Practicing yoga in St. Barth…
Spirit’s port of call
The tiny island of St. Barth is situated in the northwestern arc of the Antillean archipelago. As part of the French West Indies, St. Barth is unique in many ways: its history, its unusual blend of cultures (Swedish, mainland French, Caribbean nationals, Americans), and the head-spinning speed at which it has catapulted itself from a poor Caribbean island into an international hotspot.
I first came to the island in 1986, moved here in 1988, and began teaching yoga in 1999. When I first started teaching in St. Barth, the island’s yoga community was a small one, a handful of teachers and dedicated students. I have taught in gyms, on beaches, on rocky platforms, in luxury villas, on boats, under mango trees and in a weather station. My youngest student was 5, the oldest, over 80. I have taught to people of different nationalities and from many walks of life. On islands, people constantly enter and leave, a series of passages and partings, an endless lesson in non-attachment.
For many island yogis, I was their only yoga teacher, for others, I was their first. Over these many years, the responsibility and the privilege of teaching yoga – one of the most ancient mystical sciences and arts on the planet- in St. Barth- one of the places I most love- has never ceased to inspire me, challenge me and drive me to keep growing.
Unlike mainland communities, my primary island yoga community is a community of nomads, driven by tides, surrounded by sea, pushed by the winds to travel and later, to reconvene. Ours is a yoga of gathering and collecting interspersed with solitary and often lengthy stretches of self-practice.
Ours is a yoga of watching how the phenomenal world and the rules that guide the currents of life guide our bodies and minds as well. Ours is a yoga that is governed by a deep respect and understanding of change and impermanence. As we return to St. Barth, we share the things we have picked up in the other worlds.
Like mariners returning from a long journey at sea, our common practice becomes all the more precious. Whether we are lifting anchor or sailing home, the words of the writer Clarissa Pinkola Estes bear particular meaning for me when it comes to practicing yoga in St. Barth. “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.”