, after long months of practicing, you can do a pose that had seemed impossible.
When did you find Unfold Your Mat and what made you stay? Why Unfold Your Mat and not something else?
My partner and I found Unfold Your Mat at the end of 2019. We had promised ourselves to start exercising again and yoga seemed the perfect mix of mental and physical exercise. After the first class at Unfold Your Mat we knew we had found the right place. First, the class was in English which meant we actually understood what was happening in the class and did not have to scramble into different poses as we tried to keep up. But most importantly it was a breath of fresh air to find a space as international as Unfold Your Mat. It is a refuge of sorts for all of us who are pilgrims where we can escape Sweden for a few hours and feel welcomed, rooted and at home.
Which style of yoga do you enjoy more? Softer and relaxing or dynamic and sweaty? Why is that?
Definitely dynamic and sweaty. I’m a very competitive person when it comes to sports and exercise and need to feel like I’m overcoming a physical challenge to feel a sense of satisfaction and progress. It motivates me to get stronger and sweat harder than I have before.
Due to the pandemic we switched to Zoom yoga middle of March 2020. Since then we’ve seen each other only online. You’ve been very committed to practicing twice/week every week. As your teacher, I must say that I’m very impressed by your dedication and very proud of you. What motivates you to show up every week?
I think there are two main reasons for the dedication I have to Yoga. One is my competitiveness. I compete with myself often. How much better am I compared to how I was a month ago? Can I be faster? Can I be stronger? More flexible? What would it feel to be better? What can I achieve with my own body and how can I get there? These are all questions that run through my mind and make me want to keep showing up. The other reason is that I genuinely enjoy yoga. It makes me feel good and makes me feel more positively about myself. The relaxing aspects of yoga and the approach to practice have also helped me become a more patient person and have made me approach exercise in a much healthier way that is not so destructive for my body.
How is it practicing online? Is online yoga any different than face to face practice in the studio?
I miss face to face practice. The personalized comments and coaching helped me understand my body and how it moves and I have a hard time intuitively figuring out what the right way of moving should be when I’m practicing by myself. I also really miss being in the studio for the more meditative aspects of practice. I have a hyper mind and when I’m sitting by myself at home I very easily get distracted. I don’t think I have actually meditated at all since we moved online. My mind has been scrambled eggs for a while now and I think studio practice would have helped with that.
2020 has been challenging for almost everyone. The pandemic brought so much tragedy, uncertainty and anxiety in our society. Do you feel yoga helped in any way to navigate these difficult times in a smoother way?
I think yoga and running saved my sanity these last couple of months. They were the two activities where I could set goals for myself and give myself a sense of direction. I was freelancing as a photographer before the pandemic hit and since February all projects disappeared and I ended up at home with nothing to do. Yoga and running were my things to do and they made my weeks make sense. Without the goals I set myself in yoga and running my weeks would have just melted into each other and all those months would have just felt like a lost mush. Instead I feel a real sense of accomplishment in how much I have improved in both yoga and running.
Has yoga brought anything new or of value to your life? Do you feel any differences or benefits in your daily life since you started?
Definitely. I think yoga has taught me how to be patient with myself. I have a tendency to want to rush things or do too much. Yoga has taught me that many things take time and that consistency is way more important than sudden intense bursts of commitment and passion. Slow improvement is what gets you to your goals and there is no skipping or rushing things. When you have a goal you have to approach it knowing that success takes time and that we have to approach that time calmly and without heroic expectations of ourselves.
Have you noticed any changes on a physical, mental and/or emotional level since you do more yoga?
I think our physical, mental and emotional states are tied together. With yoga I have felt a great improvement on a physical level. My body feels lighter and stronger and I feel more confident in its ability to move without injury. I think this sense of youth that yoga gives to the body, the sense that you can bend and twist and play with movement like a kid, brings lightness to our emotional and mental states and helps us feel like we can float and swim when we might have been feeling like we were drowning.
Besides yoga, you also like running. Do you feel any connection between these two disciplines? Do they interconnect in any way?
Absolutely. For me yoga and running can’t be separated as I see yoga as preparation for running and vice versa. Yoga and running are both about finding flow within effort. Yoga allows me to prepare for running by allowing my body to stretch and use muscles in new ways. In Yoga I can focus on the feeling of movement and the way it works. When I run I feel the benefits of yoga in the way my legs, ankles and knees feel. Yoga feels like a kind of lubrication for me that allows my body to do other kinds of exercise more easily. Running, on the other hand, is the way in which I prove to myself that I can do what I set my mind to. In the run you have a finish line and to reach it you have to find motivation and drive within yoursel in different ways and at different points in the run. Some days it’s easier than others to do this. On the bad days simply not stopping is a success for me. The mental challenge that is part of running has helped me approach yoga with openness and determination. I know from what I am able to do in the runs that difficulty will not stop me from trying.
Can you share something that you learned during the time you practiced with Unfold Your Mat?
I think practicing yoga at Unfold Your Mat has taught me to let go of some expectations that I had of myself. I am no longer disappointed when I can’t do a pose or an exercise. I have stopped seeing that as a personal failure because it just means I have to work more on my basics. It simply means that I need to practice more and I need to give myself the space to improve. I think in the past I pictured myself at the end of the process, at the moment of success, too early and this made me frustrated when the time needed to get there was longer than I thought. Since I started yoga I have become more process oriented and have realized that the greatest successes and improvements occur during the process and not at the end.
How is it to be in a relationship with another yogi? How is it to practice together?
Practicing next to someone I am close to makes me more motivated to improve as I begin to quietly compete with them. Seeing my partner do something well or better than me really makes me want to improve so that I can do it just as well or better than him. It’s a little disturbing how much it bothers me if I feel that my partner’s yoga abilities are surpassing my own. But I am glad that I feel this extreme competitiveness with him because exposing myself to my competitive side also teaches me to control those feelings so that the competition stays healthy and does not become destructive.
Do you have any favorite pose?
I love the crow because it feels like that pose is the culmination of all I have learned so far. It is the hardest pose I know and when I am able to hold it it gives me a great feeling of satisfaction and pride. I also really like the warrior poses as I enjoy the feeling of stability and strength that they provide. As I used to do Muay Thai and Karate I have an appreciation for poses and stances that give you a sense of safety in strength.
Last but not least, I would like to say how proud and impressed I am by your commitment and discipline. Practicing from home has never been an easy task. It requires so much willpower and letting go of our need for perfection ( more over through the challenges of 2020). You are such a big source of inspiration and passion in action for all of us. The proof that when we make a commitment to ourselves, everything becomes possible. Keep up the great work you’re already doing my darling Christina! Muchisimas gracias for being here and for being part of this adventure!
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