By Jessie Maguire
Yoga is one of the best forms of full-body exercise, and it’s hugely popular all over the world. But what about when you’re travelling? Yoga has a number of benefits for volunteers and people backpacking abroad.
Firstly, it works on your emotions, leaving you relaxed and centered. This can be a great advantage if this is your first time in Cochabamba, when everything is new and unfamiliar.
Secondly, keeping in shape is just as important oversees as it is at home. Being strong and flexible will help keep your confidence where it should be, too.
Thirdly, getting out and meeting people at a yoga class is a cool way to learn about Bolivian culture, and practice your Spanish with like-minded people!
Yoga in Cochabamba
Some of the best yoga classes in town aren’t that easy to find. Most of the studios don’t have websites, and some of them don’t even have schedules anywhere online. However, I’ve been here for over 5 years now, I’ve discovered some great places that I want to share with you.
Although yoga hasn’t hit popular culture yet down here in Bolivia, there are a number of teachers with over 20 years’ experience and many different styles available. Let’s get stuck in!
Maricarmen studied with the late B.K.S. Iyengar and his children at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India. She teaches at her studio, Sadhana Iygengar Yoga by Parque Fidel Anze (No. 232, on the corner where the park meets Eudoro Galindo). She is the only certified Iyengar teacher in Bolivia, and lots of people seek her out for that reason while travelling through South America.
Maricarmen started doing yoga when she was very young, but really started to practice yoga seriously following a knee surgery. After experimenting with different styles that didn’t quite fit, she found an Iyengar teacher she loved in Lima. She has been teaching for 11 years, and takes advanced Iyengar training classes at a certified institute every year now in Chile or the USA.
Iygengar is a very distinctive style of yoga, and the training is very thorough. It’s difficult to get certified, and you can see why when you take a class – the focus on alignment draws you into a deep understanding of the intricacies of your body’s structure. You see how even very small adjustments can affect the whole pose profoundly. There is something very beautiful about that level of accuracy and the way you can use that technology to heal the body.
I think it’s helpful for all yogis to do an Iyengar class now and again for that reason – it opens up a whole new world for beginner yogis and those that practice Ashtanga and Vinyasa, when the speed of the flow doesn’t allow you to concentrate on correct positioning so easily.
Iyengar is also great for anyone who’s been injured and wants to protect their joints, work on their back problem or learn how to make great adjustments when teaching classes.
Maricarmen gives classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8-9.25am, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-10.30am and Saturdays from 8.30-9.45.
Or you can go to her evening classes on Tuesday and Thursday from 7.15 to 20.45.
What to expect
Maricarmen is a professional teacher who believes in the preservation of the ancient yoga tradition. She’ll give you a great technical class to improve your alignment and strength. You can use these techniques to help you build and protect your body during your home practice or yoga classes elsewhere, but it’s likely that you might fall in love with how Iyengar makes you feel and never go back.
Maricarmen speaks English, so don’t hesitate to let her know before class if you’re still working on your Spanish.
To contact Maricarmen through Facebook, click here.
Magena is one of the most experienced teachers in the city. She runs the Adhyatma Yoga center, which has a great reputation. It’s also one of the most central yoga studios – it’s right by Cine Center, half a block from Plazuela Quintanilla on calle Fray Tomas 946. You’ll find a number of different teachers there, including Susan and Jenna (who teach Vinyasa Flow) and Kundalini classes, too.
Magena has been a full-time yoga teacher for 15 years and has been doing yoga for 20. Her style is called Adhyatma Yoga. It aims to activate the vital energy and the chakras. Magena has also studied Kundalini yoga, and has been learning about yoga in depth for a long time.
What I like about Magena’s classes is that she really has a following that loves her. People from all over the world go to her classes, and they are ideal for beginners and people who want to work on their body on an energetic level. You’ll leave feeling very calm and happy. She’s reliable, so you know you’ll be doing some yoga if you plan to go to her class.
What to expect
Magena’s classes are pretty varied. She’ll always add in something new. Her students connect with different sensations and emotions in each class, which is what makes them so healing.
Class starts with disconnecting the mind from the external environment and bringing your attention into the here and now. After setting an intention for the class (Sancalpa), you’ll start activating the spinal column with a series of movements that activate your vital energy. Magena uses sun salutations to integrate different postures into the mix, to align, balance and get your energy going even more. Magena usually focuses on one particular area of the body after that, leading on to some Yoga Nidra for 15 minutes and 10 minutes of meditation.
Classes last for 90 minutes and run three times a week – on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-10.30am, 5-6.30pm and 7-8.30pm.
Classes are 30Bs each.
Lots of people from outside Bolivia go to Magena’s classes, and that might be because she uses a lot of simple phrasing so everyone can understand what to do next. She also demonstrates the postures and places her hands on the area of the body she’s discussing. She uses the Sanskrit names for the postures, too, so if you’re an advanced yogi, you’re set.
To contact Magena through Facebook, click here.
