Finding and Sharing the Inner Smile

Kripalu School of Yoga

by Omar Ananías

I didn’t start practicing yoga because I liked it. It was the opposite—I hated it. Since I was a child, I’ve had severe allergies and respiratory complications. Because of how difficult it was for me to breathe and move, I became very overweight. I felt a heaviness inside and out that kept me from smiling. At the age of 14, I was already taking antidepressants.

There wasn’t a moment in my life that I hated more than when my mom took me to do yoga, but in her desperation to help me get better, she didn’t stop trying anything that could help. I fought a long war against yoga, finding excuses and complaining about the pain and everything I didn't like about the instructor. Then, one day, while I was practicing a sequence, I forgot for a second to look at why it was the “wrong” thing to be doing, and my mind went for a moment to my breath—and a little more air than usual came into my lungs. It shook me in a good way, and my body went a little deeper into the posture without forcing it. It set off in me a feeling like hope, hope that there was a possibility to live in a different way.

That was the beginning of realizing that my war with yoga was really a war with myself. Through my practice, I have built a humble friendship with yoga and learned to be a kind friend of my own. I’ve now been working as a yoga facilitator for more than 10 years, and have worked with vulnerable and underserved populations for many years. In 2014, I founded Fundacion Yoga Perú, which takes yoga to places that, because of lack of freedom or economic poverty, it would never reach otherwise—people in jail and those who are physically disabled, without economic resources, and in rural areas. In yoga practice, there is an internal body way deeper than what’s visible, and it’s from there that external health comes from. It’s the same in society—if these hidden populations aren’t valued and loved, we’ll never get to be a healthy society.

With the help of a Kripalu scholarship, I attended Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training and learned how to find the true yoga hidden inside every one of my students. Now I can offer a new level of safety to the vulnerable populations I work with, and help them find the sense of trust and motivation to practice and to listen to the wisdom of their own bodies. I want to provide tools to help them realize that they can leave behind the roles that society imposes on them, and choose what they want to be. I want to help them find that inner smile.

In offering my students Kripalu Yoga, I’m empowering them with the possibility of being or doing anything, knowing that we all are and always will be the most infinite source of love.

Omar Ananías is a Kripalu-trained yoga teacher and the founder of Fundacion Yoga Perú.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.