Welcome, Expanish Blog readers, to our brand new Expanish Meets Blog Spot, each month we will be speaking to the movers and shakers of Buenos Aires. Friends of Expanish who have agreed to lend us their thoughts on life, work, experiences and Spanish in the wonderful city that is Buenos Aires.
First up is Meghan Lewis, joint owner (with Katrina Petney) of Buena Onda Yoga. Expanish Blog wanted to find out a bit more about Buena Onda, yoga and why we recommend them to our Expanish Students (Reminder that all Expanish Students get 10% off lessons)
Tell us a bit about Buena Onda Yoga? When we started BuenaOnda YOGA, most of all we wanted to create a welcoming community. so that people feel they can come to classes . We really believe that yoga will improve your life even if you don’t want to change your entire lifestyle. Taking a break from worries, stresses, and repetitive thoughts in order to focus on your breath while stretching and strengthening your body is bound to make you feel good. When people feel better they make healthier choices and are more creative and vibrant.
Tell us a bit about how Buena Onda was founded?
Katrina Petney and I met in November 2008 at a bus-stop in Belgrano, waiting for the 29. We then discovered we were neighbors in San Telmo and chatted through the whole ride. We had a lot in common, including yoga teacher training, and decided to meet for breakfast the following weekend. Interestingly we each contacted the other one time, and each ignored each other’s messages. Then 2 weeks later I was having breakfast alone and Katrina coincidentally came to the same cafe. It was destiny. We talked about the lack of accessible yoga classes – all the fliers gave phone numbers for more information. Talking on the phone in Spanish was so intimidating back then. There were also fewer studios then and the classes we had been to were very different from what we were used to in the states. I remember I said to her, “I’ve had this teaching certificate for more than a year now and haven’t done anything with it!” Remember, she was just an acquaintance at that time; and she said, “Don’t worry about it, when the time is right you’ll do something with it.” I asked her if the time was right. Our initial idea was that it would be radical and effective to simply be very clear in our communications. We would make a website with the class times, locations, and prices – no need to call and confirm, just drop-in any time! We started planning that day and had our first class 2 months later.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up living in Buenos Aires?
I had been teaching first grade for 6 years, was about to turn 30, and was itching for a change. I also had recently broken an engagement that would have had me married in July 2008 in Lima, Peru. I already had the plane ticket there and the cheapest flight changes were to other South American destinations. Since I have been dancing Tango in the states Buenos Aires was the obvious place to come. I planned a trip for 5 weeks, inclucing a month of spanish lessons. It was winter here, and I was staying in an awful apartment on the border of Monserrat and Constitucion, and I fell in love with the city anyway! I loved it! Loved the buildings, the people, the bustling nights. I went home to sell things and came back in September to do a TEFL certification with the plan to stay one year. Thank goodness I soon met Katrina who was initially planning to stay just 3 months dancing tango and writing. When we started BuenaOnda YOGA we agreed to give the business 3 years before either of us would change projects or move on.
What kind of people come to your classes?
Mostly travelers and expats. Lots of Norwegians and Swedes! But people from everywhere: the US, British Isles, Chile, Venezuela, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Argentines too. Travelers come because they want to do something healthy and maybe their bodies are sore from backpacking and bussing and new beds all the time. Expats and Argentines come for the community and for the regularity of practice.
What can people expect from the classes (fitness, flexibility?)
Fitness, yes – most of the time you’ll work up a sweat, lots of strength building. Probably increased flexibility as well, though another way to think about stretching is that it’s an activity that helps release stress and relieve tension. What I mean is, it may be that you do the same stretch several times a week and never seem to reach any further or go any deeper. It’s a mistake to think that the stretch is “not working” if the form doesn’t change. You are releasing stress every time, it’s more correct to think of stretching as opening a pressure release valve. Both when stretching and when holding postures for extended periods you have a chance to learn to focus on your breath and practice being calm and focused even in slightly uncomfortable circumstances. This is a helpful skill in all of life. People often comment that they feel renewed and refreshed after class. The heat-building and vigorous parts from the beginning and middle of the class are followed by a relaxing cool-down and deep relaxation.
