March 28, 2012

Branding Yoga for Latinos in the USA. ~ Florencia Davidzon

Flickr Photo by Timothy Valentine

If I had the chance to work in communications and branding, I would work to spread yoga in the Latino community in the USA. At about 50 million people or 16% of the population of the USA, Latinos today represent the fastest-growing demographic group in the nation.

Despite their fast-growing population, Latinos are far behind other population groups, particularly whites, in adopting yoga as a regular practice. Also, the Latino community suffers from numerous health risks that could be alleviated through yoga: diabetes, obesity, hypertension, to name a few.

Let me share with you my thinking about the challenges, the problems, and my plan to develop a strategy with regards to Latinos and yoga in the USA. By sharing my thoughts, I expect that we can create a collective task force to spread yoga to Latinos in the USA. We can spread the message everywhere; a message that will reach its audience in a compelling way! I call this challenge and the brand with which we are working, Latino Yoga.

Flickr Photo by PoramapornN

A lot needs to be done to achieve this task of re-positioning yoga in the Latino community in the USA.  But we have to start somewhere. I truly believe that in order to have great results we need to define a strategy. I have been engaging in brand strategies for the last 12 years. I know that having clarity, a good definition of the market, and a unique path will help us guide our communications and allow us to achieve our vision. I will work on this idea and I will suggest something soon. Meanwhile, following my thinking below you can start thinking about strategies too!

I have conducted quantitative research and experiential research by talking with Latinos about yoga. I am learning that there are many reasons for why yoga is not popular in the Latino community. Two issues in particular stand out: First, it is an image question. Yoga is perceived as an activity for white women, for flexible people, and certainly not for Latinos! Second, it is an accessibility issue. Yoga is viewed by Latinos as an expensive and exclusive practice, and few yoga studios offer classes in Spanish.

To develop a Latino Yoga strategy, we have to brainstorm and think about what the essence of our brand might be. What will be rich and relevant to future Hispanic practitioners of yoga? When we have a clear definition and agree on the strategy, we can start spreading the word and relevant actions. We will be able to build a bridge between where we are now and where we want to go.

As you probably know, yoga is not merely about asanas, postures and exercises. Following the teachings of Sivananda, yoga connotes union of the mind, body, and spirit with the Divine. This entails a certain state of consciousness, which is both individual and Universal. It is also a method to help one reach that goal. Yoga is also an inclusive method based on sharing the practice with others.

All people could be advocates of Latino Yoga: Both unknown and well-known people. Recently the Spanish Filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar, used yoga inspired by Iyenger Yoga as a metaphor for his core themes in his movie, “The Skin I Live In.” Yet, the stories of ordinary Latin yoga practitioners must also be told!

Almodóvar, by PanARMENIAN_Photo

In Almodóvar’s film, one of the main characters, Vera,  uses yoga as a method to transcend boredom in her confined jail space where she spent six years in captivity in the house of a crazy person. Yoga is like medicine for Vera; the ‘drug’ that allowed the supporting actress Elena Anaya to survive in her soul, fighting for freedom and human dignity. Yoga is what allows her to find peace, and encourages her to seek salvation.

From the first scenes of the movie we see Vera practicing yoga positions. For Almodóvar, the skin, the thin layer, is the frontier that separates us from others. It determines the race to which we belong. It reflects our roots, whether biological or geographical. Many times it also reflects the state of the soul, but the skin is not the soul.

Also in the movie the director communicates the concept of five bodies in yoga in his particular style: Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijnannmaya Kosha and Anandmaya Kosha. But in case the audience missed the metaphor, Almodóvar inserts a clip from a yogi on television.  This teacher reminds us that when you practice yoga, you do not have to confuse perfection of the asana postures with the deep spiritual state with which the person/soul needs to connect. It is not the form, the Annamaya Kosha (the physical body), the ephemeral, the exterior, that counts. It is more about being connected and in tune with all your bodies.

Yes, Almodóvar communicates the core idea of the Latino Yoga brand, and he did it in Spanish already! The crew of the movie also spreads the word. Elena Anaya said in an interview that yoga helps her understand the process of the character. Meanwhile, she adds that you do not need to have a trauma to practice yoga. It is for all people!

As mentioned at the outset, there are 50 million Latinos in the USA. How can we reach them? Which Latinos can sell the brand: Male, female, youth, or the elderly? Rural, small town, or big city Latinos? Healthy or overweight Latinos? What should be the core audience in which to position Latino Yoga. And what can we say and do in order to persuade Latinos to try yoga?

Even if you are not famous like Almodóvar, you can do a lot to promote Latino Yoga. As my yoga teacher told my class when we just graduated from teacher training: You have a glass of water, or luckily you have a bottle already. Why are you going to wait to own a river, or to share water in a desert with thirsty people?  Do not wait to be a swami, or to start teaching. Latinos in the USA can benefit from yoga right now. They are in the desert ready to drink the elixir of yoga. Let’s not wait until we have a river, or until we are an Almodóvar, to promote Latino Yoga.

For as long as she can remember, Florencia Davidzon has been a yogini and she completed her teacher training at the Sivananda Yoga Center in February of 2010. A constant and sattvic creator, Florencia is a filmmaker and writer who currently lives in Venice, CA. She is currently in the process of obtaining her Masters in Film at Maine Media College, USA. Florencia earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Buenos Aires and a Masters in Communications IDAES  from the University of San Martin, Argentina.




(This post was made possible in English with the generous help and editing of Tamir Bar-On.)

Editor: Jeannie Page

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