Yoga for every body
Sofia Gomez Fonzo, photographer
Born in Chile, professional photographer Sofia Gomez Fonzo made the island of Ibiza her adopted home in 2010. It was through her work with online guide and content agency White Ibiza that she was introduced to Hot Yoga Ibiza founder Sebastien Carincotte, after being commissioned to photograph him in different locations around the island in 80 different yoga poses. With very limited yoga knowledge and experience prior to this, she begrudgingly began to attend his classes. Fast forward almost a year and she now credits yoga as making vital changes to her stress levels, health and wellbeing. “I’m like a junkie,” she laughs. “A junkie of good things!”
What first attracted to you to yoga?
I’ve never liked exercising, and I thought yoga might be a nice way to do it, without actually exercising that much. I did my first class around four years ago, at my local gym, but I felt like the class was for old ladies. It wasn’t very spiritual either and what I was also attracted to was the idea that yoga was as much for my soul as my body.
Why did you persevere with the practice then?
I kept going off and on, then about two years ago, I went to the CORE 40 class at Hot Yoga Ibiza because I’d been asked to shoot it. Afterwards, I stayed for the class. I really didn’t like it because it was SO hard! I still remember how I felt when I saw the class doing the crow – I thought, I’m not even going to try, I’m happy with my easy gym yoga. So I kept going to the gym until last year, when I was given the opportunity to exchange classes for taking photos for Sebastien’s new website. Summer was starting, I wanted to get skinny and so I started coming more often.
How did you see your practice progress?
I started out doing Warm Hatha Yoga and CORE 40 classes, and though I didn’t seem to be getting any skinnier, I quickly felt a lot more relaxed. I felt a strong connection between my body and my mind. They became like one unit. Before doing these classes, I thought I knew something about yoga, but I realised after just one month I had no idea about anything! After a few more months, Seb asked me why I didn’t try Hot Yoga and I was like, NO! He kept asking, why don’t you just try it and I kept saying no. Eventually, in summer, it was just so hot outside I thought why not? After just one class, I was hooked!
What was it about Hot Yoga that you liked so much?
It’s the heat. It just gives me an extra punch. That first class was so busy, I was in the second row, about 10 centimetres from the next student, it was so hot and everyone was sweating, but the energy was amazing. It was a challenge, but I could do it – I wasn’t going to die in there! I also liked that Seb was talking all the time so I could just focus on what he was saying and not think about anything else.
How often do you practice now?
Between three and four times a week and always Hot Yoga classes. I’d love to practice every day, twice a day if I could…
What were the biggest challenges as you started this new practice?
In the beginning, it was seeing myself in the mirror and connecting with myself at that level – I’m never naked in front of a mirror and I wear very small clothes for hot yoga classes! I wasn’t comfortable with my body. As soon as I started going regularly, I started accepting myself a little more, and I also knew what to do with my body a little more. It was not just about the pose –this is you, you’re on your own, this is what you need to do in this moment and that’s it. Getting into that zone took a while. Now I feel a lot better and don’t judge myself in the mirror. But the biggest challenge of all for me is to silence the mind – it always has been. I’ve tried so many things, like meditation and Reiki, but when I am in that class, it’s just about being in that moment.
What kind of physical changes have you seen in yourself?
I focus a lot more on breathing now. I pay a lot more attention in class and try to learn more about each pose in every class. I’ve improved a lot – in the beginning I couldn’t even touch my toes and now I can put my hands behind my feet! My core has always been really weak, and now it has more strength and I am also more flexible than before.
What about changes in your health and your mind?
I have seen such a huge improvement in my whole life. I’ve suffered from nervousness and anxiety attacks for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a stressed out person. This led to me developing IBS when I was about 20, which in turn led to me also having an overgrowth of candida. Yoga has really helped me to deal with these problems. All of the physical movements, the concentration and meditation helps to silence my mind, which controls the stress that causes the attacks. Some days I notice if I am a bit stressed out, I can’t breathe and it’s like there is a brick on my chest, then half way through a class, I forget about it and I can breathe normally again.
How do you feel if you miss out on practice?
I can really feel it in my body. I get super tense and my body doesn’t flow the way it should. I really feel like I am getting into the mind body soul thing now. I’m not good if one or the other thing is lacking and yoga helps me fulfil all of these aspects. Going to practice gives me the same feeling I get from going to the beach and just forgetting about everything, all the small things that don’t matter. I think it’s important to keep focusing on myself and my wellbeing, so I don’t want to miss practice. When I missed class for a week when I went on holiday, I could feel my body craving it. I was like a junkie – a junkie of good things!
How much do you know about the yogic philosophies?
I am also a Reiki practitioner and I think they have kind of similar philosophies. I try to live my best every day, have positive energy, be at peace with the world, I try to love everyone and everything, I have a strong connection to animals and to nature. I love being outside, I love breathing. I think more than knowing about the yogic philosopies, I just feel them in my heart.
How do you describe Sebastien’s teaching style?
I really like it! I think he’s very active, and he teaches by giving you the tools to teach yourself. He’s there, but he’s not all over you or touching you and yet you know exactly what he means when he tells you to do something. He’s so funny too and he makes me laugh a lot – I have fun in the class. He has such good energy. Most importantly, he’s like a guider, not a pusher. He makes me feel so good about myself.
What is your relationship with him like?
I actually got to know Sebastien quite well before going to his classes, as we worked quite closely together while I was taking photos of him for a White Ibiza magazine article. Because of this, I feel really comfortable with him and I feel like I am going to see a friend when I go to class. I stay and have a laugh after the class every time. He is so pure and has such a nice soul.
Where do you see your practice going in the future?
I hope I can continue to practice, and I’d love to work towards going to class twice a day in the summer if I can. I’d also like to go back to the CORE 40 class soon – after I started with Hot Yoga, I put it to one side and I’ve never done Ashtanga either so maybe I’ll try that. And I still can’t do the crow, so I’d like to master that!