At Tuff Martial Arts Studio in Miami, Fla., people eagerly wait for their Zumba instructor to waltz through the door. A certified Zumba and Strong by Zumba coach and personal trainer, Yovanna Madhère is a walking ray of sunshine who brings Latin dance cardio and feel-good workout routines into the lives of her students every Monday through Thursday.
A health and fitness enthusiast, Madhère has been in the business for over 15 years. But while many other fitness gurus focus on the superficial benefits and tangible results of their programs, Madhère’s is a holistic approach, one steeped in compassion, empathy and love.
“Our motto is ‘health, love, soul,’” Madhère said. “We understand that health is not solely aesthetic and external; real health runs deeply into all aspects your life and soul, and it oozes out onto the people around you.
“A healthy body, happiness, lovingness, soulful joy [is] what makes the whole person.”
Her unique philosophy is what inspired her to start her own fitness business, Sagittal Soul, which was established in October of 2015. The name is derived from not from the zodiac sign, but the Sagittal Plane of the human body.
“The sagittal plane of the body splits us into our left and right hemispheres. It is also along the sagittal plane where forward and backward movements occur [walking, front lunges, cycling],” Madhère said.
“We are always striving to move forward. Hence, the Sagittal Soul is one who is focused on moving forward, yet realizes that to move backwards is a normal part of growth and should be honored as well.”
The emphasis on personal growth and the forward and backward movements of life reflect Madhère’s own journey. An Afro-Panamanian who grew up in New York, Madhère cultivated a passion for health and fitness at an early age. She always seemed to keep herself involved in a myriad of extracurricular activities. Always intrigued by the inner workings of the human body, she dived into research in her down time.
“I used to go to a big-box gym with my cousin when I was 12, and I fell in love with the fitness classes and gym environment,” she said. “My father was pretty athletic when I was growing up. We played softball, went cycling and danced a lot! Summers at home during high school years consisted of bike rides, crunches and workout tapes.
“I read the encyclopedia for fun and became a total nerd for disease and disorders.”
After having struggled with addiction and a legacy of familial disease, Madhère became a certified Zumba instructor. Her personal struggles allow her to be more than just a fitness trainer, but a console for clients who are also struggling in life. Her perseverance is a light at the end of the tunnel, inspiring her clients to push through.
“I’m not a drill sergeant and I’m not a yogi. I’m a good balance of both,” Madhère said. “I am a former addict and understand the stories that we tell ourselves.”
“The opportunity to share love, that’s my favorite part. To let folks know that whatever they are going through or growing through, they don’t have to go at it alone.”
In all of her work, Madhère cultivates those vital relationships with her clients that keep them coming back to classes and seeking her expert guidance. She strives to foster a community of care during every class or training session, where each individual is treated with compassion and dignity.
“It is developing relationships and even though most of what I am doing is in a group setting, I make it a point to give them a very personal experience,” she said. “If I see that the client is having a difficult time with a move, I will personally go to them an coach and direct them.
“So, every interaction that I have, I always do it from a place of loving that person as much as possible, making sure we are preventing injury, and letting everyone know that they are valued, they are special.”
Black clients hold a special place in Madhère’s heart because of the particular ways Black people struggle with health. On average, Black people live three years less than white people at the same income level. Black people have disproportionally suffered from ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Through Sagittal Soul, Madhère hopes to break the cycle of disease that plague the Black community.
“I want us to love ourselves from the inside out — our hair, our skin, our stories and our history. I want us to release what no longer serves us and take on a renewed outlook,” she said. “If disease ‘runs in your family,’ it can take its sneakers off, honey, because it stops running with you!
“We do not have to own the maladies that seem to be a part of many Black stories. Our people have broken many chains! I love US!”
Aside from the Zumba and Strong by Zumba classes, Sagittal Soul offers a number of individualized personal trainer programs that include healthy eating regimens, workout routines and weight-loss programs. Sagittal Soul’s individual sessions allow for one-on-one time with Madhère to figure out the best fitness plan for the client. The Soulful Six Week Slimming program takes the client through six weeks of fat-burning workouts, nutritional guidelines and loving support through the Sagittal Soul trainerize app.
“Trainerize is a free app that the clients can download and I can send them their workouts directly to their phones or their laptops, so I can create a program and in there is accountability and tracking,” Madhère said.
“I have one client that I offer a lot of nutritional advice, so I track her through trainerize and then every now and again she is like, ‘I want some workouts, but I don’t want to use weights,’ so I will create something with bans or balls or something and send her all of her information via trainerize.”
The application allows for personalization in an ever-growing fitness industry trending toward individualized workout routines. Many people who would otherwise be at a gym or studio don’t have the time to do so and would much rather be able to exercise at home or on their own time. Sagittal Soul has tapped into that market trend.
“Our online services will be optimized to address the ever-demanding schedules of our clients,” Madhère said. “Our fun and exciting group fitness programs will continue to use music and dance in ways that both promote health and resonate with the soul.”
To learn more, please visit https://www.sagittalsoul.com/