Scarred by its twelve-year civil war, battered by gang violence, and marked by the small pox epidemic and exploitation brought by the conquistadors, El Salvador is the perfect place to cultivate peace through our practice. With the smallest stretch of land but the third largest economy in Central America, El Salvador is developing at breakneck speed. Its expansion brings new opportunities and dilemmas, creating a national exercise in stretching and balancing that mirrors our asanas. Home to many endangered species, including six out of eight species of sea turtle, El Salvador is rich with life and riddled with development choices.
Our peaceful intentions are a direct investment in a nation working through its share of strife. Despite its recent economic growth, El Salvador faces challenges and growing pains. Its median income of about $4,500 USD per year is largely dependent on remittances from abroad, which bring in more money than exports. The economic downturn in the United States has reduced the income from these remittances, leaving many people feeling the squeeze. Unfortunately, the commercial enterprises that could reduce this dependence and boost GDP can also threaten the environment with water pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, and the destruction of coastal habitats. Moreover, El Salvador's underfunded education system still leaves children in rural areas without access to the kind of public schooling that we take for granted—schooling that can give Salvadorians more choices about how to participate in the global economy and more information to decide how best to use their resources and develop their land.
While our yoga retreats are wonderful opportunities to deepen our personal practice, I believe they also offer a chance to engage in bhakti, the service component of yoga that gives the practice more meaning. In a practical sense, our eco-tourism has the power to promote sustainable development and encourage stewardship. Our patronage supports socially-conscious entrepreneurs, like our hosts at La Tortuga Verde, who are working to protect the environment, expand employment opportunities, and improve local schools. In a spiritual sense, our presence and our intentions resonate with a desire for peace, progress, friendship, and exchange.
Realizing that what we find in a place depends on what we bring to it, I've loaded up the luggage with love and crammed my carry-on with care. On the packing list:
- Yoga mat
- Yoga pants
- Copies of Yoga Masters
- Copies of Ray Long's Key Poses of Yoga and Key Muscles of Yoga
- The TogetherYoga Traveling Buddha
- Mala beads
- Dog-eared copy of the Upanishads
- Donated books for the local school
- Love and blessings for everyone who joins us and everyone we meet
May the kind intentions of the entire TogetherYoga community shine this week, bringing peace and light with us as we take our practice on the road.