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Medellín or Rishikesh

When I was about 19 years old, I learned yoga in my hometown of Graz from a Dutch teacher, who became a very good friend and an influential person in my life. Since he was also a poet, he not only introduced me to yoga but also to poetry. From time to time, I still write poems though it’s been a few years since I’ve published anything.

At age 22, I moved to India and I lived there for more than 2 years, over a year in Himachal Pradesh and one year in Tamil Nadu. I traveled to different parts of India too, but I never made it to Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, which is also commonly known as the yoga capital of the world because of its history and the many practitioners from all over the world who go there to practice yoga for a while.

But what does all that have to do with Medellín? Medellín is probably, unfortunately, mostly known for its dark past as the seat of a drug cartel, not least because of a Netflix show. Unfortunately this seems to also attract a number of expats who come here for the wrong reasons, namely prostitution and drugs. The expat facebook groups are full of reports from those people getting drugged and robbed. No surprise that some of these groups are very toxic and therefore a group with the name “Medellín for Non Jerks” was even created. Luckily, we encountered these people only virtually, and the neighborhood in which we stayed had a very good vibe.

Our apartment was in the barrio Manila, which is similar to Quinta Camacho in Bogotá. Since the weather here is so much warmer, naturally the atmosphere is also different. Medellín rightfully has the nickname “la ciudad de la eterna primavera.” There were again lots of good restaurants with very reasonably priced dishes and drinks compared to the US and most European countries. Our barrio seemed very safe and you could also walk after dark to restaurants and bars or yoga classes. Manila also has a lovely coworking space called Open Space and there, every Tuesday a Hatha Yoga class was held by Camila, which I absolutely loved. Initially I was hesitant to attend it because the class is held in Spanish and my Spanish knowledge is close to zero, but luckily I gave it a try and realized yoga is a universal language. I also attended English Hatha Flow Yoga classes with Andrew in a different part of the town at a yoga studio called Flying Tree Yoga. There, not unlike Rishikesh in a way, many practitioners from all over the world come together to practice yoga. Andrew offered a very nice combination of philosophical and practical teaching.

Altogether, in a span of 22 days, I ended up going to 11 classes in Medellín, up to 4 times a week! It was quite challenging since my body has become really stiff over the years, because I have hardly practiced Yoga at all. In the end I noticed though how things felt easier during practice and how beneficial the practice was for my physical and mental wellbeing.

I didn’t plan on doing so much yoga before coming to Medellín. The rates for the classes were inexpensive and the teachers were excellent, so I just took the opportunity and I feel very happy about it. Inspired by this experience I definitely plan to do more yoga again in the future, wherever I go, whether to Medellín, Rishikesh or the next place where we are going to live.

Our apartment in Medellín was the most artistic one we have stayed in so far. It was a loft with many street art-like murals on its walls. It also had an old road bike hanging on one of its walls. I felt the main purpose of the bike seems to be aesthetics. Still, I thought I would ask the landlord if I could ride it and to my surprise he agreed. I was very happy that for the first time in more than 9 months I had a bike again and could ride around town. I just love riding a bike and in particular a road bike.

Colombians are so friendly and always ready to help. I will miss it, but now the time has come to continue our journey and to stay open for what’s next. We are leaving tomorrow for our next destination and I am looking very much forward to this new experience in a new country I have never been to before, thankful for what I was able to experience in Medellín.

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