How Do You Say “Yoga” in Spanish? Answer: Joga

Craig Hanauer - Spanish Yoga

By Craig Hanauer E-RYT 500 RCYT

As a Spanish language learner, one of my favorite activities is to take yoga class in Spanish. These classes have provided excellent opportunities for me to work on my receptive language skills and to ultimately better understand my language challenged students. I benefit from the linking of words with familiar movements; the relaxation I experience there allows me to better process what is being said; and I am more fluent after class. Though not evident in English (except perhaps when attempting to identify the words in a song), my expressive language is much stronger than my receptive language in Spanish. I know at times I have impressed native speakers with my ability to speak, and have been met with responses that are communicated much too quickly for me to completely comprehend. This same misunderstanding occurs with children who sound good due to scripting and echolalia, but are quite challenged receptively. I’ve always been told that language ability decreases under stress and at times I have been alarmed by the lack of access I have had to my Spanish when I’ve been angered or upset.

Now after many years of working with language challenged students I find myself working in a preschool with mostly typically developing children. The first marked difference is that they can wait. I used to clamor to move onto the next song or activity to avoid a regression into total chaos, but now as I fiddle with my ipod, most of them are able to just sit and wait, incredible! For my language challenged students just following along in English was difficult, however here in the preschool I am inclined to take advantage of that brief window of opportunity when children are most receptive to learning a second language. I have been looking for ways to incorporate Spanish into my work, and young children who are exposed to a second language either at home or at school are likely to retain that information for a lifetime.

One of my first ventures into bringing Spanish into my children’s yoga classes was to have a Mexican program assistant lead an entire class in Spanish during a children’s program at Kripalu. Although most of the children did not identify as Spanish speakers, they were able to follow along with minimal support due to the associated movements and sounds. Now I have a whole lineup of Spanish language songs that lend themselves to yoga-based movement. The music provides me with the structure and support I need to introduce Spanish to my students, and the associated movements and sounds provide the same for them. I was blown away recently when one of my 4 year-old students translated “estirar” into “stretch”, as she was familiar with the song we were acting out in English.

If you do decide to bring Spanish into your kid’s yoga classes just keep in mind that animals make different sounds in Spanish than they do in English; did you know that in Mexico chickens say Pio Pio and roosters says kikirikí, ki-kiri-ki?

I’m in the market for a Spanish “See and Say” if anyone has any leads.


Craig Hanauer is a Kripalu trained Yoga Alliance Registered “Experienced” 500-Hour Children’s Yoga Teacher.  He is also certified in New York State as a Creative Arts Therapist, a School Teacher and a School Building Leader.  Committed to the health and wellbeing of children, Craig has developed “Every Kid’s Yoga”, a unique and successful program for children with varied abilities and needs that integrates the creative arts, yoga, and play. He specializes in training yoga teachers, educators, therapists and parents in this therapeutic and fun-filled approach to working with kids. Craig continues to work directly with young people in a variety of settings such as Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, The Preschool at 3rd Street Music Settlement, and Satellite Academy a NYC Department of Education Alternative High School. Craig recently founded The Children’s Yoga Teacher Training Collaborative, a Yoga Alliance Approved 95-hour children’s yoga teacher training school.

You can read more about Craig and his programs by visiting his websites and Facebook page.

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