Updated October 22nd, 2018.
Machu Picchu, Inca ruins, Cevice, Pisco sours, trekking, the Andes… We don’t often associate Peru with Yoga and Meditation. Here, traveller and yoga teacher, Laura Heininger describes her experience of living and teaching Yoga in the seaside town of Mancora, Peru, a place once renowned for surf and party…
It all began in Bali…
It was late June, the day before my birthday. I’d been living in Indonesia for a year and a half, teaching Yoga workshops at The Yoga Barn – an excellent center in Ubud. A path lined with coconut trees stretched before me, river valleys descending on either side, with the late afternoon sun shining down. I was sure of one thing: I was ready for a change in my life, but unsure of exactly what that should be. For weeks I’d explored different teaching positions, but none had seemed right. Surrounded by the lush greenery of Bali, in a moment of solitude, I turned my face to the sky and asked for a sign – tomorrow was my birthday, I wanted some direction!
Yoga with the flowers of Bali…
The next day I received a reply from a Yoga venue in Peru: Samana Chakra in Mancora. It was positive – they needed a teacher, and my application looked good – was I interested? With an up-welling of joy and relief, my birthday wish had been granted! By the middle of August I was arriving in Peru.
Soaring over the ocean…
Arriving in Lima for one night before travelling north, I was transfixed by the Pacific Ocean waves rolling in, with massive pelicans skimming over the surface. Numerous birds of different species plunged into the depths for what were apparently abundant fish, and large vultures circled over-head. The weather in Lima was cold and grey – I love surfing and couldn’t wait to get in the water, but this looked freezing! However, bright warm days were meant to be the norm in Mancora, a twenty hour bus ride north. I was heading to the sun.
Any big life change can be challenging – even if only for all the “unknowns” – had I made the right decision in coming to Peru? What would the Yoga place be like? Would I enjoy my new home? Originally from Canada, I’ve taught Yoga in England, Greece, Mozambique and Indonesia, but moving to a new continent is still scary! Once I got to Samana Chakra all my questions were answered – this was just the right place. I received a warm welcome, and began teaching straight away in their stunning Yoga studio.
Beach and pool at Samana Chakra
A Truly Special Yoga Center…
What makes a Yoga Center special? After practicing Yoga for fifteen years and teaching full-time for six years in many different locations, I’ve seen a lot of Yoga venues! The Yoga space at Samana Chakra epitomizes an ideal place to practice. It is custom-built for Yoga, with a beautiful hard-wood floor, a selection of Yoga props, and serene little statues keeping watch from their niches. As Samana Chakra is right by the ocean, the sound of waves provide a peaceful acoustic background, while the airy space gives views of surrounding nature.
Special touches continue throughout the accommodation and restaurant, so that guests receive a completely peaceful and restful experience, though the Yoga classes are available for outside students as well. Probably the biggest challenge of teaching here has been my limited Spanish – sometimes students speak only a little English, and I hope that the Yoga is communicated effectively. Spanish lessons are in my future!
The manager here – Patricia, and her assistant manager Alexis, are two of the most considerate and conscientious people with whom I’ve ever worked, and their care can be felt throughout the venue. They were very patient with me when I first arrived, speaking my bumbling mix of Spanish and English, with the odd Indonesian word thrown in by mistake!
With Peruvian Yogini, Marianna
Life in Mancora
Although Mancora has a reputation as a “party town”, my experience of living here allows me to focus on what is important in my life: practicing and teaching Yoga; offering Meditation Workshops and Reflexology treatments; spending time by the ocean and in the nature of Peru; and surfing! There are consistently good waves (with warmer water than Lima!), and being out on the water means viewing the amazing ocean birds up close – even sea lions sometimes swim by.
Visits to the market, in side streets off the main road, give a glimpse of local daily life, where stalls are stacked with familiar and exotic fruit and vegetables, and small stores sell a range of supplies, including Maca – an adaptogenic herb native to Peru, which I have with fruit each morning. Although a small town, Mancora has an astonishingly wide variety of restaurants, along with many touristy beach shops, and yes, there is quite a night-life here, if that’s your thing.
Home is where the heart is…
Walking down one of Mancora’s dusty streets, a bright red moto-taxi (a noisy three-wheeled vehicle which are abundant!) whizzes by. Two huge black vultures pick over something on the side of the road, and the baked desert-sand hills of northern Peru stretch up to a deep blue sky. Music plays with a Latin beat, and coconut leaves rustle in the wind. This small Peruvian surf spot is pretty different from my hometown of Toronto, which I visited before travelling south.
The beautiful beach at Mancora, Peru
But I realize, as Spanish voices call out and more brightly coloured moto-taxis go by, that I feel more at home here than in Canada; that life here has given me a new level of peace and contentment. We all experience travel and destinations differently, depending on our unique circumstances. For me, the combination of Yoga and Peru has brought a magical tranquillity. I think back to that day in Bali, and wonder where life will take me to spend my next birthday!
About the writer: This article was written by Laura Heininger. For more information on Laura’s teaching, email: [email protected]. Venue Info: www.samanachakra.com – inquire for seasonal discounts and special offers