Sonia Astudillo decided to quit her job this year to go full-time teaching yoga. She is uncertain about how the next few weeks and months would look.
What the 35-year-old former newspaper intern, magazine writer, senatorial staff member and NGO media relations officer is sure of is this is really what she would like to do.
Aside from being a yogini, Sonia is also a vegetarian and a raw food advocate. She wants to impart her message of wellness to as many people who want to feel good in their bodies and their minds.
From student to teacher
It was in 2005 when Sonia got an assignment to interview and write about a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) advocate who was doing yoga. During the interview, she got a sense of the life-changing balance that her subject was talking about. She realized that she, too, wanted it for herself.
She started by reading books and watching CDs about yoga and vegetarianism. She tried poses on her own and felt confident enough to attend a teachers’ training in Kerala, South India in January 2011.
Sonia practices and teaches two kinds of yoga—Ashtanga Vinyasa for beginners, and Shivananda Yoga for the more advanced. The former includes guided meditation, breathing exercises, sun salutations and different poses or asanas.
The latter involves initial relaxation, opening prayer in Sanskrit, breathing exercises, eye and neck exercise, sun salutation, other preparatory exercises, 12 basic poses, closing prayer in Sanskrit, and Universal Prayer.
“But the focus is really the five points of yoga—proper exercise or asanas, proper breathing or pranayama, proper relaxation or savasana, proper diet which ideally is vegetarian, and positive thinking and meditation. It’s a whole lifestyle,” Sonia says.
She has students who come to her Quezon City house for their sessions. She also teaches at the UP Community Recreation Program to faculty and non-faculty members. She used to teach at a BPO company and is still accepting private sessions (she goes to the house of her students).
Sonia’s most memorable experience as teacher is going to Barangay 89 and 90 in Tacloban City and Victory Island in Guiuan, Samar in early February. She was part of a team that offered alternative healing and counseling to the victims of the super typhoon.
She did some yoga with the children in the disaster-struck areas and was amazed at their spirit—being able to laugh despite the tragedy that befell their families and communities.
“They were always giggling,” she remembers. “I thought they were feeling self-conscious about having to do the poses. Later they told me they giggled because my cleavage showed every time I bent. It was a bit too much for them.”
Sonia noted that the children spoke of their ordeal in a matter-of-fact way. “They said: ‘This was where we went during the storm. This was what we did to survive. This was where so-and so died.’”
Sonia feels that in finally deciding to do yoga, her father, former dean of the College of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of Cavite State University, became so happy because she finally engaged in some form of physical activity and wellness.
“Back then, my sisters and I got good grades but none of us really shared his passion for physical fitness. He would enroll us in summer sports but we were not enthusiastic about them.”
Nonetheless, her parents gave their full support to everything Sonia and her sisters did. “My Nanay liked the spiritual side of yoga. It was she who bought me my first CD which was very expensive at that time! Sadly, she passed away before I started teaching.”
Sonia fishes a container out of her bag. “Brownies, to go with our coffee,” she says. “They’re raw.” Ground cacao, it turns out, mixed with walnuts and dates.
But what is raw, anyway?
She clarifies that it is anything that is not processed, and anything not subjected to heat higher than 118 degrees F or 43 degrees C.
Cooking food kills the enzymes. “For me, raw food is very tasty. You lose a lot by cooking.” In fact, raw food is not as bland and uninteresting as it sounds. There are many just so many recipes that you can try. “A big part of going raw is the satisfaction I derive from preparing it.”
All one really needs—at least to start—is a blender or food processor and an active imagination, according to Sonia. It’s not expensive, too —“imagine how much more expensive a fastfood meal can be.” Some eventually get a dehydrator, but that’s a choice they make. Once can decide to go raw and still keep it simple.
Sonia attended a raw food preparation class in Bali with Jonny Freesh, whom she considers her guru. She is excited to share her meal-planning know how with friends; she expects to get her certification next month.
She still eats cooked food especially when she visits her Tatay in their hometown in Cavite. Here in the city, in the home she shares with her sisters, she tries to go raw as much as she can. As a vegetarian, her recipe choices are focused on fruits, vegetables and nuts.
And it shows. “I eat raw food perhaps 60-70 percent of the time. I feel lighter, and my hair has become darker. I feel great!”
Indeed Sonia has gone a long way from scoffing at her friend’s green smoothie, or blending her own kangkong-spinach-mango concoction which she used to have for breakfast every single day.
Now that she’s a freelancer, Sonia enjoys her flexible schedule. “Surprisingly, I‘ve been busy. I expected a lot of downtime. But now I find myself having to manage my calendar, too.”
For example, two weeks ago she found herself in Tayabas, Quezon for a yoga, raw food and meditation class which she gave to 10 participants—a former classmate, his wife and their drugstore staff. This was Sonia’s first time to spend one full day with just one group of people.
She is also preparing for In Full Bloom, a raw Japanese food preparation class that will be held on March 15 at the Likha Diwa Vegetarian and Seafood Café on CP Garcia Road in Quezon City. Aside from these and her regular classes, Sonia provides the raw food offerings of a friend’s restaurant, The Good Shelf—among her treats are the Raw Yogini Brownies, Sonia’s Caramel Cake, and Jonny Freesh’s Apple Crumble.
She also has Take Me Home, through which people can order healthy lunch and dinner: soup or dessert, a main dish, and salad.
She creates her own posters, manages her own Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RawYoginiSonia), and is in the process of setting up her Web site and registering Raw Yogini Sonia,
This early, then, Sonia is convinced she did the right thing in following her gut. “Everything seems to be falling into place.”