Paula Dillon is a high-energy, active Venezuelan yoga instructor with more than ten years of experience practicing yoga. And while she may not be the stereotypical ‘hippie yogi’, she brings her own unique brand of passion and experiences to the mat.
After studying sports journalism, she found herself drawn to yoga. “My Mom practiced yoga, and I saw firsthand how mentally and physically peaceful she was,” Pau shared. So she, too, began practicing yoga and along the way realized that, “I don’t have to be a flower child to do yoga. I don’t need to take classes in Sanskrit. I simply have to do my own thing.”
Yoga isn’t about wearing the right uniform, looking, or talking a certain way; it’s about your own transformative journey and what you can share along the way by being true to your sense of self.
Later on, she became certified as an Instructor and is now in her sixth year teaching yoga. After years of traveling from her native Venezuela to the U.S. to see family, she decided to permanently relocate in 2021. At 36, she now lives and works as an instructor in Florida.
Pau loves to travel, and to her, travel and yoga go hand-in-hand. On a trip to New York, she experienced a class at one of the more well-known, ultra-trendy studios whose celebrity clientele helped skyrocket its reputation as a lifestyle and apparel brand. “It was like a circus”, Pau reflects on the experience. “The instructor was a total contortionist. It’s not like it was advertised as an advanced class, and everyone was just looking at her.”
At the root of it, it felt like the Instructor was there to show off her own practice and seemed pretty disconnected from the students in the room. Afterward, the instructor approached Pau and asked how she enjoyed the class. Pau shared her honest thoughts.
The next day, it was clear the Instructor had taken Pau’s feedback to heart. Returning for another class, she recalls that “it was a completely different experience. She made a point to ask how everyone was doing. It was the most beautiful, chill class….as an instructor, I think it’s good to be reminded that yoga isn’t about you.”
This resonates on a whole other level. Being a yoga teacher isn’t about trying to impress your students by showing off your advanced skills, just like being a practitioner isn’t about striving to impress, to look the right way, or talk the talk. At the end of the day, being a yoga practitioner isn’t mutually exclusive with having a strong sense of self or possessing above average emotional intelligence.
And when it comes to being a foreign teacher and practitioner in the U.S., Pau has had some eye-opening experiences. At the top of the list is, “You speak English so well!”, said in a tone of surprise. Another one she hears regularly is, “Wow! You’re doing so well in class,: as though her advanced yoga poses are completely unexpected.
So, what’s the difference between the experiences she’s had in the U.S. versus her native country of Venezuela? “Back home, it doesn’t matter that I’m Latin…I’m black… that I have curves and that I don’t dress a certain way.”
Her core belief boils down to, “You can’t own yoga.” It’s what you get out of it, and what you can give by having care and awareness of how you shape the experience of others simply by walking into the studio.
And to be clear, being open and inclusive does not mean that you should avoid talking about differences in culture or thinking. “It’s about having a genuine sense of curiosity…about wanting to understand why your experiences and mine are not the same. You create space for that by leaving your preconceived notions at the door.”
Follow Pau’s yoga journey on Instagram @mettavibeswithpau and be sure to follow @yogabitchapparel for activewear trends, new drops, and more inspiration from bold and unapologetic women.