One man’s transformation

To anyone who’s “given up,” check out Arthur Boorman’s transformation and phen375 testimonials. Arthur is a living testimonial for a pro-wrestler-turned-yoga-trainer named Diamond Dallas Page. Yes, it sounds like hype. And Iyengar yoga teachers would be aghast at Arthur’s freewheeling attempts at asana while obese and non-ambulatory. But look at the results. Attitude matters, not just in students but in teachers, too. If you’re a yoga teacher, how would you have reacted if 300-pound Arthur, dependent on canes to walk, showed up at your class? Advertisements Continue reading One man’s transformation

Tell me about pain, yours, and I will tell you mine

I need not introduce How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, the New York Times article that’s gone viral. My first response upon reading it: These anecdotes are outliers! Who sits in Vajrasana for hours daily, tears Achilles tendons in Downward Dog, or pops ribs in a spinal twist?! My second response: No Iyengar yoga teacher would intentionally push students too hard, beyond safety. Salamba Sarvangasana without a stack of blankets under the shoulders? Unheard of! If a novice tries a headstand or an Upward Bow backbend before she’s ready, the teacher would immediately say, “Stop! Come down now!” My third response: Uh, I’m … Continue reading Tell me about pain, yours, and I will tell you mine

Pranayama, sleep, and other New Year’s resolutions

In the late 1990s, I took to yoga asana without a second thought. My body immediately loved it. I initially attended three to five classes weekly. My little apartment, with carpet and cat, wasn’t ideal for home practice, but I eventually appropriated a floor and wall space at the UC Berkeley rec center for my practice. Pranayama is another animal. Stillness, physical or mental, is not second nature to me. I’ve attended classes and done some reading on pranayama over the years. But adding breath work to my current two-hour asana practice simply hasn’t happened. The immaculate expanse of a … Continue reading Pranayama, sleep, and other New Year’s resolutions

Forced stillness

The other day, I returned to the MRI clinic where I got my knee scanned last summer. (I wanted more of the orange foam earplugs given to patients. They look ordinary but block noise better than any others I’ve tried. I use them when it’s not quiet enough for sleep.) In the elevator, I met a woman also heading to the MRI clinic. She was due for a second scan, and she was anxious: the noise, the tunnel, the claustrophobia. She even brought a friend for support. I’d experienced the exact opposite reaction. Weird as it might seem, I rather … Continue reading Forced stillness

What have I got to be thankful for?

I recently reconnected with a yoga classmate (I’ll call her Jill) whom I met in Berkeley. We’d lost touch after I moved to Vancouver a few years ago. Around Christmas 2008, in her mid 30s with a new marriage and PhD, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This year, she had a baby. What a journey she’s traveled in three years. (And I figured I’d made a big change by moving to Canada.) I thought of Jill when I read this excerpt from Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor: Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who … Continue reading What have I got to be thankful for?

Kombucha: try it, you’ll like it

About five years ago, my friend Nobuko offered me some homemade kombucha. “What is it?” I’d asked. While”tea” appealed to me, “fermented” did not, even if I do eat yogurt, leavened bread, and miso. I opted for plain water. I forgot about kombucha until I began seeing bottled kombucha next to the Odwalla lineup. After tasting three brands, I found my favorite, GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha. (Based in Beverly Hills, CA, GT’s was picked up by Whole Foods way back in 1999, according to W magazine. Who knew?) At first glance, its attractive label and generous size caught my eye. Other perks: Among … Continue reading Kombucha: try it, you’ll like it

The secret lives of yoga teachers

Yesterday Tara Parker-Pope wrote “An Older Generation Falls Prey to Eating Disorders” in her New York Times health column. It caught my eye because it profiles a 58-year-old yoga teacher who developed anorexia in her late 30s. “At 53, carrying just 85 pounds on her 5-foot-3 frame,” Parker-Pope writes, “Ms. Shaw checked herself in to an eating disorders program.” Skimming readers’ comments, it’s clear that there are multiple issues involved. But here’s what struck me: Can someone personally unhealthy (or unhappy) nevertheless be a decent yoga teacher? (Granted, Shaw might be only a casual, occasional teacher and not the best … Continue reading The secret lives of yoga teachers

Eating my words on eating fish

I have a confession to make: I am eating fish again. During my year of vegetarianism, I’ve repeatedly asked myself, “Does my body function better when I eat fish?” So I’m now conducting a personal experiment: making fish a dietary mainstay during my stay in Hawaii, where I’m on assignment for Lonely Planet. Forgoing fish was no problem, as I’m quite satisfied with tofu, lentils, and other vegetarian protein sources. But I seemed to be pushing my limits without enough nourishment; for example, I experienced minor but nagging soft-tissue injuries. Perhaps my diet wasn’t hearty enough, perhaps my slight frame offered minimal … Continue reading Eating my words on eating fish

Trick or treat! Oh no! Raisins!

Last year, I wrote “Halloween treats and ahimsa” about why I chose raisins, not candy, for trick-or-treaters. This year, undaunted, I again stocked up on Sun-Maid. My boyfriend is convinced that any normal kid will consider raisins a letdown, even mock-worthy. Perhaps, but aren’t they at least healthier? They are! I even made a squash soup for dinner that I learned from the allfitrecipes website. I’ve blogged before about my resolution to eat less sugar and about my subsequent decision to eliminate all refined sugar from my diet (thanks, Steve Nash). I currently eat almost no sugar other than the fructose in … Continue reading Trick or treat! Oh no! Raisins!

I barely recognized you!

Yesterday at the university gym where I work out, I initially didn’t recognize the student staffer at the front desk. But as I pedaled up a sweat, I realized that he resembled someone I hadn’t seen since winter. That guy was much beefier (the overstuffed look of a misguided male trying to “get huge”), with cropped hair rather than this guy’s Brady Bunch curls. A brother, perhaps? Turns out, he was the same guy. It was his senior year and he’d been cutting his hours to focus on school. During that time he also lost 43 pounds. “I barely recognized … Continue reading I barely recognized you!

Loss of control

Reading “What Broke My Father’s Heart,” New York Times Magazine, June 14, 2010, by Katy Butler, plus readers’ comments, disconcerted me on several levels. First, it forced me to contemplate my own parents’ aging (and my ability eventually to help them when I live thousands of miles away). Second, it highlighted the pitfalls in the US healthcare system, frequently controlled by the profit-driven “medical-industrial complex,” if you have the time apply today to reform the healthcare system at home. Third, it illustrated the ups and downs of marriage, of long-term relationships, of where love can lead “for better, for worse.” … Continue reading Loss of control

Give me one reason… to eat toro

I read with dismay “Tuna’s End,” The New York Times Magazine, June 21, 2010, by Paul Greenberg. It is tragic that the world’s stock of bluefin tuna is approaching extinction. And it is appalling to see Japan actively promoting bluefin fishing (and the Japanese blithely savoring their toro sashimi). Sure, eating toro might be integral to Japanese culture, but cultural practices do not trump our universal human responsibilities. (And I’m Japanese.) Reading the article (and the comments), I contemplated my decision last December to stop eating fish. In the past six months of vegetarianism, I’ve rarely, if ever, craved fish … Continue reading Give me one reason… to eat toro