So we all fell in love with Cuba – I’m not quite sure when or how this happened, but I do know that the feeling was mutual among our (24 strong) yoga group.
Cuba is simply unique.
In this 21st century, it’s like an oasis that has been separated away from the insanely greedy, consumer crazed, fast paced, stressed world and excesses of mankind. Cuba literally exists on a sheltered island all on it’s own .
Last year, when Free Spirit Yoga (they organise and run most of my retreats for me) asked me if I would like to teach a yoga holiday in Cuba next January, I kind of just flippantly thought, OK I’ve not been there before, I’ll do it! Little did I know then how much of an adventure and how full of surprises, this trip of a lifetime was going to be…….
What with the sunshine, the fantastic classic 1950’s open top cars, rum cocktails on demand, stunning white sandy beaches, turquoise sea, rugged countryside. Then there was the deteriorated 50’s and 60’s buildings that had seen better days, combined with some beautiful old architecture, as Cuba is stoked in history and what made us smile was the very out of date bed linen, curtains, furniture, decor and ornaments. It all make’s Cuba what it is today and we fell in love with it all.
All around us, there was a very vibrant uplifting energy and it just fed happiness in to our souls….
My interpretation of this wonderful energy, is that it comes from the Cuban culture and the beautiful innocence of the Cuban people. They may have a communist chaotic system of governing their country (that’s a whole new blog) and they may not be up to date with gadgets, devices, WiFi, internet and the standard of living that we simply take for granted. However, the way that they live seems to work so perfectly. It actually took me back in time to being a child of the 70’s. There is such a feeling of a safe, tight knit closeness and community, ball games in parks, pop up bands, random dance meet ups, groups of friends standing on street corners laughing and chatting, or sitting on the verandas watching the world go by, kids running free, unsupervised and playing. Even as adults, the Cubans hold hands with each other which I thought was lovely, they are a nation that love to touch, hug, kiss, embrace and bond, even with complete strangers.
Most of the people we met were really friendly, positive, hospitable, happy, open minded, (sometimes living in hardship but not seeming to dwell on it) and – always ready to party at the drop of a hat. Cuban people just love to make music, dance and sing and that is why I feel they are such a happy conscious nation. And the music has such great rhythm, you absolutely cannot top the atmosphere of a Cuban bar or club full to the brim of energy and happy, dancing, smiling, laughing people, you have to see it to believe it and to feel it! They just dance – anywhere, everywhere, tirelessly, all day and all night long – even on school nights!
Located on the beautiful beaches of Playas del Este, east of Havana city, Mhai Yoga retreat centre showed us all a more personal side of Cuba. There is no choice but to slow down, catch your breath and chill out. The authentic and carefree culture of the Cuban people is a welcome reminder that happiness and inner-peace can come easily. It was very special and all of the staff at the yoga Shala where our accommodation was based were so lovely and welcoming, we also got to meet and take a class with Cuban Iyenga yoga master, Eduardo Pimentel whom is solely responsible for teaching and sharing his love of yoga with Cuba. He has written yoga books and trained other Cuban yoga teachers, it was such a pleasure to practice with him, talk philosophy with him and share new ideas.
On our first evening, Coco our host who was Canadian (she arrived in Cuba a few years ago to visit and loved it so much that she didn’t leave), told us that Cuba is full of surprises. We came to learn a saying that both the locals and the tourists used during our time there – “but this is Cuba….” – meaning things don’t always go to plan, anything can happen! As a group we really bonded and were all pretty open minded, so we embraced it all. We felt so blessed to experience the real Havana, we even got to meet locals at our local Salsa dancing class on the first day whom became our friends. From that day on, they would often come calling and offer to take some of the group out dancing at some great venues in Havana. Our hosts also arranged some fabulous trips and surprises that were sometimes off the regular tourist trail, consequently we shared some very special adventures and times together, (often against our better judgement as it is easy to spend your money in Cuba) but definitely no regrets.
For me one of the highlights has to be the yoga class that I taught high up in the hills of a coffee plantation one day whilst we were out on a trip, the energy up there was so incredibly peaceful and we were all greatly moved by the experience.
This really was like no other yoga holiday that I have ever taught before, a typical day would be yoga, breakfast, optional salsa dancing, beach or trip, lunch, beach, yoga, dinner, rum cocktails (optional), out dancing in to Havana – maybe followed by more rum cocktails, then up early to do it all again…..such fun and happy times.
Wow what an experience, I can still hear the lively chatter and laughter at our dinner table every evening, such cherished memories that will stay with us all forever.
Thanks to the eclectic gorgeous group of yogi’s that shared this wonderful trip with me, you rock and remember our little agreement – ‘what went on in Cuba stays in Cuba!’
Cuban motto – ‘drink rum, smoke cigars, dance & be happy’.
LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU CUBA