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Carlos Gomez, founder of Yoga Day, grew up surfing in his hometown of Acapulco, Mexico. When he was 26, an aerial maneuver landed him in the backwash, and his board violently crashed into his right leg. “My knee swelled to the size of a soccer ball,” Gomez says. The incident left him with a chronic injury that kept him from doing much of anything.
Two years later, he was working at a hotel in Acapulco, which happened to be hosting a yoga teacher training group. To be polite, Gomez agreed to try a few classes. He had never practiced yoga before and really didn’t expect much—he thought yoga was just something rich people did when they were bored, he says. He liked it, though, and continued attending class. After a few weeks, he noticed something shocking: His knee was healing—there was no more pain or swelling. “I was baffled by the fact that both knees felt exactly the same for the first time since my injury,” Gomez says. To his surprise, he found himself back on his surfboard, running long distances, and paddleboarding for miles. He was hooked and began going to yoga classes twice a day, every day. In 2008, he took a teacher training in Mexico and, soon after, moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he trained at the Esther Vexler Yoga School and attended workshops with Ashtanga Yoga teacher David Swenson.
For the next three years, Gomez spent the bulk of his time teaching yoga in wealthy neighborhoods. But, in 2011, all that changed. A local TV station invited him to come teach free yoga classes on the west side of the city as part of a month-long health campaign. It was then that he realized San Antonio was home to thousands of people who lacked access to basic resources, including yoga—just like Acapulco. He wanted to change that.
Gomez kept volunteering, and in 2012, he formed the nonprofit Yoga Day to bring more free yoga to local communities, including classes taught in Spanish. By teaching people in schools, public green spaces, and at the Good Samaritan Senior Center, Yoga Day helps them strengthen their practices in a group setting while laying the foundation for a home practice. “I want to empower people to do the work at home, not just go to class,” Gomez says. Today, the organization emphasizes the therapeutic, medical, and practical power of yoga and it continues to expand its program offerings—teaching people the healing power of each pose so they can repeat it later, no teacher necessary.
See also The Future of Yoga Is In Spanish
Founder: Carlos Gomez
AT A GLANCE
27,000 Children and adults served by Yoga Day in 2019
40 Seniors who learn yoga per week in 3 different facilities
38 Classes per week taught by Yoga Day instructors
To donate, go to yogadayus.org.