How has practicing yoga improved your life…why should people come along to one of your classes?
What a big question! Katrina might have a more specific answer, she was a runner and serious volley-ball player, and she found yoga at a very stressful time in her life when she was teaching high-school biology. She says yoga was physically restorative and mentally and emotionally life-saving. My dad told me about yoga from the time I was a child, and I can’t really remember life without yoga. When I was 12 he had me read a book called Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation. It’s funny though, because my dad is not a hippy at all! But because of him, and through my own research I was convinced that between the basic tenants of the philosophy and they health benefits of asana practice yoga one had all the necessary tools for well-being.
I think I partially answered why people should come in the previous question. A yoga class is a gift you give yourself: an hour and a half when you stop thinking about all the things you need to be doing, stop worrying about mistakes or being afraid or nervous about things that might happen. It’s a chance to give yourself over to the teacher’s verbal and demonstrative instruction and let your awareness move out of your brain and into the rest of your body. And the larger possible benefit is that you learn that nothing bad happens when you let go of all that mental activity that often plagues us. What’s important will be waiting for you when you put your attention back to it. Learning to take mental and emotional breaks – learning to consciously let go of discomfort, anxiety, and worry about the future is very helpful. Here we all are in a foreign environment with lots of unknowns and constant stimulation, yoga is a nourishing and restorative break. And you meet great people!
List your top 5 favourite things about Buenos Aires
- The buildings! I love the haphazard mix of architecture. There is beauty everywhere and I love that people valued beauty so much that they spent all that time and money making buildings into art – to me that is a very hopeful act. There’s an amazing building on the corner of Belgrano and Peru with 2 little copper cupolas at the top.
- The night-life. Even though I am a lover of mornings and I think Argentines are kind of insane, I love that they stretch the days, they seem to squeeze more hours out of life that we do in the US.
- The fact that friendship and social interaction are highly valued parts of life. Even after university adults are allowed and expected to put energy and time into their social lives, whereas I feel in the US that after univesity your main priority should be your career and your own family (spouse and perhaps kids, not even the extended family).
- I love all the ferias and how people use public spaces: plazas and parks and stoops.
- I love how expressive and creative people are. You see it in street art, fashion, photography, theater. And there is music everywhere. If you move about through the city, not even going to the countless small concerts, you are bound to come upon musicians on the street or in the subway
And your bottom 5…worst things about BA!
- People littering. This is the worst. I just can’t understand it, especially in a place where people spend so much time in public places. It’s like throwing trash on your own living room floor.
- Shop attendants who seem highly annoyed when they have to help you; this is astonishing to me as I often wonder how certain places even manage to stay open. Then you go in and they glare at you as if willing you to disappear.
- Riding the subway at rush-hour
- The excessive use of bags and packaging
- The lack of spicy food, I especially miss Mexican food.
If you could give one piece of advice to newcomers to Buenos Aires, what would it be?
Don’t assume you understand the city or the people or the culture – instead look, listen, and observe, and try to participate and learn without making conclusions or too many comparisons. When you assume things, you miss out on all the richness and they why’s of this crazy place.
And lastly…we have to ask this. How is your Spanish?
Well, I guess it’s pretty good. I live with an Argentine and spend lots of time speaking Spanish but still feel very frustrated with myself a lot for stumbling and forgetting things. It’s like swimming across a lake. The further I go in the language the further I see there is still to go. I am definitely nowhere near the English shore anymore, but now I feel I’m in the middle and the Spanish side keeps seeming farther and farther away.
For more information on Buena Onda Yoga including prices, class times and locations, visit the website and dont forget to show your Expanish Benefit Card to get your discount!