When Yosara B. Trujillo opened a yoga studio in her neighborhood, she knew there would be skeptics.
“We’re in the freaking South Bronx!” said a judiciously intensified Trujillo. “Who does yoga in the South Bronx? People questioned what kind of quality can this yoga studio offer? Will it be it a real yoga class? People go to Harlem for yoga from this neighborhood.”
The area, a melting pot of racial, ethnic and economic diversity is best known for the government offices, Grand Concourse with its beautiful prewar housing, and Yankee Stadium, the biggest business in the area. A thriving yoga community is not something this neighborhood boasts about.
Trujillo’s response to her naysayers was simple – include dance.
“The native community hasn’t been exposed to yoga. For them, yoga is white people’s stuff — not something that they do. Give them Zumba-- something they’re into, and then expose them to yoga.”
Trujillo, born and raised in the Bronx, discovered yoga through her aunt at Integral. She became hooked on Hatha and later on Bikram.
Her passion for continued while on the path to becoming a lawyer, but with the birth of her son Prasad (Sanskrit for the blessing that comes from the offering) she shifted her focus towards opening a yoga studio – to spendmore time with Prasad and to get the yoga she needed in her life “to be okay.”
To find teachers, she combed through the Integral listerve for recent graduates of the certification
program. This led her to Nyota Nayo, who currently manages Sweet Water along with teaching the pre and post natal classes (she’s a certified doula), belly dance, samba and vinyasa. Trujillo relied on Nayo to recruit the other instructors -- Blake "True" Jung, Dublin Salas, Jessy Lugo, and Tara Tonini.
Her ideal space, a historical movie theater, became available when the tattoo parlor (which was fronting a gambling joint) got closed down.
“Magic happened!” Trujillo declared. “I got the best space around.”
Just steps from the express 4 and D trains, and minutes from Yankee Stadium, Sweet Water Dance and Yoga became exactly what Trujillo envisioned.
With a vibrant, orange entranceway extending the high-energy emanating from the sidewalks outside, the bold color continues up the stairwell, and into the spacious dance studio. The yoga rooms –there are two—were painted a cool blue and gold. It’s bright, airy and comfortable – sufficiently stimulating and calming.
“I wanted the orange to draw people in immediately – into the building and into the experience. This is not a space that tells you to be fit. This is a space that tells you to be happy. Move your body. Enjoy your body. Let’s work on making you happy no matter what shape, color or experience you bring here,” said an enthused Trujillo.
The name and design of the space are rooted in Yoruba, Tujillo’s religious background.
“The goddess that I belong to is Oshun, the goddess of the river. River is sweet water. And she is the Aphrodite and Lakshmi of the pantheon. She is sweetness and community and kindness –beauty expressed. And this is her home,” she explained.
The yoga schedule includes Hatha (“geared towards the meditative and spiritual development”), Hot Yoga, Beginner’s Yoga, Vinyasa, Hot Vinyasa, Pre and Post Natal Yoga and Gentle Chair Yoga, for those who are more limited physically.
“We still want to encourage the elderly, people with injuries or recent surgeries, people that are obese, or people with any type of physical challenges to get the benefits of yoga. So in Gentle Chair yoga you start locking and using different muscles that is physical work, but not anything that somebody couldn’t physically do. It works within limitations.”
There’s also Yoga En Espanol taught by Dublin Salas who intends to bring the science of yoga to the Latin community in NYC, including those that have difficulties with English and have no previous access to yoga culture.
Salas, passionate on the topic said, “I want to educate them (the Latin community) about the benefits of the practice, and instill a little peace and increased health to their busy urban lives.” His classes are taught with simple, clear language and basic sequences that can be built upon.
The dance classes include Flamenco, Samba, Afro Haitian, and Afro Cuban.
Then there’s the kids program, an integral part of Sweet Water Dance and Yoga.
There is jazz, ballet, hip hop and salsa along with Lil Guppy Move and Groove, a class that covers basic developmental concepts for children.
“The kids aspect is important — to make this a family friendly environment. I wanted single moms to be able to come and drop off their kids for an hour, and take a yoga class. Mom’s self care is really important to me. I think families would change if mothers took better care of themselves.”
Currently the child care service can accommodate up to four kids (three actually, because 2 1/2 year old Prasad is there full time.) The initial pricing structure is $5 for 30 minutes of childcare with a 15 minute grace period to get changed. Most classes are 60 minutes while some are 90.
When asked about opening near Blink Gym, Trujillo replied, “We complement them (Blink offers no fitness classses). And this is why I offer the vanity classes— Pilates, Barre and Zumba --to get people in here. They will see the Hot Yoga and ask, don’t you lose weight in Hot Yoga? Yes, you do! And then they’ll try yoga, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
They've been so busy with their opening, they have not fully updated their website which will be finished soon. To find out about classes and pricing click here for the latest information.