I’m starting an exciting new journey in my life and it’s one I never expected to begin in Palau. But then again expectations almost never coincide with reality. That is the beauty of travel. There are always surprises waiting. I expected Palau to be a place where I learned some bad-ass spearfishing skills and learned how to live off the land, island style. Instead I found a nation that has developed past the point of existing harmoniously with nature and instead relies on shipments of processed foods for sustenance. C’est la vie.

I’ve known for a long time that at some point in my life I’d like to do my yoga teacher training. I looked into it in college and was immediately dissuaded by the price tag. No student working two part-time jobs to put themselves through school can afford that nonsense. Plus I wanted to learn more than just how to lead an exercise regime, which it would sometimes seem is all western yoga has become. I wanted something a little more authentic. I didn’t even know what exactly authentic entailed back then, but I knew there was something more to yoga that I was missing.

Someday. 

Around that same time I discovered the life-changing book Eat, Pray, Love. (Forgive the corny title of this post). I was so moved, as I know countless were, by Gilbert’s spiritual journey through India, that I figured maybe I too would one day have a mid-life crisis and run away to India and learn the eastern traditions of yoga. That was me, dreaming about my mid-life crisis while my girl friends were dreaming about their wedding dresses.

A few years after that I realized that I didn’t have to wait for a mid-life crisis to go off and explore the world. All I had to wait for was enough money to buy a plane ticket. My travels brought me into the enchanting world of scuba diving, and yoga became more or less an afterthought, something I’d do every now and again to stay in shape (true to my western learning). As you all know, scuba diving brought me to Palau, and completely unexpectedly, Palau of all places has brought me back to yoga.

There are no fancy yoga studios here in Palau. In fact we hardly have a gym. The Civic Action Team that rotates in and out has a room on their base with workout equipment that is free to the public, where Fletch and I go occasionally. Well ok, we started out with good intentions, but gradually ended up going less and less frequently. After being here for a while, eating more processed foods than I was comfortable with, driving everywhere, and not working in the water everyday, I began to crave something, anything to get my body back to the level of well-being I was used to. I started practicing yoga on our rooftop everyday. The fresh air, the secluded outdoor space, our killer view, all brought something special to my practice, something I never got from an enclosed studio.

A few months ago rumors started spreading about a free community yoga class. I didn’t pay them much mind at first. I was very into my own practice by that point and the comfort of my own beautiful rooftop. I didn’t imagine a free community class on a tiny island in one of the world’s most overweight countries would have much to offer me. That sounds a lot more snobbish than my mindset actually was... I just mean that Palau doesn’t have a lot to offer in most areas outside of diving, and I had never even heard anyone here utter the word 'yoga' before.

I assumed, and as usually happens when we make assumptions, I was oh so wrong. One of my friends mentioned to me a month or so ago that she was doing her teacher training with this lady who teaches the free community classes. That finally peaked my interest. In fact, I had actually just mentioned to Fletch the week before that I might look into doing my teacher training when we return to Thailand. The thought was already set in my mind, and come to find out there might be someone here in Palau that could teach me. What a perfect opportunity to learn something new while I have absolutely no obligations from day to day (I know, my life is rough). I rolled up my green, second-hand yoga mat and went to a class to check it out.

The lady teaching the class came off a little eccentric at first as she led us through a series of warm ups that involved physically reaching out for our intentions, plucking prana (which is Sanskrit for 'life-force' or 'energy') from the air, and showering this prana over ourselves. This was completely new to me, a little wacky, and I was reminded of how very westernized and workout-oriented my training had been up to this point. This lady was either crazy or she had something wonderful to teach me, maybe even the something I had been missing from my limited knowledge of yoga.

She continued the class by leading us through something else that was completely new to me, something called the Tibetan Five Rites. These were a series of quickly preformed asana (pose) variations designed to increase the heart rate and thus improve cardiovascular endurance, something that is normally left out of yoga practices. It was very strange at first, spinning around in circles while twirling our hands and then quickly sitting down and rolling along our backs until our feet were overhead, followed by quickly repeated variations of camel, bridge, and down-dog. The Tibetans reminded me a bit of my first Bikram class; I felt like an out-of-shape blob about to melt the entire time, but as soon as it was over I felt amazing and realized I had to go back for more. After a few classes I was hooked. I told this amazingly unconventional lady that I wished to do my teacher training with her.

I am about two weeks into my training and very excited about the whole thing. The lady who instructs is bubbling with happiness and positive energy, which is very much infectious. She’s been doing yoga for years and years, trained in India, started three different studios in the US, learned the Tibetans from a monk, and now travels the world, working in nice resorts in exchange for a room to stay in. All that experience and she lands in Palau and starts a donation-only community class, which I think is beautiful and the way yoga should be - that is accessible to everyone.

Everything happens for a reason. I was here in Palau with nothing to do, practicing yoga for the fun of it and considering furthering my training once we headed back to Thailand. This remarkable lady shows up and starts free yoga classes and teacher training. Maybe it was a happy coincidence. Maybe it was meant to be. I’m just overjoyed that our paths crossed and I get to bring something incredible away from Palau with me.