Harnessing Creativity in Cultivating Self-Care and Peace

Where did your journey with yoga begin?

My journey with yoga began in 2018. It was a year after my mom had passed away, and a month before my dad passes away. So, I would say, grief and depression brought me to yoga, brought me to my mat.

I was born and raised in Hartford and being a child in Hartford we did not have a program like Yoga In Our City. We didn’t see a large group of people coming together as a community just to practice yoga. So, seeing this program in my community now and all the opportunities to engage the community that’s been amazing. I love being a part of the program. I was born and raised in Hartford. I played in Bushnell Park as a little girl. And now I get to teach yoga to the community, in the same park, and show them something different that I didn’t get to learn growing up.

What do you love about the Yoga In Our City Program?

I love that Yoga In Our City is inclusive. I love that any person from any walk of life can walk up and join the class. You don’t need to fill out a sign-up sheet. You don’t even need a yoga mat. I like that the program is accessible to the community. Yoga In Our City makes it super easy to come to class as you are. I think that the most important thing about yoga is to come as you are and let the rest unfold.

What are some of the physical benefits to the human body that come with practicing yoga?

Movement in your body. Any type of movement, whether it’s big or small. Whether you are going from an upward-facing dog to a downward-facing dog, or maybe you are just raising your hands above your head and bringing them back down. Any sort of movement that you have in your body is going to bring longevity to your life. If you aren’t looking for physical movement, there are other aspects that tap into the spiritual state.

Are there any other benefits to practicing yoga?

5% of yoga is the asana poses. The rest is the spiritual connection and mental connection that you have with yourself. When I started yoga I couldn’t get my mind to stop racing. It was constant. I would ask myself, “Angelica, when do you stop? When do you sit and pause and breathe?” Yoga has been my teacher on how to be still. How to practice stillness. How to practice how to breathe. Breathing is so important. Most of us breathe in our chests. Yoga teaches you to breathe deep inside your belly and bring the oxygen up through your spine and up your chest, and then you let it all go. And then you start to feel relaxed.

You don’t have to do the poses or get physical in class. You can still tap into the mental aspect of yoga.
When you are coming to class, maybe you just came from work, or you were stuck in traffic and your mind is chaotic. Maybe you rush to get on our mat, and you aren’t present. I always start with a few minutes of silence and breathing. We never have time to just pause. Yoga In Our City helps people to do that every day, 7 days a week. Just taking a moment to tap in with yourself.

What advice would you give someone just starting out on their yoga journey?

Don’t try to do everything the teacher says to do. That was my biggest struggle as a yoga student when I first started was that I thought I had to do all the poses, even if I know that my body hurt like heck and I can’t get into it. Your ego starts to get in the way. Listen to your body. The teacher is there for guidance and support, but they aren’t you. They don’t feel what you are feeling. You know your body more than anyone else. And breath. Always breath.

It is also important as a beginner to remind yourself that someone else experiences with yoga isn’t going to be your experience with yoga. Yoga is an internal practice more than anything else.

Why should some participate in Yoga In Our City?

It’s a great way for someone to try yoga in an affordable way. It’s accessible and one hundred percent free. Yoga In Our City has a variety of teachers from different walks of life. The diversity of classes and teachers is amazing. You can take a class with a different teacher every single day of the week and each class is going to be different.

I am one of the bilingual instructors in Hartford. It is helpful for the students when they ask me to explain it in Spanish. I have bilingual students in my class who get excited when I play music in Spanish in class because they feel seen.

What is your favorite pre or post-class snack?

Well, if you’ve been to my class. Everyone knows that I don’t close my class without saying, “Time for dinner” or “It’s time to go eat.” So, because I am in Bushnell Park, one of my favorite places to go after class is Parkville Market right down the street.”