Written by Mitchelle Pierre
I recently started a daily yoga practice at home that includes meditation, asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques). Before then, I would attend yoga classes in my neighborhood and tell my Haitian mom that I’m going out to an “exercise” class. She never inquired about what type of exercise. However, when I started practicing yoga at home, I noticed a change.
My mom lives in Long Island, New York. When she visits us in New Jersey she usually spends a few days. I would wake up in the morning before the kids and tip toe to my “yoga room” and not re-emerge until 30 minutes to 1-hour later.
During my yoga practice, I could hear my mom get up and make her Café Bustelo – an espresso coffee brand that my entire family used throughout my childhood.
When I would complete my yoga practice she would be sitting in the kitchen dipping bread in her overly sweet coffee.
One day she looked at me and asked – what do you do in that room? I said exercise. Her next question was, how do you exercise with pants that tight? I just laughed.
That same week she asked about my “too tight” exercise attire I was scheduled to attend a weekend yoga retreat. She and my husband would watch my 17-month old daughter and 3-year old son. I said I was going on a “retreat”. A devoted Catholic, my mom was excited I was going to worship God for an entire weekend. I had to clarify that it was a “yoga” retreat.
Yoga – what is yoga? I am not aware of the Creole word for yoga so I then tried to explain. I’m going to exercise. She gave me a funny look and said – you are going to exercise for the entire weekend? I then tried to explain that yoga is not just a form of physical exercise but a practice that promotes physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing through postures, meditation and breathing techniques. My explanation was not well received. She then asked – are you converting to another religion? Is this some type of voodoo? Of course I said no, but her mind was made up. She took this opportunity to say she could hear me calling dead spirits in the morning … She was referring to me chanting OM to end my yoga practice.
I went to my weekend “yoga” retreat and returned with a yoga DVD, which I had my mom watch. Despite watching the DVD, I still can’t help but think that my mom believes my “yoga” practice is really me exploring/practicing another religion.
Have you had to explain a concept/word with no direct Creole translation to Haitian relatives? Were you successful? Do you practice yoga? Please share your thoughts and experiences.