Juan Gabriel is a new age healer with a big heart, delicate soul and inspirational mind. A very humble, yet successful and loved by his students and peers yoga teacher. One of Shiva Rea’s assistants and closest friends. He is also one of the most delicate and graceful Prana Flow teachers worldwide.
Yoga. Dance. Surf. Prana. Flow. Breath. Love.
Those may be just words for us, but for Juan Gabriel they are symbols of his whole world. And what a fascinating world this is! A world in which people are wild and free, full of self-love and love for the others; a world where breath is the master and yoga is a goddess. What you are about to read is not just an interview. It’s a tale about that world; a trance dance with words, love and yoga.
2HB: What sparked your interest in yoga?
JG: My interest in yoga arose the first time I consciously practiced sadana (presence). It took me not too long to understand how disconnected I was and that this tool we call yoga (I refer to it more as Sadhana), could help me realise that I was able to reach my highest level according to my evolution right. In a deeper way I could reach a better connection. I could embrace my qualities better. I could understand my weaknesses better. So I could basically know myself better. And I got tricked by that at a very young age.
I have always considered myself to be someone who wanted to learn new languages, travel the world and meet new people. I have always been interested in the external part of life. Through yoga I became interested in the internal aspect too. So I guess that inspired me to get really interested in the practice of yoga. Through yoga I could get to know myself and observe myself and my life from an external point of view in a clearer way: when I was the happiest or the saddest, when I was anxious or relaxed.
2HB: How did you build your passion for yoga into a career?
JG: I have never seen myself, and actually I still don’t see myself, as a teacher. I’ve studied Communications and also a few languages, and I love to travel. I also love to communicate: that is one of my best qualities. I love to communicate through all forms: dance, speech, painting, talking with the eyes. So at some point I realised that yoga was just another way to communicate and I saw that I was actually good at communicating through my practise.
I decided to join my first yoga teacher training when I was 24 and it was a 500h hatha yoga training. I wanted to do it for my own knowledge and wisdom, and to learn how to practise yoga with a deeper understanding in my own time. After I finished my training I suddenly felt the need to share all that I’ve learned and experienced with my friends, family and acquaintances. They all needed the presence of yoga, meditation, pranayama and mantras in their lives, and also all that understanding of union. So I started to teach and opened a small practice in my hometown.
But I always knew myself and listened to my own voice, and my own colours and aromas. I felt that I couldn’t be part of something bigger than myself so I refused to teach in other studios. I didn’t want to lose myself. I wanted to fulfil my dreams first. So for 6 years I didn’t collaborate with any other studio and I think that really helped me understand where I was going, what I was and what my message was. Suddenly my hobby turned into a paid job and gradually into a career. I am very grateful for being able to do what I am doing, serving other people and helping them at all times.
2HB: You inspire people from all over the world, but who inspires you?
JG: Every person that crosses my path has something to share with me. Everyone that I retribe throughout the world inspires me. My dog inspires me: I see a guru-teacher in her that teaches me to be humble, shows me the simplicity of life, teaches unconditional love and self-care. Know when you are tired, know when you need to sleep, know when you have to play. And sometimes be rebel!
My parents also inspire me. My sisters Victoria and Consuelo as well: they are the love of my life. Seeing them grow and reach their full presence through their individual practises: marshal arts and Japanese archery, just warms my heart. Of course, my teacher and friend Shiva inspires me to become a better version of myself. Nature inspires me incredibly too, being there unconditionally for all of us.
2HB: As a yoga teacher and motivator what is your intention for your students and followers? What do you want them to achieve through yoga?
JG: I want them to achieve a better understanding of who they are. I want them to know that the practice of yoga is not an easy practice. Yoga shows you in your face all of your weaknesses and does that not through a battle, but through a challenge. When you go through that you see the effect of the practice and feel that amazing nectar, that amazing freshness, that amazing gift when you become part of that union with yourself regardless of what you are going through. At the end you really feel the presence of your relaxed breath, clear mind and balanced body. I want all of my students to feel and understand that flow of the breath into the body, and their brilliant mind and biggest heart. I want them to realise that when you give food through yoga you become rich in so many ways.
2HB: With the intense life that you have: hosting retreats and teaching workshops, running yoga teacher trainings, teaching at festivals, traveling around the world… how do you maintain a practice of self-love and self- care, and how do you stay motivated, fresh and inspired?
JG: Since a very young age I knew myself very well. Yet, through the practice of yoga I managed to get to know myself even better and realise that constant evolution of who I was. And everything comes easy when you know yourself. Everything just flows. Honestly, I never feel tired and I never feel like it’s too much, as I love what I do so much. Being in service and helping is what keeps me motivated and inspired. I just try to be present and receive the gift of the magical cosmic universe and the goddess, which help me go through all this.
Self-love and self-care come with knowing yourself and with visioning yourself: what is your highest self, what is your highest resolution, what is your highest dream. Being present in the moment and living those things, living my dreams is what motivates me. I take care of myself by practising yoga and meditation every day. The massage is also a form of self-love that I practise. I take care of my diet too. For me dancing is also an important part of staying inspired. I dance in my living room with my dog every Sunday. Every now and then I go out dancing with some friends. Most of the time I share the act of dancing in the form of yoga trance dance. By dancing I want to tell people that life shouldn’t be that serious. Why did we stop moving? Why we don’t know ourselves? Why do we let other people’s judgment influence us and affect our mind and our dreams? Why do we let them break our vision? That is what’s important to me. I want to give other people courage and bravery, and show them that if I can do it, they can do it too. I want to encourage them to get in touch with their highest selves.
