15 Latina Yogis Creating Community and Diversifying Yoga

Yoga has taken the west by storm! Those of you who are into it must follow or know about a few Instagram yogis, but let’s admit one thing, yoga is lacking diversity

Photo: Unsplash/@kikekiks

Photo: Unsplash/@kikekiks

Yoga has taken the west by storm! Those of you who are into it must follow or know about a few Instagram yogis, but let’s admit one thing, yoga is lacking diversity. Unfortunately the West has culturally appropriated the practice for aesthetic purposes. Monthly memberships cost as much or more than a monthly gym membership. In Los Angeles for example it ranges from $100 to $160 a month! Therefore it is not easily accessible to everyone and we end up seeing who benefits the most by observing the #yogaeverydamnday hashtag. After seeing the lack of diversity of women of color yogis I decided to do my research to find, follow, and know more about Latina yogis who not only practice yoga but also other forms of healing. Not only did I discover that we are out there practicing yoga but also teaching in our communities, making yoga more accessible for everyone! Check out and support the following 15 Latina yogis!

Cristy Marrero : New York, New York

Tell us about your yoga journey!

I’ve practiced Kundalini Yoga since 2011 because I found a sense of community in my center and an outlet to grief when my sister, my father, and my nephew passed away. It has saved me and kept me sane through tough times. I am a better person, a better professional, because of my practice.

What would you advise someone who may feel discouraged to practice yoga because they believe they are not “flexible” enough?

I would ask them to try Kundalini for a day. We have people in wheelchairs that are yogis. There are no mirrors, no flexibility competition, it’s a very inclusive practice because it focuses on the spirituality of yoga.

Follow Cristy at IG: @mcristymarrero

Jovanna Perez Lydon: San Jose, California

Why do you practice Yoga?

Beside my yoga practice at “Downtown Yoga Shala” in San Jose, California, I also joined a spiritual Yoga Center and began to learn about meditation, pranayama, kriyas, Yamas and Niyamas. Studying and applying the practices, the floodgates finally cracked opened! Fast-forward, four years into yoga practice and my life is completely transformed. I credit the breathing and meditation practices for healing my anxiety, terror dreams and insomnia; conditions I experienced for so long. I’m happy to say most nights I sleep like a baby! I wake up refreshed and ready for my daily Ashthanga routine. I practice Yoga because it is a holistic approach to health and wellness, where physical fitness, mental harmony, energetic vitality, and emotional peace all come together to achieve health and ultimately happiness.

Do you practice other forms of healing you would like to share about?

I practice Seva, selfless service. I became a 200-hour certified yoga teacher in 2015 and am very excited to be sharing the benefits of yoga in my community. I teach free and donation based Yoga en Español to the Latino Community locally and internationally. I love supporting my student’s development and personal exploration with guidance that ensures a positive, relaxing, and enjoyable experience. I find so much joy in spending time interacting with my students and community.

Follow Jovanna on FB, IG, and Meetup: Vida Lifestyle Yoga

Lilia Roman : San Francisco, California

What would your advise be to someone who may feel discouraged to practice yoga because they believe they are not “flexible” enough?

Yoga is for every body, regardless of your age, physical condition, level of strength, and so on. Yoga is not about already being flexible to be able to practice it; it’s not about judging yourself. It is about wanting to increase your level of flexibility, within the range of motion of your joints and muscles, and to strengthen in and out. Mainly, yoga is to help you find your body and to love yourself unconditionally. It’s about healing, restoring, empowering, and finding the tools to help you grow wiser and with much grace, joy, and love in your heart. I teach yoga for seniors, yoga for people with cancer, yoga for disabled people, and so on. Everybody has embraced this practice for the great benefits they have received and their practice keeps evolving, just like my own practice keeps evolving. At times my practice is very gentle and soothing; at times my practice is a bit more strenuous and challenging. Every day is different.

Do you practice other forms of healing you would like to share about?

I also practice Curanderismo, the ancient Mexican healing practice. I use the earth’s elements to help me ground, cleanse my body from negative energy, and cultivate deep connection with mother earth and my ancestors. My grandmother was a Curandera, and, having grown in Mexico, the use of herbs and ancient medicine is just part of who I am. I practice limpias on myself, and I also offer gentle limpias to others using flowers, water, smoke, and more. These are the ancient practices that, to me, have the power to save us, as a society, and to help us heal.

