Remembering Who Am I – Lara Fernández

When yoga found me, in early November 2009 (it feels like decades ago,) I was lost. Life had broken me. I had been living on my own for years, sucked into the luxury / fashion industry and, for the most part, I had lost touch with who I used to be and what used to matter to me. And then the unexpected happened. The sudden loss of a family member shook my innermost foundations and left me numb and disoriented, wondering and pondering over the smallest things; trying to find the direction that seemed to have been abruptly taken from me.

Yoga found me in some fancy gym in London, a place where I was trying to sweat out my pain, empty out my soul and keep myself distracted from the many questions that were looming in my head. I had taken a leave of absence from work and flown halfway around the world looking for a place where nobody knew me, so that I could just be left alone – safe from the judgement and comments of family and friends.

I had been going to spinning classes for about a month, and then one day, out of nowhere, the idea came to me: “You’re doing so much cardio, shouldn’t you do something else to balance that out?”

“It is in that quiet place at our center that we hear the whispers of our soul.” Sue Krebs

I stepped into my first yoga class without the slightest idea about what to expect.  The first round of sun salutation had left me confused and I could barely keep up with the pace. But then I heard the teacher tell us “keep going at your own pace”! So I decided to continue moving, somehow managing the transition from one asana to another until the very end… when we were asked to lay ourselves down on the mat.  

Back then, I didn’t know what savasana was and I had no idea what we were going to do. I didn’t know that it meant just that – that we were expected to just lay still! So I lay on the mat, my mind racing, waiting for a cue that never came, and all of a sudden, I was somewhere else! Words cannot describe the feeling, that moment when I wasn’t in that gym room anymore! May be it lasted only a few seconds …  it was quiet. I was alone with myself. Facing myself. It felt as if someone long forgotten had shown up after years of absence to gently tap my head and whisper into my ear ‘remember me?’

Who am I?

“Remember” I could almost hear the words.

“The universe exists within me, as much as I exist in the universe.”  I am that I am – So Hum

And I remembered. I saw myself – the Me that had been there before hectic life took over and I became too absorbed in work and the daily art of survival. I saw the Me who loved to read and soak up knowledge. The Me that had minored in religion back in college and was intrigued and had faith in the spiritual path. The me that deeply loved religion – that could never give up on the quest to find the meaning of life.

I can say that I had started to heal that very moment. On  my way back from the class I felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt at ease and strangely, I also felt shaken up. Everything I had built around me had suddenly disappeared. I simply could not relate to it anymore. Accepting this was like hitting rock bottom; realizing that whatever my senses had perceived was nothing but a delusion. And with this realisation I was a new person.

“Serve. Love. Give. Purify. Meditate. Realize.” Swami Sivananda

Taking it to the next level

Needless to say, I continued to attend the yoga classes regularly. In February 2011, I did my 200 hour TTC with Arhanta Yoga. I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to teach yoga; although my intent to help others and share the knowledge and benefits of yoga was sincere. My main objective in taking the course was to deepen my understanding of yoga philosophy of which I could never get enough. To me, asana practice was secondary.

“The asanas are useful maps to explore yourself, but they are not the territory.” Donna Farhi

Even today, I don’t see yoga as  a fitness routine, or a sport, or as a workout. I of course work on my body to purify it, to release blockages, to get rid of that which no longer serves me. But eventually the purpose is to connect with myself and with the Supreme Consciousness that pervades all. Yoga helps me gain perspective and relativize mundane matters to understand the purpose of every little thing that happens, and to grow as a human being.

Teaching yoga in Morocco

Shortly after completing my TTC in early 2011, I found myself moving to Morocco, where I started teaching yoga in April 2013. While you can find yoga studios and a lot of yoga teachers in more modern cities with a larger expat audience and touristic destinations like Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakech, I live in a small, conservative town which shares the border with Algeria. Majority of the population had never heard of yoga before, or who have the idea that yoga is just “sleeping while sitting” (this is a real comment I once got on my Facebook page 🙂 ) To add to this, you often hear people say that yoga might be some kind of cult, and references are made to fatwas in other countries ruling against the practice of yoga.  

I knew that all this was against me but I believed yoga will find those who needed it, in the same way it found me, and I felt it was my duty to be the tool to facilitate this, so I chose to push through.

“The more you look into and understand yourself, the less judgemental you become towards others.” Tariq Ramadan

In the last 4 years, I’ve taught at different gyms, at my own home, and finally at my own studio: Chandrini Yoga, which I opened in April, thanks to the support, love, and help of my wonderful students. I make it a point to offer the first class for free and give the newbies an opportunity to try yoga without being judgmental in order to dissipate any suspicions or prejudice. Some people have come and gone, but the ones who stay are always in for the whole ride – passionate and enthusiastic, they are willing to try all the poses and are open to new experiences.

I can only hope to continue to be able to make yoga my way of life for many years to come.

Tips for Daily Practice

As a beginner, find the motivation: anything that means something to you and that you’re sure will be enough reason to drag you to your mat.

Be consistent. If sticking to a specific time is too hard, then choose a time frame. This will give you the flexibility to stick to daily practice even when you can’t make it at the exact same time.

Decide on a practice and stick to it. For me, sticking to the same sequence every single day is the key – I don’t have to think about what the next pose will be. I don’t get distracted.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make it! Some days you’ll be too tired. Some days you’ll be too busy. And guess what? It’s OKAY! Let it go. There’s no need to squeeze asana practice just because you “have to” ! Instead just meditate for five minutes, be more mindful, or read up on some philosophy.

Lara Fernández

Instagram: @mintyogini


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