The by-donation class, which is taught in both Spanish and English, meets on Sundays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the studio on Broadway and West 212th Street. Marcela Xavier, owner of Bread and Yoga, said she has long wanted to offer bilingual courses at the studio as a way extend the practice's reach to those who may find other yoga classes intimidating.
“We actually offered a bilingual class when we first opened, but it just didn’t seem to pick up,” she said. “I really wanted to try it again and this felt like the right time.”
Xavier noted that she has seen a more diverse group of yoga enthusiasts coming to the free classes that the studio offers in Inwood Hill Park during the summer, including an increase in Spanish-speaking students.
The Hatha-style class is taught by Judith Checo, who was born and raised in the Washington Heights and Inwood communities, influencing Xavier’s decision to try a bilingual class again.
“Judi is a wonderful teacher,” Xavier said. “To have someone from the neighborhood, who knows this community and wants to give back, that drew me to bringing this class back.”
Xavier said that Checo will feel out the crowd in the room each week to determine how much of the class to conduct in Spanish and how much in English.
For example, she may give the initial instructions for a Warrior One pose in English, but then switch to Spanish when students rotate the pose to the other side of their bodies.
Xavier, who was born and raised in Brazil, is herself a bilingual speaker of Portugese and English.
She wants students who only speak Spanish to feel comfortable in the class, but noted it is also a great space for English speakers who are interested in learning some Spanish.
Xavier acknowledged that there are sometimes barriers for people who want to participate in yoga, both in terms of the cost of classes and in the culture that surrounds some studios.
Bread and Yoga makes an effort to combat this with its free summer programs and by-donation classes. The bilingual class is another step in trying to bring yoga to a broader community that may feel excluded by a language barrier, she said.
“Some yoga studios that you go to Downtown, you have to have just the right outfit or yoga mat to fit in,” Xavier said. “We really try to stay away from that. We want to be a place for the community to come together.”