The Many Faces of Yoga: India Edition – Thais Rodriguez



I met Thais from Spain while practicing ashtanga yoga here in Goa, India. Thais talks about getting into yoga to help his surfing and how yoga has now become his primary focus. He speaks about moving from the physical to the spiritual side of yoga and how yoga has helped him embrace a healthy lifestyle.

What brought you to yoga?

I started to practice yoga because I used to surf a lot and I felt my body was very stiff and I decided to go to yoga just to stretch – that was the first step.

Did you have an idea of yoga before you began to practice?

Not so much, I just knew there was stretching, breathing and not too much movement, quiet exercise – that was it.

Did your idea change when you began to practice?

Yes, a lot. I remember the first day with the first ‘om’ and I started to laugh because for me it was very wierd and I thought it was stupid. I didn’t understand that aspect but I wanted to stretch so it was OK.

Now it has changed a lot because my life goes around yoga. Yoga really changed my life – my point of view, how I take care of my body, how I take care of my soul, my mind ; its completely different.

Did you get more into the spiritual aspect of yoga then?

Yes I practise to be a better person now, sometimes I focus on the physical aspect but the practice reminds me why I am really doing this. It is also more focused on being more connected with myself, to have more knowledge about myself and of the universe.

What is your background in yoga?

I started with practising hatha yoga, I was doing it twice a week. I started to feel it wasn’t enough and I needed more so I went to another shala and I practised more frequently. In this shala they have Mysore style (self-practice) ashtanga yoga classes so I tried a led-class but I couldn’t do it, it was so difficult for me. I looked at all the other people and I couldn’t believe it – I thought “I’m a strong man and I’m here suffering and an old woman next to me can do it and I can’t”. So I had to leave ashtanga classes for a while because I really couldn’t do it. I started hatha again and slowly I got into ashtanga with the help of my teacher.

I am very happy with ashtanga now – its my practice. I practice at home and I like to read and to study anatomy. The dynamic movements make me stay really focused and I also like the physical aspect also.

Do you practice anything alongside yoga, like meditation or pranayama? 

I know that before I couldn’t just sit and breathe because it was too difficult for me, but I can start to do it now. It was very difficult for me at the beginning to be quiet in my space, with or without my legs crossed. My mind was not in that place, I felt I was wasting my time, my joints weren’t open, I felt pain in my mind – I thought OK I have to get out of here.

I also tried to practice pranayama but I couldn’t so I decided to let it go. When I heard Rolf (the yoga teacher in Goa) talk about pranayama I could feel the love in his words for the practice and I really felt there was something in it for me so I decided to just try for a week or so and now I’ve started to practice it everyday and I can really feel the change. I’m very happy and I really love it and now its included in my sadhana – its really different when you want to do something and when you have to force yourself to do something.

Is this your first time coming to practice yoga in India?

This is my third time in India, the first trip was just a backpacking trip up North. I came here last year with my teacher, I didn’t know anything about the yoga here but I went as he was going and I just love it here. It was such a great experience but too short as it was only a month – it was too fast. Its really weird because you don’t have anything to do here after the practice, you think that the day must be so long but its not, its very short.

How do you find practicing in India in comparison to practicing at home in the Canaries?

The only thing I really feel is different is that I find my body is a bit more open but I don’t feel too much with the other aspects.

When I came here last year I came without expectations because I know my practice is my practice, maybe the teacher would be amazing but my body is my body and I would just go with the daily practice and one or two months is a short time to change my practice a lot.

I love the energy and to spend time here. My teacher here is a really lovely person and you can see the knowledge in his eyes and that inspires me. I think he is a real teacher – not just in the shala but all day, he is different from the western model.

Did your lifestyle change a lot when you started yoga?

Yes, a lot. The common things changed: I gave up eating meat, I had a different routine during the day. Now I don’t like to go out and party because I want to get up early to practice and I don’t like to go places where people are smoking, these kinds of things.

I take more care of where my food comes from, if it is processed I don’t want to eat it – I think my body is a temple and I have to take care of it. My style changed, I don’t want to wear tight trousers now I want to be comfortable and it doesn’t matter what people think about it. I feel my daily life completely different now from two years ago.

Have you found your attitude changed?

Yes, its completely different. My mind is very clear and I can sit now and do nothing. I used to have to do a lot of things during the day, I always needed to surf or go to the gym or be moving or doing something exciting – now I don’t need that. I go to practice, go for a walk with my dogs, read a book or go to the beach – just simple things but I enjoy it a lot.

I feel I have less attachment to people and things, I don’t worry about things now – I think ‘OK if this is going to happen, its OK’. I trust in the universe and that if its for me then its welcome, if I have to learn something then its OK.

Sometimes its hard but its very nice. I really feel that its not just about yoga because there are other changes in my life but I feel like I was reborn two or three years ago and I’m like a new person. Yoga supports this a lot and I always try to find any tool to connect with my internal self. I tried to do it for many years with sports, now I feel that with yoga the time I spend on the mat is like a mirror for the rest of my day and life. If I fight with myself on the mat maybe I have something to see off the mat, my approach to my practice is like how I do things in life.

Yoga has helped me a lot to have more knowledge about myself ,I love that part. I think everybody wants to know who they really are and for me yoga is the perfect tool to do that.

Do you still surf and have you noticed and change since you started practicing yoga?

Yes I still surf but not as much. I can see the waves when I leave the yoga shala in the morning but I’m not so sure if I want to go. Now I just walk my dogs and read or go to the shops. I don’t know if I’m lazy now with surfing because when I go out to surf I really enjoy it – I want to surf more this year.

I can feel a big improvement in my surfing after practicing yoga, I surf less than ever and its my best surf. I can really feel a lot of balance and everything goes in slow motion and I feel the power of the breath in the water and its amazing, but on the physical aspect you do have to paddle everyday to strengthen certain muscles.

Is there anything else you would like to say about yoga for you?

I am just really grateful to life to have given me this tool of yoga. I think I can plant very nice things in that land and I hope to be a better person. Its very funny because when you are conscious of these things and being a good person you see you have to work on all these things.

My mind is sometimes working in one direction and I want to work in another direction. We have to find a middle point. One of life’s big lessons is let it go! Let it go! Let it go!

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