Changemakers: Christina Adrini

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After moving to New Orleans from Florida, Christina Adrini saw the need for accessible yoga classes. Following her recovery from a car accident in 2015, Adrini began teaching yoga classes in City Park. In time, her classes grew from just over a dozen students to more than 150. With even more exposure from their International Yoga Day events, the Jai Bhakti Yoga Foundation was born.

“Jai means spirit and victory. Bhakti is devotion. Yoga is the union,” explained Adrini.

Launching the organization in this city was a deliberate choice. “I feel New Orleans is such a blessing and a gift to me. When I moved to New Orleans, it was where my roots began. I felt such a call. Those in my community felt the same way,” said Adrini.

Serving and supporting yoga students is the driving force behind Jai Bhakti Yoga, and Adrini’s focus on inclusivity shines through. “Anyone and everyone can participate and be part of a community with no judgment,” said Adrini. Adrini’s students have included those in the senior community, children with special needs, veterans with PTSD, people facing mental health struggles, and those who might not feel comfortable entering a traditional yoga studio.

“I pull together programs for people when no one else is there for them,” said Adrini. “We have students that have survived prisons, who feel shunned, like they have no future.” But they find support through Jai Bhakti. “One student just received an anonymous grant of over $4,000 for teacher training because he shared his story,” said Adrini.

As the only certified aqua yoga school in the state, the Jai Bhakti community works to make the practice accessible for even more people. Doing yoga in water opens the practice to people who may not be able to do the same poses on land. They have taught aqua yoga for free at NORD facilities, and Jai Bhakti has graduated about 20 teachers who can lead aqua yoga classes.

Adrini also teaches maharishi asana yoga, which tends to be slow-moving and accessible. With the exception of one standing pose, these are all done on the ground. Adrini has adapted a seated version as well, so it is available for people in wheelchairs. This practice can also help students strengthen the mind-body connection.

Now, Adrini is working toward programs for medical providers. Because providers need self-care, Adrini hopes to give doctors, nurses, and other caregivers the resources to stay centered. Even a few minutes of breathing during a five-minute break can help. She also hopes to introduce the practice to activities directors who can then use yoga and its teachings to benefit those in hospitals and hospice care.

Continuing to improve the lives of people in NOLA is the goal. “I’ve traveled the whole world, but New Orleans is home for me, and it’s home for Jai Bhakti Yoga,” said Adrini.

Identity is another key aspect for Jai Bhakti Yoga. As a bilingual yoga teacher with roots in Puerto Rico, Adrini leads some classes in Spanish. Inclusivity is a thread in the teacher training programs as well. As Adrini explains, 90 percent of the yoga teachers who graduated from her program are from BIPOC communities, and many of them go on to teach yoga within these communities.

“Yoga in New Orleans is growing, and Jai Bhakti is the backbone for a lot of these teachers. We’re here to provide for our community to succeed, especially when so many of us are feeling pain,” said Adrini. A virtual 200 Hour Ayurveda and Yoga Teacher Training course allows students to work at their own pace. Ayurveda, the harmonious approach to health dating back thousands of years, is sometimes described as the sister science to yoga.

As Adrini explained, these cohorts of teachers work collectively, not in competition with one another. “There’s a yoga teacher out here for everybody. The goal of making it accessible means that someone will resonate with what they need at that moment, with what they’re growing through,” said Adrini.

In 2021, Adrini created the De Los Angeles Grant Fund to honor her late mother. It provides funding for future yoga teachers in financial need. Anyone interested in receiving the grant can find more information on Jai Bhakti’s website.

Even with all of this growth and development, Adrini still teaches Tuesday classes under City Park’s wind chime tree for the students who have been there since the beginning.

“I do this work for them,” said Adrini.