Barefoot Bhakti: Mexico’s Best Spiritual Community

Experiences at Hridaya yoga

- Mazunte, Oaxaca -

The Spiritual Heart of Mexico

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What I Learned Living in a Meditation and Yoga Community:

  • Where attention goes, energy flows

  • The mind is a tool, not the driver

  • Yogis give the longest hugs

  • Rumi is the OG of philosophical quotations

  • The value of healthy masculinity

  • Semen retention and higher consciousness

  • I don’t need to be perfect - just honest and real

  • When yoga becomes a meditation

  • Investigate mystery - ponder hard questions

  • Each asana (yoga posture) activates energy concentrated in a chakral region, which creates corresponding psycho-social effects

  • Karma yoga

  • Ecstatic dance is a global movement

  • A wild yogi party is drinking cacao and chanting bhajans/kirtan

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I was on a road trip traveling through Mexico seeking conscious communities, plant medicine, and surfing towns. I spent about two months on the road. Then, I arrived in a small town on the Oaxaca coast called Mazunte. Six weeks later, I had become part of the most vibrant spiritual community that I have ever seen.

Daily group meditations and yoga classes. Ecstatic dance. Kirtan. Vegan group meals. A diverse community of international ‘seekers.’ An abundance of hugs. All packed on a beautiful hill overlooking the majestic blue Pacific ocean.

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Welcome to Hridaya Yoga in Mazunte, Oaxaca

After a three day hridaya meditation course, I heard the call to stay for a three week intensive yoga program. The road trip continued without me. I said goodbye to my best friend and the surfer van I had lived in for two months.

Every community has a shared set of values. At Hridaya, the focus is spiritual development through meditation and yoga. As a result, the community members are open-minded, compassionate, and healthy. Nearly all of my favorite values from my years in San Francisco were here.

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Hridaya Yoga was founded by a teacher from the Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA) yoga schools in Romania. Yoga became insanely popular in Romania in the 1980s. And to add more spice, yoga was illegal under communist rule until the Romanian revolution in 1989.

Hridaya Yoga opened in Mazunte in 2012. The constantly rotating team of volunteers and teachers have done a great job building up the community in only six years. The center has three yoga halls. The dining area holds space to share conversation with the other amazing yogis at the school. They also have on-site rooms for rent during the meditation or yoga courses.

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Review of Hridaya’s 20-day Yoga Module One

Overall, I highly recommend this course for a beginner or intermediate yoga student. Hridaya Yoga is hatha (also called yin) yoga. This means that you hold certain asanas for minutes at a time, allowing your body to deeply stretch fibrous tissue around your muscles.

Yoga in most Western countries is concentrated on fitness and physical purity. Any form of physical activity can de-toxify the body by draining the lymphatic system. Hatha yoga is different and more traditional. Eyes are mainly closed while holding each asana, allowing the yoga to become a meditation. Generally, it is a deep slow-paced class.

All of the classes are in English. The teachers are mainly from Europe. Their dedication to the yogic path inspired me. I felt their dedication each and every class. It is impressive to feel their commitment day after day.

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The unique aspect about the Module One course was the focus on yoga theory. Each asana was explained thoroughly. First we learned the etymology of the sanksrit word for the asana. Then, the technique to perform it, possible errors during performance, and contraindications. Finally, we were taught ancient Indian wisdom about the effects and benefits of the asana. The benefits may improve the physical, psycho-emotional, energetic, or spiritual domains.

I have been practicing yoga in a variety of studios for the last six years in the United States, mainly in California. However, I never learned about yoga theory. You may think, what do you mean theory? Just do the pose and feel the benefits. Yes and no. It is true that you don’t need the theoretical knowledge to receive positive benefits from a practice, but what I learned is that the journey becomes deeper with an understanding of yoga theory.

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We also learned some basic tantra yoga. One useful lesson is how to transfer sexual energy to different chakras. This can be performed through pranayama (breath work) or certain inversion asanas.

