Manitou Springs collects us. From this corner and that, from shore to shore and well beyond. An unseen magnet. Ros Prado, a yoga teacher, has her own story. An original, yet one that echoes. Another soul finding good in this mountain village at the foot of America’s Mountain.
“I didn’t really have a plan to live in Manitou, but it just kind of happened,” she says. “I love it here now. It’s weird and it’s fun.” She laughs.
Get used to the parentheses throughout this story, the descriptive note: (laughs). Ros (“pronounced like Ross from Friends”) is happy. She smiles, she laughs, she’s comfortable with Ros.
Ros, 31, moved to Colorado Springs a year ago. Unhappy in her downtown apartment, she moved to Manitou Springs six months later/ago.
“I love that Manitou is so close to the Springs,” she says. “I work in the Springs. I work at lululemon. It’s really close so I can still do city stuff, but once you get in here, it’s like a small town.
“I’m walking on the street and their are people honking and waving at me. You just know basically everybody. You just run into people. I love that. Moving here from Miami where you never run into anybody, and just running into people every time I go for a walk, I love it. I don’t have family in the U.S., so it makes it so it feels like we’re a family.”
Ros’ family is in Nicaragua, where she is from, where she grew up. Other than a stint of less than two years when her family moved to Miami so her brother, who has Down syndrome, could participate in Special Olympics. Then they moved back to Nicaragua.
At 17, Ros returned to Miami. She finished high school, graduated from college, went on with the conventional, should-do kind of life. Career, marriage, house. And Yoga.
The Path to Manitou
Why the move? Why Colorado? Why the Springs area?
I went to an ashram — it’s like a yoga monastery — in California. I did two months of seva study there. Basically, you volunteer your time and you get yoga studies for free, all the lectures and all the classes.
I lived there for two months and I met three people who were from the Springs. They left before I did. On my way back to Florida, they said, “Oh, come see us.”
I stopped by to see them. Then I went back to Florida. I was in the middle of my divorce. My savings were not going to last in California. I didn’t want to move anywhere I didn’t feel like I could survive on my savings for at least six months. I wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to find a job.
I stopped here for a week to hang out with these people. It has the mountains and it was pretty awesome, so I was, like, “Alright, I’ll just move here.”
You work at lululemon here and teach yoga at SunWater … ?
Yeah, I teach at SunWater and at Hot Asana, which is in downtown Colorado Springs, and I teach at UpRise, which is a new studio in Briargate. I actually teach almost the same number of classes I taught back home. I’m teaching 10 classes a week. The only difference is back home is that I had private students.
What is it about yoga that inspires you?
It’s so many things. The first thing that happened when I started doing yoga was I was going to school and working full-time, and I just glorified being busy and not having time for stuff. I always felt proud that I worked and went to school full-time, and that I had a busy life, and I never had time for this, and I never had time for that, and I feel like there’s something about the Western mentality that makes that a good thing.
And I remember the first time I went to a yoga class and it was, like, “OK, just lay there and breathe for 10 minutes.” I was like, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not going to do that. We’ve only got an hour and a half. C’mon, let’s break a sweat.”
And then halfway through that period of just laying there, “Oh my god, this is amazing. I never just sit and not do stuff.” And so that was like a big hook for me.
And the other thing was — it might have been yoga or it might have been me growing older — I was a really big people-pleaser to the extent that it didn’t matter if it wasn’t making me happy. And, I know this sounds crazy, but yoga made me very selfish, and I’m so thankful for that.
I was able to say “No” to people and leave people who were not going in the same direction that I was. And I wasn’t scared. I could sit in a house by myself and not feel scared. I could sit in silence and know it was OK, to not have to depend on that conversation with people. It was the first time in my life I wasn’t scared to be alone, and I thought that was great. I think people need to learn how to be alone and sit in silence, and how to be OK with just being with themselves.
Facing Fears + Following Passion
In the photos you post on Instagram, you often are in what look like pretty advanced poses. I’m thinking how even as a kid, I couldn’t do a handstand. Your poses are more difficult than that. I don’t know what my question is there, but …
It’s interesting, because as a kid I was really terrified of doing cartwheels, and so I never did a cartwheel in my life. I started going to yoga. I was very competitive when I first started yoga. I remember my first class, the teacher was like, “We’re going to go into crow.” It’s an arm balance. I was like, “I’m going to be (bleeping) dead if I cannot do this right now.”