Follow Lilia on her personal blog: http://liliaroman.com/blog/  and FB: @Lilia Roman

Rosemary Severino: New York, New York


Tell us about your yoga journey!

When I was younger I used to want to be able to do the split. I would practice with my cousin in my abuela’s living room. Years passed and I started getting into spiritualism. I wanted to be whole as a person and started meditating and incorporating yoga in my workouts. I started following some of the yogis of Instagram and was amazed to see that there were women that looked like me doing these intricate yoga poses. I said to myself “wow, thick women can do yoga too.” I then started doing yoga every day at home. I joined some yoga challenges and got better in time. I saw how great I felt and how my body was starting to shift. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life.

Which is your favorite yoga pose? Why?

King Pigeon is my favorite pose. I love how the angles look. It was also a mission of mine to nail this one down. I remember shedding a small tear when I finally did it.

Follow Rosemary on IG: @iamblackrosenyc

Rachel Divine : California

Tell us about your yoga journey!

Whew! My journey started more than 30 years ago. But in 1999 I found that this practice I had ingrained in me was “yoga.” I started practicing more and more and in 2001 yoga saved me from a horrible divorce and 9/11. I knew that I needed to share that with others. Especially after 9/11 in NYC. So I wanted to teach yoga to people who needed it the most like cancer survivors, people with heart disease, amputees and other issues. I teach those who are not yogis, but want to feel the benefits of yoga.

Which is your favorite yoga pose? Why?

Oh I love so many poses! I love plank, It’s powerful. I love pigeon – it’s yummy. I love simple twists on the floor because sometimes gentle is all you need to get refreshed. I love headstand because it gives a new way of thinking.

Follow Rachel on FB and IG: @yogadivina and her personal blog at http://www.yoga-divina.com/blog

Marcela A. Arrieta : Downey, California

Tell us about your yoga journey!

My yoga journey began just last year in 2016. My friend Jovon opened the very first yoga studio in our city – Downey Yoga. Her amazingly toned body made me realize the importance of keeping ones body healthy and fit. After all, the body is the temple that the soul inhabits and uses to manifest its greatness.

My holistic practice helped with cleansing and aligning my chakras, aura and entire energy body. Incorporating a physical activity like yoga took my practice to a higher level by helping get rid of stagnate energy that just sat in my energy field.

Do you practice other forms of healing you would like to share about?

I practice and study under the energy school named Pranic Healing. I love many things about this modality. I’ll just share a few. It’s a no-touch system. I never physically touch my clients. We focus more on cleansing the blocked energy rather than energizing from the get-go. Sometimes the chakras only need to be decluttered before they pump energy on their own.

Follow Marcela on IG: @marcela.a.arrieta

Katherine Jacklyn : Toronto, Canada


What would you advise someone who may feel discouraged to practice yoga because they believe they are not “flexible” enough?

“Just start!” One of the cool things about yoga is that the more you do it, the more flexible you become! It is like going to the gym, you don’t go because you are already are fit but to become fit! Yoga is an incredibly empowering practice and one of the perks is that you get more and more flexible just by doing it!

Do you practice other forms of healing you would like to share about?

Daily Meditation! Even if it is just 5 minutes a day. I usually aim for 10 minutes at least and I have done up to 60 minutes. There is a saying I grew up “In the silence of your heart, God speaks.” The same applies to the mind. I make the conscious decision to quiet my mind daily and that has been (and still is) one of the most life-changing practices I could ever have.

Follow Katherine on IG: @Katherine_jacklyn

Janette Guzman : Los Angeles, California

Tell us about your yoga journey!

I practice yoga simply to feel alive. In my vulnerable moments yoga brings me back to my center and I finally connect with my inner self again. My passion for yoga ignited when I went to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica in 2014. Practicing yoga daily in front of the beach, under the rain, or other days in front of beautiful waterfalls, looking the beauty of mother nature, made me fall in love with the practice. I was recovering from depression from my marriage separation, and was little bit lost in life.  But I came back home from this retreat with a newly found life purpose which was to become a yoga instructor.