One of the best lectures was about the potential benefits of semen retention. Yes, I am referring to a man holding his ejaculation. Numerous Eastern religious traditions discovered how a man’s semen holds important energy.  Controlling sexual energy requires communication, clarity, and determination. Practically speaking, a man has to keep pleasure below ‘the point of no return’ to prevent ejaculation. The ultimate goal here is to retain energies in the body in an effort to reach higher consciousness.

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My group was around thirty students, ranging from 23 to 70 years old. The diversity and camaraderie of the Module One group motivated me to stay committed to the practice. We practiced three to four hours of hatha yoga each day, followed by a two-hour satsang lecture.

When you enter so many hours of contemplation through meditation and yoga, you may experience some energetic shifts in your body. For me, this happened a few times during savasana at the end of a yoga class. It do not advise to have these energetic shifts as a goal in mind. Let them come naturally.

A significant memory I had during the course occurred in the morning at the main yoga hall. We had completed a two-hour yoga class and were sitting together for a few moments in group meditation. Then, a small earthquake shook the meditation hall. One or two people gasped. I wasn’t sure if the experience was real or not until I recognized that someone shrieked out loud. Otherwise, it felt like a big energetic shift that sometimes comes during deep meditation.

After a month in Hridaya, my awareness to my thoughts, my diet, and my body improved dramatically. Between the yogi diet and daily exercise, I felt healthier than I have in a long time. On top of that, I had made new conscious friends from all over the world. The Hridaya Yoga community is a bliss bubble hard to find anywhere else on earth.

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Conscious sober parties are fun. Hridaya hosts bhajans/kirtan devotional singing on Saturday nights. The community hosts amazing ecstatic dances on Sunday afternoons. They are open to the public and I recommend going to both. I was able to play guitar with the bhajan band. I also DJ’d one of the ecstatic dances, find my playlists here. Check their schedule before you go because they do not host the bhakti events during the silent retreats.

Overall, the cost of the program and cost of living in Oaxaca is cheap. Mazunte rent is around $250 USD per month. Compared to other yoga programs, the Hridaya modules price cannot be beat. Investing in a course here is a great decision, especially for the budget spiritual seeker. The food is vegan, delicious, and cooked with love from the karma yogi volunteer program. Definitely sign up for the community meal plan as part of your yoga module.

Mazunte is the spiritual heart of the Oaxaca coast. If you are a seeker, please do yourself a favor and spend some time at the Hridaya Yoga community. They offer three-week yoga courses and ten-day silent retreats on a rotating schedule. Check out their website for details.

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What is Hridaya Meditation?

This form of meditation is focused on the energy around the heart chakra. In the meditation course you are guided how to practice, similar to the video above. The short pauses between breaths allow us to experience mental gaps between thoughts. The void in thoughts connects the meditator to a space beyond the mind. In this moment, hridaya meditation recommends using self-inquiry to ask the question, “Who am I?”

The self-inquiry method comes from an Indian guru named Ramana Maharshad. This questioning allows the individual to ask the question and ponder the answer themselves. One can develop a sense of wonder and ethereal curiosity into their own meaning of life. It has been said that self-inquiry is the greatest gift that oriental traditions brought to the West.

It may seem strange, but even with closed eyes, the eyes can move around and divert a lot of your attention. So what does one do with their eyes during meditation? One strategy is that with eyes closed, look forward and de-focus your pupils. If you are tired and in need of energy, softly look upwards. If you are agitated or hyperactive, look towards the ground in front of you.

Each morning the community gathers for an hour-long group meditation. The sitting draws around 60 people in a sacred hall of silence. I highly recommend attending if you find yourself in Mazunte.

Thank you for reading. I will leave you with these four fundamentals questions for the human mind:

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  • Where do I come from?

  • Where am I going?

  • Who am I?

  • What am I doing here?

-Written by Benye