Lizbeth Vázquez '19

 

Lizbeth Vázquez has wasted no time jumping into what she is passionate about since graduating from LMU’s Master’s in Yoga Studies program. Here, Lizbeth shares how she got into yoga and how Yoga Studies has changed her life and impacted her philosophy of “selfless service.”

Q: What first brought you to practicing yoga?

I think I’ve had yoga in me forever. I am of Mayan decent, and the Mayans were very astrologically influenced, very shamanic, very spiritually connected. So, I’ve always been curious about space, love, experiments, magic. So, I got into dance, and dance was a huge part of my life growing up. And I was introduced to yoga 12 years ago when I first arrived in New Mexico after moving from Cancun at age 18. I made friends who invited me to a hot yoga class, and after my first yoga class I was hooked!

Q: How did you find yourself in the Yoga Studies M.A. program at LMU?

I moved to New Mexico during a very difficult time in family’s life, and I felt like I had to step up for my family. I had never liked school, but I decided to do my undergrad anyway and study French and Spanish. I got a scholarship to study in France, and I was there for 3 months. While I was gone, I decided I was going to do a yoga teacher training after I got back from Europe. I was very dedicated to my training, and I was the first and only student to be hired at the studio I trained at right after the 200-hour training. I felt called to do healing, energy, and holistic work. So, I found a few programs that looked interesting including Yoga Studies, and I knew whichever one accepted me and gave me the best offer would be where I was supposed to go. I got to know Chris (Chapple, Yoga Studies M.A. program director), and told him my story, and I ended up getting a fellowship to do community service work for Yoga Studies. And I never looked back!

Q: Tell us about what you are up to now, post-graduation.

Right now I’m doing a lot of teaching! I teach rigorous āsana (postural-based yoga classes), yoga for senior folks, I’m teaching at LMU’s rec center, and a trauma informed yoga class for children. I also teach a therapeutic yoga class in Spanish at South Central Family Health Clinic. That class has been very successful. I started with only 5 students, now I have sometimes 20! I’m also still teaching at a Women's Correctional Detention facility and the State prison for people on death row, which I did while at LMU. I actually find that population to be easier to teach than the little kids, but of course it’s a very different experience. It’s not easy, but empathy a little bit of a thick skin goes a long way. And yoga makes us resilient. It’s all heart, body, mind!

I also just got back from a trip to India this January where I taught philosophy to a group of 15 French and Humanities majors who are learning about French colonization in Pondicherry, and I’ll also be leading my first yoga retreat in June! The retreat will be 3 days in the Apple Mountains in California at a Zen retreat center. I’m partnering with a doctor in Indic philosophy and we’ll engage the students through the six senses with both Buddhist and Indian philosophy. We’ll be incorporating sound bath, mantra, yoga nidra, and āsana, and I’ll be leading the yoga nidra, mantra, and āsana portions.

I love teaching and I’m proud of all that I do, but I do see myself expanding more in the future. I’d love to reach out to colleges and universities. I see myself creating programs for universities, and youth in correctional facilities. Maybe training instructors in different places and then leaving them.

Q: What are your major takeaways from the Yoga Studies program?

Everything is so connected. Of course, you can take a more academic, a more therapeutic, or a more social justice track just by itself. But the three of them together have really been key elements in what I’m doing now, and I’m thankful I embraced them all.

I feel very blessed to have the professors and connections I’ve made. They’ve helped me to be able to mold myself and reach out to different age groups and communities and given me a really open mind and heart. Even though I’m sometimes confused about what I should be doing, I can now see that I am of so many things, and there isn’t one thing that defines me. If I only had one focus, I’d probably get bored. So, this was perfect for me, and Yoga Studies helped me learn that about myself. I’m still learning, and I’ll always be learning, but I just take it as it comes. I didn’t even know what to do for my thesis until 2 months before. But it didn’t matter, because it wasn’t going to define me anyway. Because there isn’t one thing that defines me. It’s all about your attitude, your resiliency, and open-mindedness!

Q: What piece of advice do you have for students who want to study in the MA program?

Have an open mind, do your work, and keep showing up.