Pilar Salazar is a founding member of Bodhi Surf + Yoga, resident yoga teacher, and the team’s spiritual “north”. Pilar’s life has seen three strong themes running through it: 1. an interest in spirituality, philosophy, and humanity, 2. a strong desire to travel and see as much of the world as possible, and 3. a love for living an active lifestyle. This combination of interests set her onto a trajectory towards yoga, the single-most influential acquisition in her life. Today, Pilar incorporates all of her passions into her role as teacher and owner at Bodhi Surf + Yoga.
Childhood and early life
Pilar’s describes her young self as fairly shy, studious, and an overachiever. She strove for perfection in herself — being the perfect dancer, doing the best she could in school, and being a “nice” kid. She pushed herself in every way, trying to impress others, fit in, and be cool, as opposed to searching inward to figure out what she wanted. Yet when she was around 14 years old, realizing that none of this was making her happy, she entered into her phase of “teenage rebellion” — questioning and challenging everything, especially figures of authority (such as her teachers), reading a lot on her own, and generally self-educating. She was, in essence, beginning to figure out what her identity was, and in the process, gave some of the adults in her life a little grief. Looking back, she still feels guilty about her behavior during that phase, but the experience has made her an empathetic guide and mentor for the many young people that she connects with through Bodhi Surf + Yoga’s work with student groups.
Education and work
Pilar got her degree at the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, majoring in business and with an emphasis in tourism management. She did not consider her college years to be that influential, nor did she feel that she learned as much as she has traveling or working. Travel did have an effect on her school career as she took a life-changing trip part way through college, and upon returning to complete her studies, was a much more dedicated and hardworking student. Interestingly enough, Pilar did not master English until she was in her 20s, though you wouldn’t know it today by talking to her as she has a great ease and confidence when speaking in English.
One aspect of her life that has never changed is how much she likes to work — starting a week after graduating from high school and up until present day. She has done a little bit of everything: from cleaning toilets and being an assistant cook in on a Greek island, to working at a Marriott Hotel in the Human Resources department. One of her favorite work experiences to date has been working as a dishwasher in Israel! Her combined experiences have made her understand and respect the value of all work, and today, help her to be a compassionate boss.
Pilar always knew that she would need to do something that she really felt passionate about — and wouldn’t be able to settle for anything less — even if it meant she would not make as much money. Through yoga, Pilar has found that working can be a very spiritual experience, allowing her to be fully present and in the moment. Finally, while she didn’t consider herself an entrepreneurial visionary, she always felt she would be good at being a business owner and at business management.
Travel, the school of life
Pilar always had a strong interest to see the world, a curiosity whose origin she cannot pinpoint, though she does remember one event: when she was 15, Pilar saw a picture of her great aunt in Egypt, and thought to herself, “I will never be able to go to a place like that” — in the 1990s, it was uncommon for a young Costa Rican girl to travel internationally by herself. Yet she was determined. She discovered the concept of “Kibbutz”, small collective agriculture-based societies in Israel, and in 1998 when she was 20 years old, she and a few other friends went to Israel. Pilar stayed there for one year, learning some Hebrew, working, and having a mind-opening experience. She realized that her small corner of the globe was simply a tiny piece of what the entirety of the world, and that there was so much more than she could have ever imagined out there to be seen and experienced. More than anything, she realized how many different perspectives there were, something that amazed her greatly. To say it was a life-changing experience would be an understatement.
She has continued to travel both inside and outside Costa Rica, the most notable trips being to Greece in 2004, and India in 2014. It was in Greece that the transformational capacity of yoga really clicked; and in India, a place that is so completely different than anywhere she had been — crazy, loud, smelly, and wonderful — that she was opened up completely to the idea of how different life can be depending on where you are from, and that there are no rights or wrongs in this world. Pilar looks back on her travel experiences as explorations of humanity and nature, and considers her them to be the periods of her life in which she learned the most. For her as for many, travel has been more than just about seeing the sights, it has facilitated fundamental shifts in how she views the world and herself as a citizen of it.
Grounded by spiritual practice
It’s entirely possible that spirituality is something that was innate in Pilar. Her mother remembers her, as a small child, getting up before everyone else, and meditating on the porch — with no one having taught her to do so — meditation was not a part of the culture in Costa Rica in the early 1980s. Meeting her, it’s easy to see that she does have a very tranquil air about her, not just in the way she talks, but also in the way she holds herself, and the perspectives she offers to any given situation.
Starting when she was a young adult, Pilar developed a strong interest in ancient civilizations, human history, and religion, and spirituality, and it was these themes that would continue to hold her attention for years to come. This is what drew her to travel. Also to yoga: not just the physical practice, but also the spiritual side — arguably, its most important feature. Yoga has been spiritually transformational for her in that she came to realize that everything can be spiritual as long as you stay open: travel, work, cooking, reading, being with friends and family. That there shouldn’t be a division between the sections of your life, because everything is, and should be, connected.
Trajectory towards yoga
One very strong theme that has been woven through Pilar’s life is physical activity, discipline, and commitment. She started doing ballet when she was in diapers until she was 12, was a swimmer as a young child, switched to track and field in high school, and finally began running for pleasure and competition in her early 20s. She was introduced to yoga over 15 years ago, and began practicing casually in gyms in San Jose for the next few years. She became hooked after taking an Ashtanga yoga class in Colorado — interesting, because Ashtanga is one of the most advanced and disciplined forms of yoga.
What really clicked for Pilar was that the yoga practice is physical, mental, and spiritual, a concept that was novel to her coming from a culture in which the concept of duality — spiritual/mental vs. physical — is prevalent. The yoga practice takes your whole self into account, which makes sense as each aspect of our beings are interconnected and interwoven to create the whole. Another aspect of yoga that has resonated strongly with Pilar is its healing and transformational capacity; she believes that it simply opens us up and brings to the surface the healing powers we already possess within our own selves. She accounts yoga for her health, happiness, and wellbeing today.
It is because yoga has been such a transformative experience for her that Pilar makes such an excellent yoga teacher. She wants to make sure that she is positively affecting the people who really need yoga in their lives, just as she did and does. She also aims to encourage commitment and discipline to her students, because while it is something you have to work at and practice over and over, she knows just how positive the results can be.