My Trip to Cuba Taught Me About Selflessness

A trip to Cuba taught me the importance, and deeper meaning, of Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga.

My passion for life undoubtedly comes from my Cuban roots. My mother fled her home country of Cuba at the age of nine, with her parents, three siblings, grandmother, dog, and $35. They left behind family who still live in Cuba today. There’s a spark and creative fire that radiates in the Cuban culture. So it’s unfortunate that Cuba is a controversial country to visit as a traveler. The Cuban people have been, and continue to be, in my opinion, exploited and abused by their government—through injustices such as incarceration without a fair trial and lack of a free press. Because of this, there are mixed feelings about when and if it is appropriate to visit this both beautiful and bleeding country.

In October of 2015, I was approached by yoga photographer Robert Sturman to go to Cuba for what proved to be an epic and powerful photo shoot. I had to consider my highest ideal behind going. I didn’t want to go for selfish reasons, which included indulging my senses with dancing, eating, drinking, and relaxing on the beach; snapping instagrammable pictures; or going to “experience” Cuba as a tourist. As a practicing yogi, that wouldn’t be ideal for me . Instead, I wanted my visit to be for a greater purpose—to indirectly and directly serve Cuban people, instead of supporting a government that tore families apart. It’s important to consider that serving is different than “helping,” because helping implies some kind of superiority on the part of the helper. The last thing Cubans need is outsiders coming in to tell them what they need or how to do things.