Jakubowicz, 36, made national headlines earlier this month when she announced a partnership with Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health that would make yoga more accessible to Hispanic populations, a first for a major yoga school in the United States. The program is open to both new and active teachers, as Jakubowicz stresses the importance for all teachers to continue their education. In order for even the most seasoned and decorated English speaking teachers to be proficient enough to teach in Spanish, she advises the full 200-hour training, regardless.
Her status as a yoga teacher was elevated to a global platform when she appeared on the cover of Yoga Journal in March 2015, during a time when mainstream yoga in the West was making a concerted effort to be more diverse—embracing the widening spectrum of yogis that includes all body types, races, ages, genders, et al. That following November, Yoga Journal teamed up with Jakubowicz, who accompanied renowned photographer Robert Sturman for an expedition to Havana. The resulting “Cuba Libre Yoga Project” shed light on a culture that had long been shrouded in mystery, and brought awareness to a thriving yoga community already there. The pair worked with fellow practitioners and legendary teachers like Eduardo Pimentel (pictured above with Jakubowicz), who is known throughout the country as the "godfather of Cuban yoga."
Yoga teachers all over the world aim to establish cross-cultural connections through the universal practice of yoga, but many of these teachers still continue to instruct in English—the universal language. Jakubowicz has observed a great need for Spanish teachers in the U.S., and hopes to eventually travel to many more Spanish-speaking countries to help American and Hispanic cultures unite. “I will do whatever is meant for me to do,” she said. “If I am to help lead this shift then I will do it with all my heart and integrity.”
As a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Miami, Jakubowicz is currently on the hunt for spaces to teach yoga in Spanish on the regular. In addition to the Kripalu training that begins July 31, she also offers private Spanish language classes in person and online. We recently caught up with the busy Latina in-between pilgrimages, and asked her a few questions about what it’s like to be the leader of the Spanish yoga revolution.
YNON: Which Hispanic populations in our country do you think would benefit most from yoga, and how would you approach them?
RJ: Miami, L.A., and New York are the big spots where I think yoga in Spanish would benefit most. My methodology is to share the teachings of yoga in a familiar way, by making it fun and informative—how it can help in our daily lives toward success and happiness. I tend to add some Latin music from the particular country where I’m teaching, or popular and beautiful Latin music that makes the students feel at home and comfortable. I don’t overwhelm them with Sanskrit words or too much yoga language, in order to help bridge the gap more smoothly.
Do you have plans to teach yoga to Hispanic middle school or high school students?
Yes! I would love to teach Hispanic kids and teens on a regular basis. I hope to translate my "Super Yogis Schoolhouse Training" into Spanish soon, to be able to help other teachers to teach Hispanic kids and teens.
Do you consider yourself a minority in the yoga world, despite your renowned status as a teacher?
I don’t think one has to do with the other. I still feel racism and ignorance about our culture in many states in America. I never considered myself as a "Hispanic Yoga Teacher"—I just thought of myself as a yoga teacher who happens to be Hispanic. I’d be curious to see whether people who don’t know me immediately pigeonhole me into that category.
What other platforms (social media, online video, YouTube, etc.) do you use to disseminate Spanish yoga to make it more available?
I write some blog posts in Spanish and try to make some of my social media bilingual as well. I have eight Spanish videos online on aomm.tv, and I am working on a few more things coming up that will help offer more yoga in Spanish worldwide.
Do you think we'll start seeing more Latino yoga teachers in the spotlight and on the cover of yoga magazines?
I sure hope so! I think it will determine how successful we are as a culture to rise up and show that this is a necessity, and that we are choosing to be a more conscious people—individually and collectively. If there are any Hispanic leaders out there want to step up and help bring more awareness to this need for Spanish yoga and spiritual awareness, I hope they will contact me.
"Yogi Stories" is a new series on Yoganonymous. This conversation has been edited and condensed.
Photo courtesy of Robert Sturman Studio