Clare Dominguez was leading tours in the Guatemalan jungle in 2020 when the pandemic hit.
She took stock of her options, and moved forward with a plan she’d previously been too terrified to execute.
“I know Covid has caused a lot of pain and hardship and there have been a lot of negative effects all over the world. There’s been a lot of disruption in systems of how people lived as a result of that,” she said.
“But on a personal level I have counted my blessings in terms of Covid facilitating my transition into yoga teaching owing to the fact that my previous job as a tour leader, that industry completely collapsed. From March 2020 I was no longer able to do my job that I had been doing for so much time. Immediately I said, ‘This is the chance.’”
That decision ultimately led to the Ashtanga yoga classes she now offers at Whale Bay Fort under the umbrella of Ethos Bermuda, the company the Australian started with her Bermudian husband Mo Hamza last year. On Saturday, the public is invited to join them for “the first of its kind” at the Southampton fort: drinks by Ryan Gibbons, a three-course Vietnamese dinner and live entertainment provided by Bermuda Salsa, DJ Korie Minors and selected members of the Kings Band.
“It’s really the first opportunity for us to connect people to the site of Whale Bay Fort which is one of many beautiful historic sites in Bermuda that don’t receive that much attention,” she said.
“The aim is to have that connection be created between people – Bermudians and international visitors – and to the historical sites here.”
Ms Dominguez fell in love with yoga several years ago. Her full-time job with an insurance company was “high-stressed”; yoga provided “a profound sense of peace”.
“I was, at a certain point, a client manager for theft claims for the home so my clients were stressed,” she said. “I was working with people who had had a very traumatic experience with someone breaking into their home and I was also a team manager in a call centre in sales and service for the same company.”
Her Saturday morning yoga classes were her sanctuary.
“I can’t remember which style of yoga it was but I just knew that it was good for my soul as well as good for my body to attend this class at the gym,” she said.
“The environment of the gym sometimes is different to a yoga studio and in this particular gym it was very busy – there were a lot of people lifting weights outside, fluorescent lights in the roof, no nice smelling oils … that was kind of the atmosphere. Nevertheless I had an experience where I began to hear the waves of the ocean and it was just a profound sense of peace. I was just lying there not moving, eyes closed just breathing naturally and it was just a real deep sense of peace and contentment and relaxation. That experience has stayed with me since that moment.”
She left Australia and travelled for a decade before she found her way to Guatemala where, for five years, she worked as a tour guide and lived out of her backpack.
Desperate for a place to call her own she decided to make Antigua, a Unesco World Heritage site in Guatemala, a permanent base.
“It’s absolutely beautiful, surrounded by three volcanoes and has a wonderful climate with a lot of coffee plantations all around,” she said.
Of real benefit was Shakti Shala, a studio that taught Ashtanga yoga and “empowered” her to practice in a meaningful way, wherever she went.
“All of a sudden I had the ability through this practice to bring that sense of peace within wherever I was on any day in any moment. That’s why I refer to it as an empowerment because I truly feel that’s the effect it’s had on my movement through life,” Ms Dominguez said.
“The size of a yoga mat is about…