The Godfather of Cuban Yoga
Updated: Feb 5, 2019
Meet Eduardo Pimentel.
Eduardo Pimentel is known as The Godfather of Cuban yoga, and for good reason. Like any good guardian, Eduardo has kept the flame of yoga lit in Cuba. He has kept yoga alive in Cuba for many years, despite challenging circumstances. He has created the teachers who have started yoga communities all over the country. He’s also quite funny and charming.
In 1971, Eduardo discovered a yoga book by Swami Sivinanda, and found that it would not only train his body, but his mind. A famous Cuban chess player, he was focused, determined, and found that yoga could actually train him in life.
Eduardo has studied yoga in both India and the United States and started teaching yoga in 1980. At first he was hesitatnt— he did not want his ego to be corrupted as a “teacher,” but after repeated pleas from friends and Cubans, Eduardo understood the need to share. His most influential teacher has been B.K.S. Iyengar. For over 15 years, he exchanged letters with Iyengar — letters that looks months to cross the ocean— and he finally met his mentor in India.
Eduardo has trained more than 12,000 yoga practitioners across Cuba, and is responsible for helping create many yoga communities. Watch this You Tube Video and Eduardo walks you through all of the yoga communities he has helped create.
In the 1990's when the Soviet Union collapsed, the medical system in Cuba collapsed with. it. Suddenly, the Cuban government looked to alternative streams of medicine. The Department of Ministry of Healthcare recognized acupuncture, herbalism, tai chi and yoga as official health care. Eduardo was sent to Santiago de Cuba to help establish yoga as an official alternative medicine in Cuba. He worked hand in hand with the Cuban government and medical practitioners to make yoga accessible.
This was a long way from the days of copying yoga texts in the library with the yoga books hidden inside of encyclopedias. Prior to the collapse of the USSR, the Cuban government discouraged yoga-- it was thought to be religious or cultist in a atheist country. Eventually with help of international yoga community, Eduardo convinced the Castro government that yoga was not a cult, voodoo, witchery or an uprising. It is a legitimate tool for health and well-being.
Eduardo has been featured on National Cuban television teaching the benefits of health and yoga. He has published a book, “Prana, Mantra and Kundalini Yoga”, and is currently translating the Bhagavad Gita.
Eduardo is humble, kind, funny and grounded. He is known for his sense of humor as much as for his boundless knowledge and expertise. I was honored to teach with him and can’t wait to do it again. When you visit Mhai Yoga for a retreat, you’ll have the very special treat of being Eduardo’s student. You will walk away with not only a new teacher, but be inspired by a new friend.
I asked Eduardo what the most important thing about yoga is. " Yoga is about getting comfortable with yourself. If you are not comfortable with yourself, you can have everything, and still have nothing. The body if your home. Silence the the voice. The critic. Relaxation brings silence. Savanna is the hardest pose because there is silence. It’s not about external rotation or ninety degree angles. It’s about relaxing. Quitting the mind. Bringing mind and body together."
In addition to teaching at every retreat, Eduardo also teaches in his studio, Vidya Yoga, in Havana where he offers lectures, workshops and daily group and private yoga classes.
You should come to Cuba with me January 12-19, 2019. Email me for info.
Want more? Here is a great mini-documentary on Eduardo Pimentel by Greg Mount: