Yoga on Wheels:  Mindanao’s fitness program with a twist

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews / 03 March) — I consider my involvement with Hatha yoga both as a practitioner and leader as a journey to a wholistic lifestyle change and outlook.

Even then, I look at myself as a work in progress, constantly disciplining me in my 15 years of stretching, deep breathing, including long walks.

I converted the living room of my pad into what I call “Little Forest Yoga Studio” where I hold a small session of five practitioners per class. Because I love traveling, an idea hit me: why not tag along Yoginis for a deeper practice outdoors and record it, too? Something like transforming fitness, tourism, and cultural events rolled into a substantial one.

The Butuan City-based “Little Forest Yoga Studio” group in a morning session along the bank of Agusan River, led by the author (L).

It eventually proved to be a success. Being city-based, we first tried it at the City Hall grounds and then at the Agusan riverbank, including the historic site of the Banza Church Ruins — all held early morning with the sun rising and late afternoon when the sun is setting.

“This is a real fitness encounter with nature, you feel free and good as you do easy stretch and twist,” discovers Vanch Pena-Dominise, a long-time practitioner. Another regular, Armi Bajao-Calope who lost her right arm six years ago when the bus she was riding fell off a cliff in Surigao, remained loyal because “yoga becomes part of my healing, like it helped to give me back my self-worth,” she declares. Both ladies would always take time to join me on scheduled weekend sessions.

Two gentlemen, Pabs and Jessreal, both in their 20’s join me and occasionally the group as they see it as a challenge “to test how balance, strong and flexible we are– on sometimes uneven ground like atop Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur.

“Have you done a pose aboard a floating crazy raft at the bottom of the falls?” asked Jess, laughing.

For Armi Bajao-Calope who lost her right arm six years ago when the bus she was riding fell off a cliff in Surigao, says yoga “becomes part of my healing, like it helped to give me back my self-worth.”

That is the beauty of this program, I think, because of unforgettable thrills and discoveries — doing postures with awesome spots and terrains as backdrop. As a tourist, you bring along your active self. In addition, we meet interesting people we can learn from, make new friends and bask in their culture.

Three memorable trips for me to look for potential destinations and finding them are Lakewood/ Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur and Lake Apo/A distinction Place Resort-Home in Valencia, Bukidnon and “Cottage on a Hill”/Cicada Hill in Marilog, along the boundary of the Davao-Bukidnon Highway.

I also had the opportunity to stretch on the beaches of Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte where an American lady and two local boys joined me. In Palawan’s tiny island, I did the same under the coconut trees with two curious househelps. It was a fun exchange.

Last year, we had a “convergence” of small groups in Butuan from the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Cebu for a weekend stretch and historic sightseeing.

“This is the kind of chill we need: healthy vegetarian food, exposure to local history and culture but consistently attending our fitness schedules,” says Emy Lozano of Cagayan de Oro.

Other than yoga, the group enjoys Body Wind Exploration (BWE), inspired and based on Tai chi, Qigong and Yoga. There has never been a dull movement along the way. It has come quite a long way but still has more exciting destinations lined-up — Libjo, Dinagat Island, Agusan marsh in Agusan del Sur, Calo Horse Farm in Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte. Also to the Visayas islands of Panglao, Bohol, Dumaguete and Bacolod cities of Negros and Tacloban City, Leyte.

After these trips, it’s all back again to the home front, and feeling good and healthy.

(If interested to join, pls contact me,