Juan Gabriel is someone who can warm your heart with just his smile. We met in the Netherlands during a teacher training of Shiva Rea (founder of Prana Vinyasa) – of which he is an affiliate teacher trainer – and we felt a connection straight away.
He’s now coming to Madrid to share the first official Prana Vinyasa workshops in our studio.
Originally from Chile, he grew up traveling the world and is now based in Belgium from where he still crossed the globe to inspire yogis with his gentle, yet playful and warm personality & teaching.
I asked Juan Gabriel about his healthy rituals, what happiness means to him and why he ended up becoming a yoga teacher.
Are you a happy person?
‘Yes! I understood happiness a few years ago, I was 22, and I realised it is a feeling of oneness. Ever since I know this feeling, I decided to practice that feeling every single day. Some days it’s easier to practice, others it’s more difficult. I consider myself a happy person about 200 days a year.
I see happiness in my dog, in language, food, walking on the street, teaching. I see the bigger picture.
I practice happiness so I can communicate it very well: it can be a smile or practice of presence.
You know, the state of happiness is that you know the bad days and the state of unhappiness too.
Happiness and unhappiness are one thing and sometimes the bad days even become the good days.
Chocolate makes me happy. I eat it on my bad days, then it makes me completely smile. It brings me back to being a baby. That’s why I live in Belgium; no one will judge you when you have chocolate or a beer every day.’
What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
‘I roll in my bed for 5 – 10 minutes, wake up my spine in bed. Sometimes I invite my puppy in bed and we roll together. She taught me how to roll like this.
Right away I go out for my puppy to pee & poo and when I come back in I’m still super sleepy. Most of the time I sit down and meditate, it comes very naturally to me. Sometimes I meditate during my walk.
I always meditate, I always pray and contemplate in the morning.
I sometimes practice asana, which lasts 30 minutes to an hour.
Sometimes I play music and dance naked in my living room, or I answer emails when I’m still clear in my mind.
I have a lot of flexibility in my morning routine and breakfast. I actually never have the same breakfast!’
Why do you change your routine?
‘It changes because my schedule is not something that is fixed. I don’t have Monday to Sunday. I don’t follow the regular schedule and I decide when and where to teach.
Naturally I wake up between 7 and 8 every day. Whatever day it is I just listen to what I need.
I automatically go through the changes in nature, my surroundings, with who I am.
Why does it work for me? I had a very strict life the first 18 years of my life. Private school. It was too much structure for me. Just like my ashtanga practice: I could not do the same thing every single day. That just didn’t work for me.’
Why do you practice & share yoga?
‘I felt the need to communicate simplicity.
This was almost a decade ago and I didn’t know how big or intense this was going to be. I wanted to communicate a better understanding of the self. I wanted my parents to feel better with yoga, I wanted to talk about the stars, the moon and the earth.
The sharing of yoga came very easy and fast to me because I’ve always been someone who can communicate something really well.
I started to go to yoga classes first and understood that this resonated for me the most. I did my first yoga teacher training 8 years ago just for myself, to dive deeper.
One thing led to another and I never stopped sharing yoga.
I don’t consider myself an asana teacher but a yoga teacher that goes for the work in process instead of the workout process.
I consider myself a students of breath, life force, understanding of the thoughts, it’s forever, it’s never enough.
When I joined Samudra (the school of Shiva Rea’s Prana Vinyasa, EC) I understood that yoga is in constant evolution. So our teaching is in constant evolution, when I found them I found my tribe. This is where I am fully accepted and embraced.’
What brings you back to balance?
‘I slow down.
Unbalance arrives when I rush in things. When I move too fast and don’t breathe enough.
I remember 3 main points: relaxed body, balanced breath and clear mind. This will give me access to the presence. And through presence I will find balance. That makes me feel balances and present.’
What did you learn about happiness in the past 10 years?
‘Happiness is a state that you need to first share with yourself before you can share it with others.
You have to be very compassionate to those who haven’t found it yet. You can’t push them, but you can inspire them.
But I really feel we are here on earth to go through challenges and many practices and many obstacles in order to always go through that state of happiness.
So you can really live with a smile, meditate with a smile. Smile with your whole being.
I have a very expressive face and you can literally see it when I’m not happy. The people around me remind me when I’m not smiling. And then I practice smiling again with my whole body.’
Want to join Juan during his 3 workshops in Madrid? Find all the info & sign ups here.