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5 Ways Latinos Already Do Yoga
When I started yoga, I thought it was for non-Latinos. As a new transplant in Los Angeles, along with learning to love sushi and crashing movie premieres, I did as the Los Angelenos and tried yoga. Over the years I discovered much that bridges the Latino and yoga cultures.
1. La Gente
One of my first classes in Santa Monica started quietly as I sat in the front of the room. While in a twisting pose, I realized the room had filled with over 100 people all moving and flowing together. The Latino desire to welcome and never say no to a guest was alive and well in this donation-based classroom. Yoga is about sharing space with people who want to appreciate your presence and energy. Just like our familia, we look forward to seeing each other and saying hello with a hug, smile, or while in tree pose.
2. La Musica
Most yoga classes incorporate music. The most basic sound is the rhythmic flow of the breath that can sound like the ocean. Song playlists also follow the class progression from slow and easy to complex and invigorating and then back down. Bossa nova, cumbias, and son Cubano provide a nice start to class while samba, merengue, and salsa keep the energy high in the peak poses. Then we rest with boleros and musica romantica. Whether in the yoga room or in your college dorm room, where there is music, there is a party waiting to happen.
3. El Grito
In Mexican culture the grito is the “cry” that starts at the gut and is sustained with trills. The grito is especially crucial in mariachi music. At a party or performance, it is heard during interludes by the mariachi singers and audience members alike to express the emotional resonance of the music. As a shared experience, it is similar to the AUM or OM sound in yoga, minus the tequila. The AUM also comes from the gut and is sustained through basic intonations. They both allow for an expression that is beyond words but full of connection.
4. Respeto and Personalismo
Latinos have a high regard for respecting elders and people in authority. We generally show deference which communicates respect and love. We learn our place in the “hierarchy” and build strong personal relationships. In yoga, deference to the instructor is key to learning and feeling safe. As in both cultures, teachers and elders care about our individual needs and we in turn respect them.
5. La Siesta
A tradition from the Spaniards, the siesta has since left our Western schedules. However, the idea of taking time to rest after working and eating allows for a “re-birth” in preparation for the remaining daily activities. In yoga, shavasana, or corpse pose, is practiced at the end of every class. In this laying down pose the body physically rests from the poses and mentally rests from thinking. In both shavasana and the siesta, we rest and wake-up feeling lighter and refreshed.
Yoga is not just for non-Latinos but for all of us. So take your warrior pose to the mat because the cumbia is playing and the teacher is waiting for you and your yoga compadres.