Which is your favorite yoga pose and why?

Warrior 2 is my favorite pose because it reminds me of the beginning of my practice. I remember when I started practicing yoga all my teachers tried to correct me in it because of the tightness of my hips. Nowadays I really enjoy practicing it and I love to teach it the way I was able to learn it.

Follow Janette on IG: @yoga_with_janette

Samantha Martins : New York, New York

Why do you practice yoga?

I practice because it brings me closer to my true self, peeling away layers of stuff that doesn’t serve my highest good. I practice because not only does it strengthen my physical body, it strengthens my soul. The practice has given me a resilience that I don’t know if I would have developed otherwise. It makes me work on being a better person for myself and others. It makes me feel more connected to the Divine.

Which is your favorite yoga pose and why?

This is a hard question! My answer changes from time to time depending where I am in my life at the moment. I think right now half pigeon is my favorite. That pose is such a big hip opener, creating more flow and balance in the second chakra which is all about creativity and emotional balance. I’m working a lot on balancing my emotions by releasing emotional baggage and tapping back into my creativity as a singer and pianist. Half pigeon allows me to release physical tension in my lower body and also boosts my feelings of flow and my capabilities to express myself creatively.

Follow Samantha on IG: @lovemusicyoga and her website www.love-wellness.com

Minerva Arias : New York, New York


Tell us about your yoga journey!

Yoga is a deeply transformative and spiritual practice for me. When I finally caved into a friends request to take yoga with her, I immediately wanted to dive in further. There was a very beautiful familiarity with the practice, once I started. It was as if my body was ready for me to come home to it in this new way and on deeper levels. Things began to shift for me both internally and externally, which drove me to do my yoga teacher training, so that I could eventually share these practices with my community. Every time I get to share my love for this practice and teach a yoga class, it’s an honor. Yoga has allowed me to know joy, growth, and compassion.

What would you advise someone who may feel discouraged to practice yoga because they believe they are not “flexible” enough?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard people say they cannot practice yoga because they are not flexible, I’d be the richest person on earth! Yoga translates to union – union of breath and body, union of self and self – and the physical poses one practices in a traditional group class is one means to this union. Flexibility is not a pre-requisite but rather a by-product of developing a yoga practice. The practice of yoga is to develop flexibility mentally, physically and beyond.

Follow Minerva on IG: @roots.healing and her website www.RootsHealing.org

Brenda Umana : New York, New York

What would you advise someone who may feel discouraged to practice yoga because they believe they are not “flexible” enough?

I hear you! I would say that it’s not so much about flexibility but moreso about coming into balance and meeting yourself exactly where you need to be.

If you’re someone that is too flexible, the practice can strengthen you and bring body and muscle awareness. If you are someone with tight hips, the practice can show you how to release that. I always like using the analogy of learning a new language. When we’re learning a new language we usually don’t start off with the exact native accent. It takes some time to develop the grammar, the conversations, and then with practice eventually we pick up the accent. Same thing with yoga, with time and practice we pick up different things and one of them being flexibility or strength.

Do you practice other forms of healing you would like to share about?

I have regular Vedic Psychotherapy sessions which are a type of psychotherapy rooted in the ancient philosophy teachings of yoga in conjunction with Western Psychology. It’s been super educational on the functions of my mind and how to use it to achieve success, peace and happiness in my life.

Follow Brenda on IG: @beeumanayoga and her blog https://www.beeumana.com/blog

Lorraine C. Ladish : Sarasota, Florida

Tell us about your yoga journey!

I’m 54 and I rediscovered yoga two and a half years ago by serendipity. I had injured my hip while training for a half marathon at 48. One week of yoga in my fifties, during an unexpected retreat in the mountains, took away my pain. I was hooked. However, I first started my yoga journey when I was 12. My dad gave me a book by Richard Hittleman and I started practicing on my own. I’ve been an athlete my entire life to stave off depression and anxiety, although I make a living writing. Yoga was an on-and-off thing, and I remember practicing through my second pregnancy. Now I stick to it because it helps me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I don’t think I’d feel so good at my age if it weren’t for yoga. It’s a lifestyle now. It also helps me be a better parent to my teens.

