With Juan Diaz
By Grace Bell
Recently returning from his travels in India and Nepal, Juan Diaz landed back in New Zealand with flames of passion and inspiration igniting the fire in his soul. Three straight months practicing up to 5 hours a day at the Prashant Yogasharia in Bangalore, and the Iyengar Yoga institute in Pune, combined with the evolution of his own personal enquiries, inspired Juan to create The Art of Sitting.
An informative workshop that has extended from 13 years of personal practice and the wisdom of his various teachers, Juan explores the therapeutic benefits and the importance of weaving seated postures, pranayama and meditation into a sacred daily practice.
The Art of Sitting is greatly inspired by a yoga philosophy found in the Yoga Sutras, “Sthira sukham asanam”. Written by the Great Sage Patanjali in the 5th century BC, where he defines asana
“to be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed”.
Patanjali mentions the ability to sit for extended periods as one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga and an action of spiritual purpose towards the attainment of Samadhi (contentment/a state of meditative consciousness).
The connection between stillness and Samadhi started to become clear when Juan began practicing yoga and walking towards different paths and traditions as a teenager. This became a catalyst for delving into a deeper understanding of existence, and at 18 years old, Juan went from his home city of Bogota in Colombia, all the way out to live in the jungle.
Learning to yield stillness in the majestic chaos of the jungle, learning to yield stillness in the majestic chaos of the mind.
“This stillness of mind creates the possibility to practice presence, and when you are present, you can surrender and allow this great miracle to unfold as it is.” says Juan.
Having developed a dedicated personal practice throughout his twenties, completing a Diploma in Yoga and Natural Therapies at Wellpark College in 2014 and learning from various teachers such as Monica Harr and Maty Ezraty;
Juan is becoming widely recognized for his unique yoga classes…
…and workshops at Aucklands leading yoga studios, as well as for the accompaniment of his various instruments and insightful teachings.
Eloquence and warmth encased the wood-felt container of Studio Red. Holding a room of yogis that were eager to delve into ‘The Art of Sitting’. Some looking to root down into the foundations of yoga asana and meditation, some looking to rise up into advanced seated postures, but all looking for one thing in common –
allowing themselves to step out of the often loud, busy, fast-paced world, and step into moments of silence and stillness.
Awareness was the essence of the opening meditation. Juan believes that
“practicing meditation is a process of exploring the body, mind and heart, of fully experiencing the richness of awareness itself.”
Implying that meditation is not to find the absence of emotions or challenges, it is not the elimination of things we seek to change so we can become “better” people, but instead nurturing and creating awareness so that no matter the sensations being felt, we are aware of our own individual wholeness and completeness.
“It is like you are learning to be with the emotion rather than become the emotion.” Says Juan.
As we opened our eyes from a deep journey within, there was an even stronger sense of presence in the room.
A sense of surrender and softness…
Following the guided awareness meditation, a yoga practitioner with a prior wealth of experience stated ‘it was the most powerful meditation she had ever experienced.’
The Asanas tailored for ‘The Art of Sitting’ work in different ways from conventional physical exercises. As Satyananda Saraswati says, it is
“placing the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation and concentration.”
Juan informatively introduced a series of seated postures and from each individual posture, explored a wide range of ways to receive the benefits. There was a colorful array of twists, forwards folds, backbends…
…paired with philosophy behind the posture and therapeutic advances physically and emotionally.
The postures were taught in a way that allowed each individual to uniquely tailor the posture to suit their body’s requests safely, with a useful amount of guidance around how to incorporate the appropriate props into each pose.
Understanding that props aren’t always available, Juan also shared insight on how to recreate props in a home practice, using towels, blankets or cushions as a substitute. Inspiration and excitement sparkled in the eyes of the practitioners.
This is when the workshop really began to empower…
…as people were starting to see the possibilities of taking this seated asana practice off the mat in the studio, and into their daily life.
Shavasana is the sanctuary of restoration for your mind and body to return back to at the end of each practice. A place to reflect, replenish and revitalize.
Juan’s classes are renowned for ending in a powerful Shavasana…
…that is partnered with the sound of his Native American flute; one of the most mystical instruments available to people.
Its spiritual voice carries the power of healing to everyone who is open to its medicine.
The ambience of the flute music fostered soft, nurturing and relaxation-inducing sensations and then, there was nothing but pure silence…
The power of music therapy is universal and has been identified with creation beliefs, used for prayer and healing within ancient and indigenous traditions throughout time and culture.
Since arriving back from India in July, Juan has also introduced traditional Indian music to his array of passions, working with the classical Indian Bansuri and studying with Basant Madhur of the Auckland Indian Music School.
From a boy with a curiosity for ancient teachings, evolving into a man with tools to explore a deeper understanding of individual existence and existence as a whole;
Juan Diaz is making waves in the ocean of consciousness throughout New Zealand.
The Art of Sitting painted the colors of yoga, meditation, pranayama and philosophy onto the canvas of the mind and body with intention, lightness, and surrender.
Juan expressed that he too is in a constant state of learning, a constant process of refining, of peeling back layers, rewiring thought patterns and that asana practice is an anchor in his life and meditation brings the knowledge that all our thoughts and emotions are nothing more than ripples on the surface of awareness.
Studio Red – http://studioredyoga.com/