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Finding Space To Breathe With Juan Pablo Gomez

Born in South America, Juan Pablo Gomez moved to the States and pursued a successful 15+ year career in marketing, but after discovering his passion for yoga, he chose an alternate career. Now, Gomez leads open level yoga classes at Yoga Agora in Astoria where he offers an abundance of knowledge to absorb and plenty of space to breathe. When I stepped into this one-room studio, illuminated with wall-lined glass doors exposing naturally bright light, I felt like I had just stepped into a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Exposed brick and sheer curtains created a serene atmosphere as I rolled out my mat bordering a window with clear views of downtown Astoria. Juan was accepting cash donations at the back of the room with a radiant smile and friendly South American accent. No receptionist, public lobby, or fancy changing rooms at this intimate studio, just the natural beauty of comfort and simplicity. Juan came to sit in Virasana at the front of the room and led us in three powerful Oms to get the positive vibes flowing. We came into Child’s Pose as he guided us in a pranayama practice that allowed us to release any anxiety or tension by following the deep rhythm of our diaphragms. We spent a few minutes in this opening restorative pose, connecting to our presence. Once we were in rhythm with our breathing, we moved into Downward Facing Dog and held it for five long breaths before moving into Plank Pose and lowering to Bhujangasana. Each movement was slow and fluid as he provided direct cues and held us for extra breaths in each transition, integrating his style of Hatha and vinyasa teachings. We continued to flow slowly and mindfully as his calm and attentive voice carried our bodies through each vinyasa sequence with strength and safety. We came up into Warrior 1 and then expanded open in Warrior 2 and held it for five deep inhales and exhales as he brought us deeper into the pose. Reversing our front palms, we moved into Reversed Warrior and then back to Warrior 3 and into Trikonasana. Staying in each pose and finding the space to breathe was challenging as I’m used to a faster-paced flow. But when I started to notice the citta vrittis running a negative dialogue through my head, I brought awareness to my thoughts and still had enough time to let go and reconnect with the presence of my breath before coming out of the pose. We added onto the sequence and created some heat with poses like Warrior 3 and Standing Split and eventually found our way onto our backs to cool down. Gomez continued to circle the room and hold the space to move and breathe freely. Whether he remained in the back of the room or made his way to the side walls, his compassionate teachings bounced off the glass windows and into our hearts. We ended class with a few minutes of yogi’s choice to practice inversions or arm-balancing poses. I made my way into Shoulderstand and allowed myself to be present with the reverse flow of blood going back to my heart and pumping out refreshed blood supply. We took our time coming into Savasana as Juan finished assisting students in advanced inversions like Pincha Mayurasana and Handstand. The breeze from the fans above brought me back to the visualization of being somewhere in nature in a foreign country, and my whole body melted into my mat. “If there’s any moment more important to connect to your breath,” Gomez said in a soft whisper, “that moment is now.” —Ashley Rose Howard for Yoga Sleuth Classes are $5 by donation with $1 mat rental. Thursday 11:00pm-12:15pm Open Yoga Agora 33-02 Broadway 2FL Astoria, NY 11106 (718)-626-0680

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