What would you advise someone who may feel discouraged to practice yoga because they believe they are not “flexible” enough?

That yoga is not only about flexibility of the body. It’s mainly about flexibility of the mind and spirit. It’s also about strength, focus and mindful breathing. What I most enjoy is that it focuses on the journey, and not the achievement of a particular pose. Besides, there is always room for improvement. Perfection doesn’t exist. I love it when an instructor reminds us that “no matter what we did or didn’t do on the mat today we all feel just about the same.”

Follow Lorraine on IG: @lorrainecladish and @VivaFifty

Debbie Dukes : Los Angeles, California

Tell us about your yoga practice!

I’ve been practicing yoga about 10 years now, when I was around 13 years old I had a trauma that caused me to have anxiety at a early age. Coming from a Hispanic family my parents didn’t know how to help me or what was wrong with me or even know what anxiety was. That’s when I took matters into my own hands and found yoga. Now I am a certified yoga instructor and have been teaching for about 4/5 years. 

Do you practice other forms of healing you would like to share?

I am currently working on my 300-hour Ayurvedic teacher training. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga, it’s medicine! It’s life! Soon I’ll be an Ayurvedic counselor and will be able to help heal with herbs and prescribe yoga poses for your dosha and give yummy abhyangas. A abhyanga is a Ayurvedic oil massage that flushes the lymphatic system of the body. It detoxifies the body from old stuff we don’t need.

Follow Debbie on IG: @Debbie_Dukes

Astrid Carolina : Nicaragua

Tell us about your yoga practice!

I started practicing yoga when I was living in Miami, right after I graduated college. I was in complete isolation and I felt really anxious and depressed. I had heard that yoga and meditation helped people overcome depression, and after looking at some cool Instagram photos from other yogis I felt curious to try. I started practicing on my own.

I got to know and love myself better. I started appreciating my body, to feel compassionate about myself and other beings. I fell in love not only with the postures, but with all the yoga philosophy in general. Yoga definitely helped me overcome one of my darkest periods.

A few years later I started teaching and it has become a lifestyle and a commitment to constantly learn and share with others what I know and what can serve them.

What would you advise someone who may feel discouraged to practice yoga because they believe they are not “flexible” enough?

Yoga is for everyone and it will help increase flexibility. We all start somewhere and we all have challenges to overcome. To do yoga you don’t need to do challenging postures or look a specific way. It’s all about connection with yourself and with others. It is getting to your true essence. The posture will come eventually, what matters is feeling and experiencing the journey, and having fun while doing it.

Follow Astrid on IG: @aquafreesoul and her website: www.arteqanel.com

Cinthia Rivas : Los Angeles, California

Do you practice other forms of healing you would like to share?

I’m a licensed acupuncturist and Reiki practitioner in Los Angeles. I specialize in women’s health and much like yoga, acupuncture and Reiki have dramatically changed my life. Along with depression and anxiety, I’ve had a series of other health issues and adding these elements to my self-care regimen has been the greatest gift to my well being; inspiring me to pursue a career in the healing arts. Having recently celebrated my ninth year in private practice; serving my community has truly been an honor.

What would you advise someone who may feel discouraged to practice yoga because they believe they are not “flexible” enough?

There are no pre-requisites for yoga except, show up and meet yourself wherever you are. There’s a huge misconception that yoga is about being able to wrap your leg around your head or do a one arm handstand but this simply not true! Growing up playing soccer, I had the tightest hips and hamstrings, and remember feeling embarrassed in class because I couldn’t do the splits or barely bend over and touch my toes. There’s a lot of emphasis on perfecting the poses and building physical strength in the Western world but in India, the physical aspect of the practice was simply a preparation for being able to sit and meditate… One of the biggest things I’ve learned in practicing yoga is to check my ego. After 17 years of practicing there are still so many poses I can’t do and honestly, who cares? It’s not the physical strength or flexibility that defines your practice, it’s how it makes you feel. So if you can’t bend over and touch your toes but you walk out of class feeling damn good, keep going!

Follow Cinthia on IG and FB: @purahealing and her website www.purahealing.com

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