Diego Goytia has been practicing yoga for 18 years, and teaching for 15. He trained with the Gran Fraternidad Universal (Universal Great Brotherhood, GFU). The GFU is an NGO that was established in 1949 by Serge Raynaud de la Ferriere.
The GFU is a pretty interesting organization, bringing together science, art and religion for the purpose of intellectual improvement and spiritual education. De la Ferriere was a writer, yogi, astrologer and scientist and the organization promotes his teachings of Hatha yoga, meditation, building ashrams and vegetarianism. They are also heavily influenced by psychotherapy, particularly Gestalt Therapy, which adds an extra fascinating and unique twist.
A section of the GFU’s members recently split off to form a for-profit yoga teacher training company in Mexico, Asociacion Internacional de Yoga Yoghismo. They run a Yoga Alliance accredited course in Cochabamba (in Spanish). Their slogan is that “yoga is the deep experience of oneself”.
I can bet that you haven’t tried yoga like this where you come from! It’s different, with a lot of emphasis on staying in the postures for longer and the spiritual side of a yoga practice. This school used to follow a very specific procedure during class, with a warm up phase, then a cold shower, followed by some very chilled out Hatha poses (specific sequences) and some meditation. Diego now varies his classes quite a bit, and you don’t have to wear white (although Diego probably will).
Diego and others teach at Solar Yoga Studio, which is on c. Man Cesped esquina Washington, Edificio Providence, Planta Baja (look for the red pillars).
What to Expect
Each class has three stages – the first stage focuses on physical conditioning; the second involves a discussion and questions regarding the more theoretical elements of yoga and during the third stage you’ll want some warm clothes for the Hatha yoga and micro meditation.
Diego gives classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7pm till 8.30pm.
220 Bs. per month
Diego gives private classes. The price depends on the quantity of classes you would like.
Diego knows a little English. He usually does most of the class, too, so you can follow along. Diego also reminds us that the language of yoga is universal 😉
To contact Diego through Facebook, click here.
Jenna currently teaches at Magena’s studio by the Plazuela Quintanilla roundabout (Calle, Fray Domingo de Santos Tomas, 946) at 12:30pm every Tuesday.
Jenna trained to be a Vinyasas and Hatha Flow teacher in Guatemala in 2012, when she received her 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher Training from the SchoolYoga Institute. However, she’s been doing yoga since she was a teen, and before that, she was a gymnast, so she’s a bendy and beautiful yogini.
What to Expect
Jenna’s sequences are easy enough for beginners to join in without any prior experience, yet challenging enough for advanced students. She provides alternative poses for most of the advanced postures she guides you through, but she’ll encourage you to move through your fears by attempting them all. This is great because you’ll surprise yourself every time with what you can do, and how you improve class by class.
Jenna puts a lot of emphasis on the philosophical side of yoga and changing your attitude to honor your body, with themed classes and a short introduction every time to center you. One of the things I like most about Jenna’s classes is her tone of voice and how she gently guides you orally through your yoga experience.
Jenna will have you holding postures during the vinyasa for quite a long time. You’ll probably be sweating by the end of the class! She teaches using a mixture of Spanish and English.Classes focus on alignment and physical postures.
Jenna loves giving private classes because she enjoys working with adjustments and tailoring classes to student’s individual bodies. She says, “We are all unique in our physical abilities and limitations, and private lessons allow you to see why your body does or doesn’t bend the way you may “think it should.”
90 percent of the time, Jenna flows with the class, so she’s always there as an example. Jenna says, “Yoga class can actually be a fun place to learn a new language!!!”
To contact Jenna through Facebook, click here.
Mariana Llobet is one of the most well-trained yoga teachers in Cochabamba. She’s been doing yoga for 19 years, and started getting trained and teaching 10 years ago. She did her teacher training in Brazil, and offers Hatha, Ashtanga, Aerial Yoga and Yin-Yoga classes around the city. She trained abroad, bringing new skills in from outside the country, and it shows. Her classes are the closest you’ll find to Western classes. If you have an injury or limitation, she will work with that.
The places she works in are comfortable, and she’s very friendly. Her classes are great if you’re an advanced student of yoga, and if you’re a beginner, and a great place to meet people who have the same interests as you. I like Mariana’s classes a lot. There is just something sophisticated about them, and you can tell how much Mariana loves yoga when you watch her. She is exceptionally strong, flexible and she’ll inspire you to be just the same.
Regular yoga classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30-12:00, 19:30-21:00 and on Saturdays at 9:00-10:30.
Aerial yoga classes are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9:30-10:30.
Regular yoga costs 240Bs per month. Aerial yoga costs 280Bs per month.
Regular yoga classes are given at Sat Yoga is easy to get to. It’s on calle Tupac Amaru esquina Hartman, Edificio Tarija 2C. You can also get private classes her or at home.
For aerial yoga classes, go to Acrobatic, which is on calle Ecuador No. 660 (entre Antezana y Lanza)
Mariana speaks good English and if you don’t speak much Spanish, she will give all of the instructions in both languages.
What to expect
Mariana starts her classes with centering and breathing exercises, followed by Asanas with alternatives if you have an injury. Then comes the final relaxation/Savasana.
