We were delighted to interview Carmen Aguilar, creator of cYoga, world traveler, down-to-earth yoga teacher, and advocate for drama-free social media. She shares how practicing patience can help newly graduated teachers and how the evolution of yoga is inevitable. Read on!
What was your life goal when you were 10?
If by life goal you mean what I’d like to do when I grew up, I wanted to become a doctor. Though that also changed constantly!
What are some of the choices you’ve made that made you who you are?
Studying Computer Science, as that is when I met my husband Moises. Then dropping it all to teach yoga full time and dedicate myself to this discipline.
What does success mean to you?
Wake up every morning with the person you love most, enjoying every moment with them. Not having to look at the watch when I practice. Being able to design my own schedule and work on what I like to do most (yoga).
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
A perfect day is any day that I’m practicing without worrying what time should I finish, I’m not working on the computer and can spend time cooking for my husband and I. If I can get a glass of Sancerre rosé for dinner, then it’s really perfect…
Where is your favourite place in the world and what makes it so special?
The Maldives is probably my favorite place I’ve visited, but there are other places that, because of the people who live there, make it extra special like Buenos Aires, San Francisco or Barcelona, to name a few. Paris is still, as far as cities go, my favorite one, so much beauty everywhere…
In the moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you reconnect with your purpose?
My daily practice helps a lot with that. Whenever I feel down or doubting, it never fails to deliver and uplifts me. It also helps to put me in my place and grounds me, which is also an important feature.
Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
All of the future projects I have that I’ve put on hold are due to the same reason: lack of time! I wish I could stretch it somehow, but I believe I’ll be able to get to them eventually.
What’s your definition of mindfulness? What is the first step to becoming mindful in your day-to-day life?
Being aware of your actions and words, how they hit the people in front of you, how you influence them. What you eat, read, wear, think or you stand for, is also part of being mindful. The connection body-mind-spirit has been a recurrent theme for thousands of years, and we’re still trying to figure it out as it’s an endless journey. Asking ourselves about that connection and how to lead a happy life are two essential steps, in my opinion, to become mindful on a daily basis.
What’s your advice to recent graduates trying to make it as instructors in a big city? Do you recall any misadventures when you were starting out?
I recall too many, and I could literally write a book about it! One thing I have a hard time understanding is how a lot of instructors stop practicing themselves or don’t make their practice a priority anymore, once they start teaching. I don’t understand because that’s a source of inspiration, a cleansing channel, a way to better and get to know ourselves. So once they stop that, their classes will gradually become stale and repetitive, energy and passion won’t be there anymore, the little flame will die and, sooner or later, they stop teaching because it no longer fulfills them. Quitting the personal practice is the beginning of a spiral down.
‘Growing’ a class is like a growing a plant or living being, it takes constant dedication, attention, emotional investment.
I also find a lot of teachers aren’t patient enough and think their classes should have certain attendance. They get frustrated and quit before they should. ‘Growing’ a class is like a growing a plant or living being, it takes constant dedication, attention, emotional investment. Never take a student for granted and be grateful for each one that comes into the room to share their practice with you…
How much of yourself do your share with your IG followers? Are there any areas of your life that you consider private and “off limits”?
I try to keep my feed as much ‘drama free’ as possible and just keep it about yoga and its practice. It’s a conscious choice. I find it selfish when people vent about their boyfriends, partners, IG interactions or how shitty their lives are. They have all the right in the world to do that, but I feel heavy, energetically speaking, once I read those kinds of posts: the authors feel relieved afterward, but I’m left with a mess… I don’t care for drama, gossip or reality tv (I haven’t even owned one since 2001) so I post about what has value to me, which is what I’d recommend anyone to do.
How do you react to controversial or critical comments and messages?
I don’t get many of those, but I ignore or sometimes delete them. I don’t have time to engage in that kind of battles (and I don’t feel like doing it anyway).
What kind of opportunities came to your life because of Instagram?
I’ve had the chance to travel, literally, all over the world teaching yoga, which is really a gift. I love to meet people from other cultures, see how they approach their practices, what routine they have, how they make their lives work… it’s interesting. I’ve met many of my best friends through IG, and it’s also helping me stay connected with them all over the globe. Thanks to the traveling, we can also practice together every once in a while so, as a teacher, I see them grow and it fulfills me even more, despite it being a bit tiring sometimes.
What lightens you up and excites you?
Having breakthroughs in my personal practice (asana and non-asana wise), meeting new people, traveling to new places, starting new projects and tending to the ones I’m working.
Ancient vs. modern yoga: do you think it’s okay to invent new styles of yoga? Why or why not?
Not only is it ok, but it’s also inevitable. We’re in a constant state of change and evolution and yoga is no exception. I’m all up for innovation and adding more knowledge to the ‘bucket’. At the same time, it’s important to know history, where things came from, who were some important figures, what happened at that time, to have the bigger picture in mind and understand the situation now. Whether we like it or not, new styles are going to come (and go).
Whether we like it or not, new styles are going to come (and go).
Personally, when I started practicing yoga I found a gap between an extremely mellow practice and a very regimented, military style, one. I was craving intelligent, mindful sequencing, that could warm up ANY body (not just a strong or bendy one) safely, and through a well-planned sequence prepare the body to attempt, in a safe way, poses that were difficult for you. That’s why I created my style, cYoga. I didn’t even have a name for it until I opened my studio and people started asking what ‘style’ we were doing. It’s easier if you put a name to things, a label, so everyone understands what we’re talking about.
What is there not enough of in yoga classes? Too much of?
Not enough body-mind connection and breath awareness. Too many handstands and extreme poses with little acknowledgment to those that simply step on their mats daily. That’s where the real merit lays.