Impostor syndrome is a real thing, much like middle child syndrome. The latter I have long attested to, the former I just recently experienced while sitting cross legged on a yoga mat in a Mexican jungle-based yoga studio.
These days yoga means big business in lifestyle branding, and any trendy Instagrammer worth their salt knows the power of a well-angled shot of a Lulu Lemon-clad butt.
Yet it has been a culture that has largely eluded me. While gyms intimidate, yoga studios terrify me with their willowy bodies of perfection and bang-on-trend active-wear. Although the calm, meditative, strong body/healthy mind premise behind it all has intrigued me over the years, the truth is the fear of not being able to contort my body into elasticated-pretzel-shaped positions has had me believing yoga just isn’t for me.
That is, until a recent stay with a couple of friends in New York City who talked sense into my nonsensical head and inspired my recent stay at Xinalani in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Leaving behind the neon lights of big city living and stepping on board the little fibre-glass boat (colloquially known as panga) for the tiny town of Quimixto, I knew that I was in for a serious change of pace and promptly set about mentally preparing myself for the physical challenge I was willingly about to subject my body to.
Now my theory has always been that it’s the folk that make a place, but in this instance I think it’s fair to say that it was a solid case of both. On the boat ride over I met a travel writer from the Netherlands. We started talking and simply didn’t stop for the duration of the two-day retreat. A yogi-in-training, she reassured me that yoga is a personal journey that is not about pushing or shoving yourself into any competitive posture, but rather a practice to enjoy with a subtle and continuous progression towards a healthy state of mind and body. Now this was something I could fully get on board with.
Two nights in an eco-chic sanctuary of serenity meant I dined on tuna ceviche and was lulled to sleep each night by the sound of the waves just beyond my open bedroom balcony. Awaking each morning at 6:30am, wide-eyed and bushy tailed, I took myself off to the meditation studio where armed with a yoga mat, blanket, strap and two blocks I got to work on stretches, poses, breathing and mind-quieting. Accompanied of course by a solid dose of the sweat factor.
The evening classes tended to be a little mellower, whereby we worked on opening our hips and shoulders or simply focused on our breathing whilst staring out at the horizon beyond the jungle foliage. My classes I cherished however were those guided by a real life female Buddhist monk who referred to us as “beautiful ones”, played music, offered little uplifting inspirational messages and marked me with the sign of yogi faith with little pink and turquoise powdered designs between my eyebrows.
Called to dine each meal time by the sounding of a shell, combined with the feeling of actual tree-house living (you could see the shower water drain straight out beneath the floorboards below you for repurposing, putting the eco in eco-chic)), undoubtedly contributed to the feeling of being at one with the elements. Completely immersed in jungle life, played to the tune of birdsong and insect chorus, it brought to mind a time before daily life was dominated by constant updates and notifications.
Relaxing on a little sliver of Mexican coast and indulging on health-consciously fancy dishes is one thing but the twice daily practice of the yoga art form was my new challenge. Happily, however, I can report back that I took to it like a duck to the pond water. Not that I was in any way or form good at it but I’m pleased to report that I actually had a bloody good time partaking in the classes, helped in no small way no doubt by the tranquil beauty that was the Xinalani yoga studios.
There was an appreciable mixture of levels amongst the guests so while there were those who could stand on their heads and touch their knees with their foreheads, I felt in no way inadequate or embarrassed by my somewhat questionable ability to twist myself into the lotus pose. Repeatedly we were reassured in soothing tones to listen to our bodies, focus on our breath and ease into each posture mindfully and without straining ourselves. With each class I felt a minor improvement and can honestly say I am somewhat encouraged by my new flexi-development.
So while I felt like a complete impostor initially stepping foot on a yoga mat whilst kitted out in my Old Navy active-wear, I can now conclude as I sit nursing somewhat achy (the good achy) hips and upper arm muscles, that my fear of the yoga trend was completely and utterly unfounded. Xinalani was everything I could have wanted to set me on my yoga path and I have a sneaky suspicion I just may have found a soul sister in the Dutch travel writer. And so now for the next item on my experiential to-do list: Go Vegan and give up bacon quiche? Not in a million. Nameste.