How Yoga Went from My Passion to My Career

Photo by Jennifer Marquez/Hola Iowa

By Lily Allen-Dueñas, Hola Iowa

A soccer teammate invited me to go to this new thing at her mom’s gym called ‘yoga.’ We were 16 years old. We joked about what ‘yoga’ was and if we would eat yogurt while doing yoga. It was years before you could hop on YouTube to research what yoga was. We were both clueless and curious, but we showed up. Within a few minutes of being in the yoga class, I felt like I was remembering something I had forgotten. My loud, chaotic mind of an insecure and overwhelmed teenager was quieted in a way I had never experienced before. Mindfully and intentionally moving my body while being encouraged to breathe, with a singular teacher’s voice guiding a roomful of people through the same movements, was magic.




It still is magic.

Now, as an entrepreneur running two small businesses, serving on multiple boards and committees, and as a new homeowner, the word ‘overwhelmed’ takes on a new meaning. Every single person has their version of overwhelm running either in the background or in the foreground of their daily lives. Whether it’s a mix of children, ailing parents, difficult bosses, struggling friends, financial insecurity, marital issues, or a combination of all these things or none of these things — every person has a lot on their plate. From my point of view, this is especially true for women.


We often shoulder more of the load. The pressure can be even greater for business owners who are often tasked with wearing too many hats at work and more hats at home. Let’s be real. It’s a lot of hats.

Time spent on my yoga mat is my time to unplug; when no one needs anything from me, where I can disconnect from all the expectations of others that ping-pong through every waking moment of my day. It’s time away from technology and the buzz and pings of emails, notifications, and requests for my attention. Yoga is a time for me to just be me.


The health benefits of yoga are vast and have been studied and scientifically proven. These benefits include:

  • Stress management
  • Increased strength
  • Improved sleep
  • Enhanced cardiovascular health
  • Relief from arthritic symptoms or back pain
  • Reduction in inflammation
  • Improved balance and mobility
  • Increased energy — the list goes on and on.

There’s also the community element of practicing yoga where you are part of a group and can make friends or new acquaintances, which relieves feelings of loneliness. No matter what you are going through or how you are suffering, yoga can help.


Yoga has been my throughline, a touchstone to stay grounded throughout all the chaos and change in my life. It’s been nearly two decades since yoga entered my life, and it has helped me handle all life’s surprises. I decided to become a yoga teacher in 2017 to help others on their path of health and wellness. I had spent five years living outside of the U.S., and nearly three of those years were spent teaching yoga around the world while continuing my education as a yoga

Photo by Jennifer Marquez/Hola Iowa

teacher — studying with gurus, monks, and other yoga instructors along the way.

I founded the Wild Yoga Tribe, an in-person and online community of yoga teachers and students from over 100 different countries, to shine a light on the many different philosophies of yoga and the impact it has on individuals and communities all over the world. I have witnessed yoga impacting the lives of hundreds — if not thousands — of students. I often talk to them after class about how yoga has helped them recover from surgery, deal with stress at work, mend a broken heart, discover a different part of themselves, reconnect with their body, and more.

A fellow Latina yoga instructor at Power Life in Des Moines, Bianca Olivares, tells her students, “You don’t have to think about anything. You don’t have to figure anything out. Show up. Bring yourself. Bring your energy. Do your best on the mat. And then move on.” Time on the mat is time to mentally unwind, let everything go, and move your body. It’s the simplicity of not having to make decisions that can be cathartic for those who find themselves perpetually busy. Olivares also expressed, “People who are the children of immigrants weren’t necessarily taught about health and wellness because they, unfortunately, didn’t have the privilege to show up for themselves like we do. It’s important that we take the time and acknowledge that the privilege we have and use it and do it.”

That really hit home for me. We owe it not just to ourselves but to the family who has come before us to spend time on our health and wellness. It is truly a privilege to get to practice yoga. To have the time, energy, and means to try it, whether at a class or on YouTube, is a gift. The benefits are clear, but they also differ from person to person. Yoga means different things to different people. I explore that on my podcast, where I interview yoga teachers from around the world, and always ask: What is your definition of yoga, and what does yoga mean to you? The responses vary greatly. Yoga can be a sanctuary, a lifestyle, a source of connection to the self, a community celebration, a ritual, and even a fairy godmother, as Bonolo Phaladze, an instructor from Botswana once passionately described.

Whether you are seeking peace and quiet, to increase your mobility and flexibility, to improve your sleep, relieve back pain, or a way to decrease stress and anxiety — yoga might be your answer. I teach regularly at Power Life and Inner Space in Des Moines, and a few times a month in different places and spaces like the East Side Public Library, Easter Seals, and more. I hope to share my passion with anyone looking to enhance their physical and mental health.

JEFAS Magazine is a collaboration of writers, photographers, social media managers, editors, translators, and designers from across Illinois, Iowa and the Midwest – all of whom are Latinx. It is the first magazine created by the Latinx community, for the Latinx community that focuses on how they are boosting the economy, giving back, and filling the gap between what is needed and what is available in the state. 

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