In a world where yoga studios seem to be popping up on every corner, it’s hard to imagine that when Rebecca Pacheco, ’01, first stepped on to the mat, she had to seek out places to practice. At 16, that meant classes in a Cape Cod community center, surrounded by retirees. As a college student, she spent Saturday mornings in a church basement, walking by classmates preparing for a day of tailgating and football. And while spending a semester at sea, maintaining a practice meant learning to teach.
“We were on a boat and we had this recreation meeting,” she says. “They asked us, do you want kickboxing? Do you want aerobics? Do you want tai chi? I went with a new friend of mine and we said, ‘we want yoga.’ They said, ‘great, do it.’ We looked at each other, quizzically, but we were out to sea. They weren’t going to helicopter in a yoga teacher. If we wanted to do yoga, that was it — we would teach the yoga.”
As the semester went on, Pacheco’s class became a fixture, with more than a hundred faculty and students joining her on the ship’s deck for sun salutations. When she returned to dry land a few months later, something had shifted. The realization that she could lead her own disciplined practice — in addition to the Eastern philosophy and roots of yoga she studied while abroad — inspired her to find more ways to further her practice.
Pacheco went on to earn her yoga teacher certification and studied under Baron Baptiste, founder of the power vinyasa style of yoga. She now teaches throughout Boston, including the occasional classes at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, the practice field for the New England Patriots.
Pacheco also helps others find a place for yoga in their life — whatever that means to them. She started a blog, omgal.com, where the English literature major writes about poses, spirituality, food and fitness. When she was approached about writing a book, she jumped at the chance and this month she released Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life.
“I wanted to put a yoga book in the world that people really genuinely want to read,” Pacheco says. “There are so many great yoga books out there, but many of them fall into the category of reference. They’re more pragmatic in terms of the physical postures and how to do them — and they’re awesome. But I didn’t feel like there was a yoga-in-real-life book. My goal was to do something timely and fresh that was more focused on your life and lifestyle as a yogi than your physical practice on the yoga mat.”
While her book aims to help others find balance in a modern world, the process of writing it also helped Pacheco find her own equilibrium — as writer and yogi, teacher and student — in a yoga world that she sees as fluid and multifaceted. Even her approach to teaching nods to this union as she adds new classes that don’t even require a mat — just an interest in larger questions of what yoga means and how to incorporate its teachings in daily life.
“I recently read that Salman Rushdie once said each book must teach you how to write it,” she says. “That was certainly the case for me. This book began as an idea many years ago. It was headed in one direction and over time, over practicing it, living it, seeing how yoga has evolved, it shifted my voice and how I needed to explain things to people, and what maybe needed to be explained. It grew into its own thing, and it took me along with it.”
Photo: Jonathan Pozniak