It was about 3 years ago when we had one of those beautiful evenings with good friends, where the conversations flowed and so did the wine. We talked about places we would love to explore and the Amazon rainforest was on top of that list. Of course, we didn’t give this serious thought as who goes to the jungles besides trained explorers that we only got to experience through the lens of National Geographic? So when the opportunity manifested a month later, we took it as a sign from the universe and found ourselves impulsively saying YES!
Fear and doubt were common themes for the next while, though backing out wasn’t an option as the Amazon magnetized our curiosity. Preparation for the trip included periodic visits to the doctor to get all the necessary vaccines and required medication, MEC for protective clothing and survival equipment, and Googling every scenario that could possibly go wrong. What did we get ourselves into?
We first flew into Lima and then took a charter flight to Puerto Maldonado. A small city in the in the tropical Amazon Basin, 55 km from the Bolivian border with a population of 75,000. During the late19th-century and early 20th-century this area was exploited for its rubber, today depends on gold mining, logging, brazil nuts, boat building, and eco-tourism as the main sources of income.
Our first stop was an animal rehabilitation sanctuary where we met amazing people who dedicate their lives to saving wildlife and reintroduce them back into their natural habitat. This was an eye-opening experience, as we saw and felt first hand the physical and psychological damage that was brought into the lives of the many innocent animals, which broke our hearts.
Getting into the heart of the jungle was not an easy journey as anticipated. One of us even thought that UBER would manage to get us there. LOL! A bumpy 3-hour ride in a van that was not designed for the jungle terrain, 1-hour hike in the rain with our gear, and 6-hours up the Las Piedras River in an old wooden canoe that was leaking, we finally reached the biodiversity station that would be our new home for the next while.
It was only when we lost Wi-Fi coverage that things started to become real, and by then it was too late to turn back. Our first impression of the jungles as city dwellers is of both excitement and fear. The excitement of what we will discover, and fear of everything that flies, slithers, or crawls. Even the idea of some crazy poisonous man-eating plant seemed like a possibility in the Madre de Dios Region of lost ancient cities and un-contacted tribes.
The Amazon rainforest is enriched and bustling with life, providing 20% of the planets of fresh oxygen supply that you can immediately feel with each breath. The murky brown water at first appears polluted due to the fine sediments, however, it has traveled thousands of miles through a network of plant roots that detoxifies it, is probably one of the cleanest fresh water supply in the world.
The most noteworthy detail about the Amazon rainforest is also the most intangible to measure and describe. As yogis through our practice, we open up our bodies as well as our minds. With each vinyasa, we become more hyperaware of the vibe and energy of our surroundings and how it affects us. In the Amazon, the best way to describe the energy is pure, pure of life and that was magical.
In the next 10 days, it was this energy that changed us to the very core. Though it played out very differently for each of us, the commonality in the experience is that it shifted our energies from the dramas of our modern lives to worry-free times that we only experienced as children. It was as though we traveled back into time and back into Mother Nature’s womb in which we all came from. It broke down the perspective on what we thought we knew about ourselves and the world around us and taught us the importance of balance and biodiversity, not just for the Amazon rainforest but for the whole planet.
Near the end of our trip during one of our hikes, we came across the sad reality that threatened this magical place, deforestation. The Amazon rainforest functions like a giant air purifier by absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide and in turn, produces oxygen. When cut or burned down it does the opposite and releases all those toxins back into the atmosphere. Deforestation also leaves many beautiful and endangered animals species homeless and vulnerable to illegal poaching, as well as destroying many undiscovered plants that could potentially be key to the next medical breakthrough.
Having the privilege of experiencing the energy in the Amazon enlightened us with simple solutions to complex world issues. It begins with the dedication and love to healing ourselves by healing the earth. Waking up to the sunrise and hearing the animals celebrating the start of a new day, humbled us into realizing that we’ve been given another opportunity to make the world better!
Through the many moments under the bright starlit skies, watching macaws flying above the jungle canopy, or hearing the howler monkey mark their territory through deep guttural growls, the spirit of the Amazon asked us to protect it. In those moments YOGA FOR AIR was brought into being and where our story begins.
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