Why Mariana Fernandez de Peloton organizes courses in Spanish

AAt the end of each of her yoga classes, Peloton instructor Mariana Fernandez offers her students classic Spanish. sobremesa. The word – which has no English equivalent – describes the post-meal period when people spend time together chatting and sharing with each other.

“We move together and we sweat, then we end up in a sobremesa and talk about how it made us feel, the parts we connected with, what it reminded us of, whether at home, someone’s grandmother or growing up, ”says Fernandez , who introduced the tradition to her students when she began teaching on the Peloton earlier this year. “It’s that lovely way to think and see how some of these lessons really resonate with you.”

As a first-generation immigrant – her family moved from Mexico to San Diego when she was seven – Fernandez’s LatinX roots have become an integral part of her yoga practice. “I wondered how people could come together beyond the mat, so I started to implement my own cultural elements,” she says.

As a 5,000-year-old Indian tradition, yoga has its own full range of cultural elements. But in recent decades, the rise of fitness stores has seen the industry whitewash: 77.1% of yoga teachers in the United States identify as white, according to a 2021 survey. Representation of BIPOCs (Blacks, Aboriginals, People of Color) in these spaces has made people of color feel that they are not welcome in practice.

“For those who are BIPOC, that means walking into a studio often becomes an experience of not seeing any body that looks like theirs, being in the minority, not seeing yourself in the teacher and feeling altered – no centered – in a practice it’s supposed to act as a connective tissue between all people, ”said previously Rebeckah Price, yoga teacher and co-founder of The Well Collective. Good + good. This sense of “other” for people of color, especially those in the LatinX community, is something Fernandez tries to change by bringing aspects of his own Mexican heritage into his classes.

After receiving her teacher training certification while in New York Graduate School in 2009, she moved to Mexico City where she began teaching yoga in Spanish. “When I returned to New York City, I was looking for a way to teach in both languages ​​because I wanted to find ways to bring yoga to the LatinX community,” she says. “When I interviewed at Peloton, they asked me if I was teaching in other languages, and when I said I was teaching in Spanish, it opened up this whole new world. asked, “Why don’t we do both? Why don’t I bring lessons in my native language to this huge LatinX community that we have among our members?” It was the opportunity of a lifetime. “

In the months that followed, Fernandez brought his bilingual classes — and the sobremesas following them — to the 4.4 million Platoon members. “Being able to speak the language I grew up in at my job is not only a gift, but I think it provides visibility and access to a giant community in this country,” she says. “People who spoke the language with their parents, or who are first or second generation, feel culturally connected to cadence, vocabulary and expressions.”

In addition to teaching in Spanish, Fernandez also orchestrates his classes with traditional music that reminds him of his home. “All of a sudden people hear the sounds of Mariachi music, which is a Mexican staple,” she says. “And even if you’re not Mexican, a lot of people in Latin America grew up with Mariachi music, so it hits that ‘nostalgia’ button and reminds them of their childhood.”

Above all, Fernandez’s priority has always been to make students feel welcome in his space. “A great thing for me is figuring out how to make yoga, as a practice, more accessible, and get people to become a little more open and explore how they move and what parts of it they like,” explains Fernandez. “I try to keep the elements, the philosophies and the practices of yoga – the meditation, the breath, the movement, the awesomeness – while giving it my own style and effect.”

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