“Namaste is something I’ve learned,” Jesus Barajas, 27, says. “It means, I honor the teacher within me, that’s within you, that’s within all things. I’ve honored my internal teacher since a young age.” Photos by Tom Sanders
When Jesus Barajas was 13, he walked out of a Wednesday night service at his family’s church and never looked back.
His mother later asked him what was wrong. He pointed at the stars.
“This is my teacher. This is my church,” Barajas recalls telling her.
From that night forward, he stopped attending church with his family.
“My intuition was pointing me elsewhere,” Barajas says. Instead of church, he began visiting secluded spaces in the countryside of Bakersfield, California, where his family lived. He sat by Kern River. He walked through the Sequoia National Forest.
“All I knew was, go to the nature and shut up,” Barajas says. “Shut your mind, shut your lips and listen to the birds, the winds and the ocean.”
Barajas, now 27, is soon to be the sole owner of Earth Yoga RB—currently known as Sunshine Yoga—in Redondo Beach. He instructs alongside a staff of six other yogis in the minimalistic studio hidden atop the Green Temple Restaurant.
“It’s the most important thing, to be with yourself with nothing around you,” Barajas says. “When you sit, the truth comes out. That’s why sometimes we’ll cry in yoga, we’ll experience emotions we’re running from.”
A first-generation Mexican-American, Barajas’ olive face is framed by thin black hair, loosely braided into a long tail resting on one shoulder. His presence, despite his tall, sculpted stature, is extremely gentle. He speaks with calmness and precision. When describing his way of living, he regularly borrows words from Zen philosophy, Native Indians and the likes of Bruce Lee and Bob Marley.
Born and raised in Bakersfield, Barajas was exposed to health and fitness early on in his childhood. His family owned a gym, where he eventually became a top personal trainer.
When he was 19, one of his clients at the gym died suddenly from a heart attack. It came as a shock to Barajas, who had remembered him to be a 45-year-old retiree in great physical shape. He later learned that the heart attack was caused from stress.
“It was an eye opener,” Barajas says. “I realized then that health is not just a healthy body but something deeper: a calm and equilibrium mind.”
At this point in the conversation, he quotes Bob Marley: “‘Vanity is destruction of the soul.’ That’s a good one to apply to health. When you have vanity and you want to be healthy, the vanity is gonna cause a lot of stress. Healing the mind is ridding ourselves of vanity, of greed, of fear. This is heath… and that’s the essence of yoga.”
“As a little boy, I knew my body didn’t belong to me; it belonged to mother earth,” he says. “This was property of her. So I wanted to take care of what the earth gave me.”
But his introduction to yoga didn’t come until two years later, when a serious knee injury and lack of health insurance left him unable to walk. So he sat, awake—for hours at a time.
As soon as he recovered enough to walk again, he signed up for a class at the only yoga studio in town.
“It was like a match made in heaven,” he recalls. “Thousands of years of yogis studying the mind, body and soul, and I instantly fell in love with it.”
Plus, it was something he had unknowingly practiced all his life: being still in solitude, whether outside in nature or at his home.
“Yoga is really to learn how to sit for three hours with yourself,” Barajas explains. “No music, no nothing.”
When he was 21, he moved farther up north to Sacramento, where he was mentored by an older couple from Thailand. He had been taking the couple’s yoga classes for about a year when they approached him with an offer to deepen his practice. They asked him to do their gardening as a trade for their classes.
What seemed to be a practical barter turned out to be a lesson for Barajas.
“I would garden and do yoga after, all I would see when I closed my eyes were the flowers, the soil and the sun,” he recalls. “What I learned was, what you expose your eyesight, hearing and senses to, especially for long periods of time, affects you so much. That’s how my practice really deepened.”
“It’s been a difficult journey because sometimes you don’t have the example before you. You gotta be that example. You let your heart guide you. Less thinking, more feeling.”
About three years into studying yoga, Barajas began a “home practice” for two to three hours a day. This was around the same time when a group of clients unprecedentedly began forming around him. They were people “just crossing life,” such as family, friends and colleagues who had noticed a peace within him. They told him that they wanted to feel more peaceful, too, and wanted to learn his practice. So informally, he began offering one-on-one sessions, either in their home or in his.
After living in Sacramento for nearly two years, Barajas wanted a change in scenery.
“I’ve always lived in the country and Sacramento is more mountains,” he says. “So I wanted to find a balance in my life, to breathe a fresh breath of air in a polluted society.”
Enamored by the sunsets and beaches of the South Bay, Barajas packed his bags and moved to Redondo Beach in 2007.
Straight away, he became a trainer at Spectrum Athletic Club in Palos Verdes Peninsula, a familiar occupation for him. But with his newfound passion for yoga, he avoided using weights with his clients and instead guided them through his tried yoga routines. A clientele, again, naturally came to fruition.
After a few years of renting out space from the Spectrum to teach yoga, a friend introduced him to his current business partner at Sunshine Yoga. It has been a little over a year since the two opened the studio, and a transition is underway for the new year. At the end of January, Barajas will be taking full ownership—hence the name change.
“When we first opened, our main intention was to give back to the community without wanting so much in return,” he says. “We just focused on the product—the product being good, honest vibes. I’m excited to stick by the community we’ve developed, if anything, and to continue to see it blossom.”
Nearly five years have already passed since Barajas first moved to the South Bay. To this day, he still tries to catch the sunset every evening.