2HB: How did you meet Shiva Rea and how did you manage to become such an essential part of the Samudra School by being one of Shiva’s favourite assistants and peers?
JG: After doing 200 hours of ashtanga yoga teacher training I felt that something wasn’t fitting right with my way of feeling in asana or in a mudra. So I started playing music while doing ashtanga yoga and I was also changing the sequences, which in ashtanga is absolutely forbidden. I started creating my own sequencings and my own practices, sometimes a big part of which was music. I was just feeling the rhythm of the music; music was giving a tune that was transformed in a mudra.
So just by curiosity I went to the Internet and I started looking for yoga practices that involved music in their nature. I saw a video of Shiva and I knew that she was teaching in Venice, California soon. So I made it possible for me to go to Venice. Unfortunately it turned out that she wasn’t there at that time as she was on a retreat somewhere. So I went back to Belgium and checked that soon she was going to Montpellier in France. I was lucky enough to get a spot on her retreat there. So I went and I found myself surrounded by amazing people from all around the world. At that time I didn’t know much about Shiva. I had no approach and no expectations. I was just happy to be there. And I remember that right after the opening meditation of the retreat we all went for dinner. At dinner Shiva invited me to sit at her table where her partner Demetri and her assistants were. We had a very natural, normal conversation and I was treating her like she was my sister or my best friend. I think that sparkled something in Shiva. We had a connection and deep down in me I knew that that was it!
I remember that I stayed and meditated for a long time after shavasana at one of the practices and I felt that in my whole body I could listen to my call, I could listen that that was the practise I was looking for, I could vibrate with everything that Shiva said. And then someone touched my back. It was Shiva. She told me to stay for as long as I can, so I stayed meditating for hours.
One of the last days of the training that other form of yoga came: yoga trance dance. That for me was a revelation! The fact that I could dance and express myself in a group of people that were doing the same, made me feel home. And I felt that I have finally found my tribe. A tribe of people that won’t judge me for being creative and expressive; they won’t judge me for the way I think, or the way I talk, or the way I move. I felt safe and loved. That for me was one of the most important days of my life.
I am not sure if I am a favourite person for Shiva, but we definitely have a good communication, we support each other; we embrace each other’s colours, forms, expressions, and life evolution. Shiva is a person who embraces freedom, expression and courage in all forms and shapes. So I guess I am someone who embodies that. Someone who embodies what Shiva teaches, beyond the mudra and the asana. I understand the breath, the pulsations and the devotion. Shiva and I became close very fast as we could speak the same language, and move in the same way, and see the same colours. And I am always devoted to her and I see her as a sister, as a mother, as a servant of the flow, as a good friend, as a good wife. I am devoted to her vision and her way of communicating love. All that makes me her assistant and I will be one forever. I will be forever grateful for what she has awakened in me.
2HB: Tell us how does it feel to be the first teacher to be running an official Prana Flow yoga teacher training in Spanish? This must be such an honour!
JG: It was indeed such an honour! It was the first Prana Vinyasa teacher training offered exclusively in Spanish, with all the manuals translated in Spanish. The whole process was very important for my understanding as a servant of Prana Vinyasa. I wanted to open the doors for this style in yoga for Latin America, especially Chile, as this is the country that gave me very important foundations from a very young age. I always felt that I left Chile to know myself and now that I knew myself better I could go back and share my knowledge.
For me the first teacher training in my country was essential. Everything happened very naturally and it all flew amazingly. I could translate all these years as a practitioner in those three weeks and a half, and I did it in my mother language. It was a success and a beautiful experience. I am beyond grateful for it and I am so happy for the results. I created a community of Prana Vinyasa teachers that I can now call friends. They will all spread the love and the vibe of Prana.
2HB: Thinking back on your career so far, is there a specific event, achievement or memory that warms your heart and makes all the hard work worth it?
JG: It is hard so choose only one memory. It’s like asking me to choose one favourite colour or one favourite flavour. That is impossible.
One very special moment for me was the last practise of the yoga teacher training that I led in Chile. At some point I stopped the class and I told to my students: ‘Now you go!’. And I observed them from a far point. I observed them moving, following the breath, being themselves; I could really see the love flowing. That is a memory that I will always keep. All the hard work finally took place in their hearts. They could communicate through mudras their full union. If I could transmit that in Chile I could transmit it everywhere. That for me made all the effort, all the travelling and jet lags, all the studying worth it.
Another special memory is from this year’s Costa Rica teacher training. We were all together waving goodbye to the sunset, singing love mantras; the warm waters of Costa Rica were embracing us; we were all together, we were playing like dolphins in the water, smiling to each other and embracing ourselves to our fullest potential. This was the moment when I felt the highest, the most evolved as a person that I have ever been, and also the happiest that I have ever been. By understanding the practice of presence we achieve that full gift of life, right here, right now!
If you have enjoyed this interview read also the one we did with Inês Pimentel: a true inspiration for all of us! Her personal struggle with a terrible disease called Graves inspired her to become a professional holistic coach and yoga teacher, and to dedicate her life and career to an admirable cause: helping others heal and become happier, healthier, more balanced and glowing. Read the interview here.
Welcome to ‘Learn It From The Best: True Inspirational Health Stories’: our new series where we will be interviewing inspirational health and wellness coaches and motivators from all around the world and will be sharing with you their secrets, health tips and personal stories. For more health, wellness and yoga inspiration download 2 Health App now!