And so I tried, and I couldn’t do it. I went home and practiced for three days straight until I could do it, just so I could go back to yoga. Then, my practice started evolving and it was like, “Now, you have to go upside down.” I was so scared of flipping over since I always was scared of doing cartwheels. And it just goes away.
The body is so smart. It’s all muscle memory. Once you start with these exercises, you’d be surprised how much of it is your breath. Once you start using your breath to do the exercises, it just comes. I feel like everybody can do it. It just takes time and concentration, and awareness of the breath, and you can get into any yoga pose.
You are passionate about yoga. What does passion mean to you?
Passion is a very big one for me. The experience I’ve had in my life, if you’re doing work that you’re passionate about, I feel like doors start opening up, the universe is like, “Yes, this is what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Passion to me is the biggest thing, and a lot of yoga practices actually ask you to be dispassionate because passion creates attachment and you’re trying to get away from that. But I feel like that is what we came to do here. I don’t think we came here to tame our passions. I think we came here to discover them and then to just go head first. That’s my thing, to go head first with your passion and then doors will open up.
Building Yoga Community on Social Media
I first connected with you through Instagram. You post yoga poses and life insights, and have drawn a sizable following.
That kind of happened by accident. (My Instagram account) is called unorthodoxyogi because when I first started practicing yoga, at least in Miami, I didn’t have the yoga-body type. Miami has a very specific yoga-girl type, and I just didn’t fit it.
So I started this Instagram account and always posted about it. I would get so angry when I would see things happening in class, like body shaming, which happens a lot in Miami.
I had a student tell me one time he picked my class because I was the chunkiest girl on the schedule, so he thought my class was going to be easier.
So I just started sharing and it kind of became a community. I actually have met some of my best friends through Instagram.
There’s so much I don’t get to in class, because I still have to teach the class. There’s so much philosophy, so this is the space where I get to do that.
Has this been a marketing tool for you in growing your yoga classes here?
It hasn’t been here in Colorado. I don’t think I have that many followers who are here in Colorado. I’m trying to build that right now. But I host yoga and surfing retreats to Nicaragua and that, I did find, just by posting on Instagram — I’ve posted three and a couple of people, I couldn’t believe they were trusting to go with me just from the post on Instagram.
You organize and go from here for these retreats?
Yes. We usually stay at a beach house and it’s four or five days. We do yoga and have excursions, we do surfing.
I put together a package that includes getting picked up and dropped off at a Nicaraguan airport. They are responsible for their flights. They just have to get there on a certain date. Then, I normally rent a bus with a driver and we pick them up and we go to the beach and we stay at the beach house and I have a whole itinerary for them.
It’s pretty neat. I haven’t done it this past year, because I just moved here. But I think I’m going to start doing it again. They’re a lot of fun.
You post on social media to draw interest to yoga. Why?
Oh, because people would be so much happier. That’s why I post, because somebody even around the world might see it and think, “I want to try that. I want to take a yoga class.”
Yoga is not a religion, but it’s very similar in that there’s a code of conduct. There’s all this stuff. The first principle of yoga is ahimsa, which translates to no harm or no violence. If we all were just connecting to that, the world would look completely different.
Yoga for Life
Yoga. It’s life-changing for you.
I feel that way. I feel like I’m going to be that old lady who is 90 and doing headstands, because I don’t imagine my life not doing yoga anymore. I can totally see me abandoning the asana, maybe, the fitness aspect of it, but there’s so much more to it.
There’s the meditation. SunWater has this amazing, what we call satsang, meaning the coming together to share the light, or the knowledge.
They do meditation for 30 minutes and chanting for 30 minutes and yoga lecture for 30 minutes. There’s so much more to yoga that is not necessarily the physical aspect of it. There’s the yoga philosophy. I don’t think I could let that part go.
At the ashram, I did karma yoga. Karma means action, so it’s yoga action. It’s where everything you do is an offering. Yoga is a system of life that goes well with any religion. It just tells you there’s a higher self, which you can believe to be anything. You can believe it to be the Universe, God, Buddha, whatever you want, Krishna. In yoga, we just think it’s that truth that’s inside of all of us.
When you’re doing karma yoga, it’s all volunteer, an offering. You don’t care about the results of that. I feel like most people who teach yoga are doing that. Teaching yoga isn’t like, “Oh, yea, I’m living fabulously. There’s so much money in this.” (laughs)
I forgot what the point of this is, but …
Photos credits: All courtesy of Ros Prado. View more @unorthodoxyogi.