Here’s Mariana showing off her skills: (video)
To contact Mariana through Facebook, click here.
Rosmery Vital has been practicing yoga for over 15 years and has been teaching for 8. She also studied in India, as well as Canada, and her teaching style reflects the fact that she has been trained in the West.
Rosmery will be opening a brand new studio in early 2016 called Namaste. You’ll be able to attend classes at all times of the day, and various different styles.
What to expect
Rosmery’s classes are a wonderful workout. She gives Vinyasa Power Flow classes, and they’re dynamic, active and hardcore. She’ll get you working on your core, too, with diverse poses, movement and of course, the incorporation of uyajji.
Rosmery begins with 3 minutes of meditation and pranayama, followed by a vinyasa that builds in speed over the duration of the class.
I enjoy the intensity of Rosmery’s classes very much. She knows how to work you out! Get ready to earn some biceps and extreme core strength.
Her classes last for one hour and fifteen minutes and cost 220Bs per month, unless you’d like a private class, which are definitely recommended!
Rosmery assures us that anyone can follow her classes without needing to understand Spanish. She welcomes everyone and anyone regardless of age or gender.
To contact Rosmery through Facebook, click here.
Susan, a native Californian, started teaching yoga when she lived in New Zealand in 2008, but she’s been practicing since 1997 after an accident that left her in a wheelchair. Susan is also a certified chef in Food and Healing, offers elixirs and health food after each class, and sells an herbal detox program that cleanses and revitalizes the body.
Susan has just opened her own studio, Yoga Brisa. She also gives classes at Magena’s stuido (like Jenna). Her new place is not from Plaza Tarija and easy to get to from Avenida America and IC Norte. It’s behind some tall apartment blocks on calle Las Brisas, a swanky neighbourhood hidden just behind two apartment blocks. Go to the north side of the Parque Fidel Anze up calle Eudoro Galindo, turn left, then first right. Go up to #19, the second house on the right-hand side, it’s a white house with palm trees outside. The studio is actually two minutes away from Maricarmen’s Iyengar studio, and two blocks east of Restaurante Cayenna. It’s tucked away but well worth finding!
What to Expect
Susan’s classes incorporate a number of different yoga styles and philosophies, so you might experience a vinyasa, a Taoist meditation and yin postures in the same class.
Each class varies depending on the needs and energy of the group. Susan uses ujjayi breathing while flowing between Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow and Yin postures. Pranayama, meditation and chanting are also sometimes included.
One of the most lovely things about Susan’s yoga set up is that it’s part of her house. It feels both welcoming and luxurious, and she’ll pamper you with some elixirs and other healthy goodies after class – which just doesn’t happen anywhere else.
Susan gives classes at Yoga Brisa every Monday and Wednesday at 11am-12pm, Tuesday and Thursday at 8-9am, and private classes too right there in her studio.
She also gives classes at Magena’s studio on Thursdays at 12:30pm.
At Yoga Brisa, if you pay by the class, each one will cost you 30Bs. Or you can pay to have unlimited classes for 200Bs per month.
Susan usually demonstrates all the poses during her classes, and she’s a native English speaker, so you won’t have any problems if you’re reading this!
To contact Susan through Facebook, click here.
Paz started teaching over 40 years ago in La Paz. Back then she was studying a strict discipline, with rules and rituals that didn’t leave much room for flexibility. She now teaches Hatha yoga, but incorporates flow/vinyasa as well as elements from Raya yoga like meditation and contemplation.
Paz’s spiritual life awakened through the practice of yoga, and it’s a place where everyone can commune with themselves, reflect on their life, nourish the body. Paz says this is why yoga is not a choice anymore – it’s a need, and it keeps her healthy. She practices 6 times a week, for an hour if she’s alone, and for 90 minutes when she has company.
Paz has experience working with young people, older folks and doing pregnancy yoga (after having 7 pregnancies herself), back problems and other injuries.
Paz gives classes at her house in Las Lomas de Aranjuez, a gated community in the North of the city.
What to Expect
A small class of 3-4 people, and a cosy atmosphere where you can study with someone who has a lot of experience with yoga and has delved deep into the more spiritual aspects of the discipline. Expect the class to be tailored to your needs, desires, the energy of the group, and the position of the moon! Classes are varied and based on a theme, one of the many sequences Paz has committed to memory that work on your energy field and chakras, or Paz’s intuition.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10am, and private classes whenever you arrange them with Paz. Each class lasts for 90 minutes.
40 Bs. per group class and 80 Bs. per individual class.
Paz speaks English, so guiding you through the class won’t be a problem if you’re a super beginner.
Cell: 799 89 344
How to choose a class
If you’re a beginner, it can be a bit daunting because you don’t really know what you’re going to love, and that first time might make you fall in love with yoga or hate it! I urge you to try a few different classes before you make your mind up about yoga. Why not try an Iyengar class and a Vinyasa? Or a Hatha and a Yin? And if you’re a seasoned yogi or yogini, why not sample them all?
Facebook interviews with each yoga teacher.