Life

University of Iowa alum stretches her yoga boundaries, all the way to Cambodia

Curtain rising on new path for Old Creamery marketing director

Courtesy of Lily Allen-Duenas

Lily Allen-Duenas performs the Wheel Pose at Nepal Yoga Home in Kathmandu, where she studied in July. Allen-Duenas is moving from Iowa City to Cambodia on Dec. 1 to begin a new career as a yoga instructor at an island resort. She has served as marketing manager at the Old Creamery Theatre in Amana for nearly four years.
Courtesy of Lily Allen-Duenas Lily Allen-Duenas performs the Wheel Pose at Nepal Yoga Home in Kathmandu, where she studied in July. Allen-Duenas is moving from Iowa City to Cambodia on Dec. 1 to begin a new career as a yoga instructor at an island resort. She has served as marketing manager at the Old Creamery Theatre in Amana for nearly four years.
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AMANA — Lily Allen-Duenas may turn into a mermaid on a Cambodian beach after Dec. 1.

Or perhaps a downward-facing dog or a warrior or something even more exotic, when the marketing manager for the Old Creamery Theatre embarks on a new adventure.

She left her theater position Nov. 10 to teach yoga on the sands of Koh Rong Samloem island in the Gulf of Thailand.

The California native and world traveler, now 26, will be sleeping on the beach, too, on this small island off the southwest coast of the Southeast Asian nation nestled between Thailand and Vietnam. Her clients will be the guests at Huba-Huba, a French resort with “a tropical vibe,” which she said appears to attract an international clientele of “young nomads.”

“It’s not the Ritz, but I’ll be comfortable,” she said. “I’ll live on the sand in a tent.”

The resort’s owner will provide a tent, blankets, mattress and vegan meals. She’ll be paid per client, and is excited to “live and eat free.”

“I’m not going there to get rich,” she said. “I’ll exist on zero dollars a day.” Still, she’s budgeted about $10 per day for miscellaneous expenses. She’s planning to blog about her adventures, but her posts will be sporadic, since she’ll have to hike 20 minutes through the jungle to get Wi-Fi.

That’s worlds away from the creature comforts of Iowa City, where the University of Iowa graduate continued living while working in Amana. She might not be so comfortable with the creatures in this remote tropical locale just 10 degrees off the equator.

While she thinks monkeys are cute to watch from a distance, she isn’t too wild about snakes. Just in case the encounters aren’t friendly, she’s had rabies shots and is packing a snakebite kit.

She’s had a full range of vaccinations, from hepatitis A to Japanese encephalitis and typhoid fever. She’s also packing malaria pills and antibiotics. She didn’t realize travel-based shots wouldn’t be covered by insurance, and is expecting the total to be about $2,000 out of pocket.

“That was a real hard pill to swallow,” she said, “but it could be the shot that saves my life.”

This travel/work opportunity grew out of connections she made in July, during a monthlong stay in Nepal to receive yoga teaching certification. She has been studying the meditative union of mind, body and spirit since age 16, and was shocked to discover “a world of difference” between Eastern and Western styles.

“I’m grateful my roots as a teacher come from the birthplace of yoga,” she said, where she studied with a guru who has meditated in caves, and spent five days meditating nonstop on a beach.

“Children thought he was dead and threw rocks at him. I said, ‘That’s who I want to learn from.’ I wanted to learn from a true guru with an incredible story and presence and mind-set and philosophy and gifts to give. He has so many gifts of learning — I’m just thrilled to have been in his presence, and to have the opportunity to pass those on to others.”

One of her closest friends at the Nepalese ashram where they studied had worked at the Cambodian resort the previous summer. She emailed the owner to ask if she had any openings for yoga teachers. The owner was looking for two, so Allen-Duenas jumped at the chance.

“When you find your path, things unfold really gracefully and beautifully when you release resistance,” she said, “because anything you fight will fight you back twice as hard.”

Her parents have differing reactions to her decision, she said.

“My dad wants to throw me a parade. My mother wants to GPS chip me like a dog.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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