The Future of Yoga Is In Spanish

Rina Jakubowicz, who will lead a Spanish yoga class at YJ Live! San Diego, says offering classes in Spanish is the first step in attracting more Latinos to the mat.

People of Hispanic origin comprise the second-largest ethnic group in the United States, making up 17.1 percent of the total population in 2013. Which explains the next big trend in the yoga world: Spanish yoga classes.

Rina Jakubowicz, who teaches a Spanish-language Vive Vinyasa Yoga class at one of her three Rina Yoga studios in Miami and will lead a Spanish yoga class at Yoga Journal Live! San Diego, says offering classes in Spanish is the first step in attracting more Latinos to the mat.

“[Yoga] hasn’t been presented to Latinos. They might feel like it is not accessible to them—there haven’t been a lot of Spanish yoga classes,” says Jakubowicz, who is Cuban and Argentinean, was born in Venezuela, and immigrated to Miami at age 4. “If you make it available, people will start doing it.”

Jakubowicz says she’s “absolutely” seen a growth in yoga interest in the Latin American community since opening her first Miami studio in 2005. She thinks it’s also important to include other elements of Latino cultures in Spanish yoga classes, as well as in English yoga classes that have a lot of Latino students.

“I do add Spanish music, salsa, which has a little bit of beat and rhythm to it," she say. "Not to generalize, but the first thing that moves Latin Americans is the music—the passion and the music. I do have different playlists with my Spanish students, without losing the essence of what yoga is.”

Jakubowicz says yoga teachers catering to Latino students should be personable, open, warm, and fun. A sense of humor helps, too. "[Some] Latinos think that yoga is boring and slow so they think it's not for them, but not the way I teach yoga," she says. "For example, starting next month, we will officially start referring to my Vive Vinyasa Yoga class as 'Spanglish Yoga' at the studio. That’s already introducing it as fun, so it breaks down the wall.” (Note: A substitute is covering Spanglish Yoga for Jakubowicz while she travels this summer.)

Lauren Imparato, an NYC-based yoga teacher, led Spain’s first-ever public outdoor yoga class (in Spanish) in Barcelona in 2012. It sold out with 2,000 participants. Since then, she has led Spanish-language yoga classes for thousands in Panama, Ibiza, Madrid, the Museum of National Art in Barcelona, Mallorca, Mexico, and Colombia. “There’s no need for language to be a barrier [to yoga],” Imparato says.

Since she started her lifestyle company and yoga studio I.AM.YOU. in 2009, Imparato says she’s been reaching out to Latin American countries, which she calls a “completely untapped market."

“Part of the problem is accessibility and understanding," she says. "Sometimes it is hard to understand that yoga does not confine you into a vegetarian/Hindu/Buddhist hybrid, which is still confusing for cultures new to yoga. You can be Catholic, a runner, a meat lover…anybody can be a yogi."

Imparato, who also shoots yoga videos in Spanish, agrees that it’s important to tailor music as well as nutrition advice for Latin American students—and all ethnic groups. “It’s about finding a way to stay within their culture and their values,” she says.

Interested in teaching a Spanish yoga class? Here are 4 songs from Jakubowicz's playlist to get you started:

Esto Es Vida, by Draco Rosa
Agua, by Jarabe de Palo
Sentimientos, by Tango Project
Siente Mi Amor, by Salma Hayek from Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Want to take a class in Spanish? Try Lauren Imparato's and Andres Salcedo's classes on YogaVibes.