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Daisy Rivera

Licensed clinical social worker at City of Hope

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Yoga Can Be a Path to Health and Well-Being for the Hispanic Community

09/18/2015 12:00PM | 22455 views

I walked into my first Kundalini yoga class about 15 years ago. I had done other forms of yoga before but none had prepared me for the experience of Kundalini. I was soothed by the beautiful music that played, known as mantras, and the chanting all around me. “Let the nervous system adjust,” I heard, and obediently my body vibrated as if it knew how to do the adjustments naturally. We meditated to the healing sounds of mantras and as we laid down to rest the powerful sounds of the gong took me to a place that I had forgotten, where peace, gratitude, and the feeling of well-being are found. In 2006, I graduated as a Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Teacher from Golden Bridge Yoga, a studio in Los Angeles. Though there are many branches of yoga, the right branch will find the student according to their path. 

As a bilingual person, I have tried to expand the awareness of the benefits of yoga to the Spanish-speaking community. With new certificate in hand, I approached local Parks and Recreation staff and got a contract to teach a series of Yoga en Español classes at Salazar Park in East L.A. My largest class was four students, one of whom was my husband. Years later, an offer came to lead a yoga class in Spanish at a reputable Kundalini yoga studio in Pasadena. I taught that class for four years, until it ended recently. And while I had larger groups of students from time to time, the class was for the most part attended by only a few.

What is it about the Spanish speakers in our community that they do not take advantage of the incredible benefits of yoga? I’ve formed some hypotheses.

It has been my experience that almost all of my Spanish-speaking students had misconceptions about what yoga is all about. Some had concepts of yoga as a mystical practice done only by Buddhist monks; others had some vision of yoga being a religious practice. All of my students arrived at my class either because a doctor or therapist recommended they do yoga or because a friend, oftentimes an English-speaking friend, exposed them to the benefits of yoga. While I have a small data sample based on the number of students, sadly, none of them reported attendance because of education or information coming to them from the Spanish-speaking community. Some of them had seen yoga demonstrated on TV shows, but with minimum education about what yoga is all about, their myths about it continued.

To dispel those myths, there is some basic information about yoga that everyone should know. First, let’s start with the meaning of yoga. Yoga, as you might have heard, is the union of mind, body and spirit. What does that mean? If you can imagine a state of feeling uplifted, at peace, centered, whole, and any other attributes that signal a state of higher consciousness, for no particular reason, you can begin to understand what this union might feel like. You feel a sense of well-being, even if things around you are in chaos. Yoga is a tool and a science that a person can use to acquire the mental, physical and spiritual capacity to enjoy life to the fullest. It is believed by practitioners that yoga and meditation can cleanse the organs and glands, ridding our bodies of toxins and boosting our immune systems. The practice of yoga gives us greater mental clarity; this in turn allows us to become better problem solvers, allowing us to act rather than merely react to problems. Yoga taps into deep places of our being, helping us to form new attitudes about life, ourselves, and others. And of course, there is the benefit of relaxation, where we get to experience the calm of just being.

The benefits of yoga are truly innumerable, and that is why expanding yoga education and knowledge about this ancient healing art to the Hispanic community is so important to our health and well-being. I remember one of my first students, a lady in her fifties, who started out as a nervous wreck. Her breathing was off, and by simply learning to breathe properly, she also learned to regulate her mood.

 

The point is, yoga is not only for those with flexible bodies; anyone can benefit from yoga. I invite you to try a yoga class and share the personal experience that you have with others. 

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