Yoga En Español
“Could we start to train as a warrior, aspiring to connect with the natural flexibility of our being and to help others do the same? If we start to move in this direction, limitless possibilities will open up.” —Pema Chodron
Adriana Rambay Fernandez is bringing new possibilities to the growing Spanish-speaking population of Jersey City with her Yoga En Español classes at Yoga in the Heights. With a background in journalism and non–profit work and an inclination toward the literary,
Fernandez often opens her classes with a quote from Chodron, who she feels “gets us in touch with our humanness.”
YogaCity NYC's Kathleen Kraft caught up with Fernandez to find out more about new classes.
Kathleen Kraft: Tell us how this got started.
Adriana Rambay Fernandez: When I got certified to teach at Kripalu, I wanted to bring yoga to different populations and envisioned myself teaching yoga in Spanish at some point, so when Bridget Fujioka and Stephanie Kumar, the owners of Yoga in the Heights, approached me about teaching yoga in Spanish, I was excited because Jersey City has a wonderfully diverse Latino population that’s been here for a long time and is growing. We talked about starting this class to meet the needs of the community, to enable them to discover and explore yoga in their own language.
KK: Who is taking the class?
ARF: It’s a real variety. There are people who were told by their doctors that they should take yoga. For example, there’s a woman who has insomnia who is coming to learn breathing techniques and deeper relaxation techniques. There’s another woman who is suffering from anxiety whose doctor recommended it to relieve some of the stress she’s experiencing.
We have some individuals who are Spanish speaking and regularly attend yoga classes in English, who come here to experience the poses in Spanish and correlate them to the English, so they can better understand what’s going on in their other yoga classes.
It’s a flexible environment, so if students want to ask questions during the class, they can, and I’ll take the time to stop and explore a pose further.
We also have students who are looking for community, who want to connect with other Latino yogis. I have students from Ecuador, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Peru, to name a few places. We also have some students who don’t speak any Spanish, who want to hear and experience yoga in a different language. It’s also a variety of ages.
KK: Tell us a bit about your background.
ARF: I was born here but my parents came over from the Dominican Republic in the late 60s. I spoke Spanish at home and English at school, existing in two worlds. I had grandmothers who helped raise me, who only spoke Spanish. I’m originally from Bergen County, even though I discovered yoga in 2001 in Hudson. I realized, after one class, how disconnected I was from my own body, and it really helped me connect to the present and my own experience. After September 11, I was working downtown, and the yoga community really came together, and it was that group that helped me heal and get centered. I explored many different traditions and found that the gentle style of Kripalu called to me, and I did a therapeutic training there in 2009. In 2013, I became a certified Kripalu teacher.
KK: You started your class with a meditation and three-part breathing.
ARF: Yes, I like to begin with a body scan to get students to tune into the sensations in the different parts of their bodies. It helps to ground them in the practice.
KK: What do think yoga specifically offers to the Latino community, and how do you see the class growing?
ARF: I was one of the only Latinas at my teacher training, and I know that more Latinos are practicing yoga now. It’s becoming more popular, but I think there are certain perceptions about who does yoga, so I think it’s important that we have a diversity of teachers to reflect the diversity of students. There’s the importance of connection, of introducing people to each other through the practice. The perceptions of "I’m not flexible enough, or thin enough” don’t really bear-out once you’ve taken a few classes and you see how diverse the students are. There’s that competitiveness that people feel at the beginning that fades away, especially when the language is shared and there’s community.
KK: What kind of feedback are you getting?
ARF: There’s a lot of support. Overall, we’ve had positive reactions to the class. We recently offered an outdoor class at a music festival nearby, and there was a really good response to that. I think that offering the benefits of yoga, and developing understanding and awareness among Spanish speakers will continue to evolve and grow. It’s exciting to see people become a part of it!
Fernandez teaches Yoga En Español on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at Yoga in the Heights in Jersey City.
—Illustration by Sharon Watts