The Fascinating Story of Yoga in Cuba


Havana is often perceived by Westerners as a time capsule—its side streets adorned with brightly painted cars from the 1950’s. The diversity of the architecture—a mash-up of colonialism, baroque facades, and early 1930’s art deco, lends itself easily to an artist’s eye. Few Americans have wandered there freely, until now.

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were recently restored, and Americans can venture to the small island for a dozen approved purposes, such as professional research, education, and humanitarian work. Yoga is not yet a top draw bringing tourists to the country—studios are nonexistent, more rare than American media, which is still delivered via “El Paquete,” an illegal hard drive—but the practice is alive and well.

Eduardo de Jesus Pimentel Vázquez—more commonly known as Eduardo Pimentel, the “Godfather of Cuban yoga”—has taught over 20,000 practitioners in Havana alone. He teaches daily in various locations, such as a rented veranda of a governmental institution, inside of a theater, at a local martial arts center, or at his own apartment with a maximum capacity of 12 students.

The conditions are minimalist—students rest in Savasana on a small area of tiled floor space, surrounded by empty walls with peeling paint and views of lush, fertile jungle outside. Pimentel dreams of one day selling his apartment for a larger space, …

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