Going “undercover” as a yoga student

Visiting San Francisco last summer, I took a few classes at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco, within walking distance from my friend’s house. “Have you done Iyengar yoga before?” a front-desk staffer asked me when I arrived. “Yes,” I nodded and smiled, but said nothing more. Away from home, I look for yoga classes not only to boost my practice,…… Continue reading Going “undercover” as a yoga student

On teaching teens

For four weeks last spring, I taught Iyengar yoga to 40 teenagers. All were academically gifted students enrolled in an early-admission university program. While a couple had done yoga in elementary school or with Wii Fit, most had never attended a single yoga class. Thank goodness they were split into two groups of 20. Teens, no matter how advanced academically, behave nothing like…… Continue reading On teaching teens

Have you ever cried in yoga class?

“I couldn’t stop crying in Savasana,” my friend Elaine once told me. She was struggling through a bad time and finally, in yoga class, she felt at ease. It was such a relief that she broke down. Yoga can catalyze emotions in people. I’ve witnessed spontaneous crying, during or after asana, most likely at all-day workshops. The…… Continue reading Have you ever cried in yoga class?

The humility to learn

“Do you still take classes?” a student asked, upon hearing that I’d be attending a weekend workshop. For a moment I was speechless. I can’t imagine ever not taking classes. I explained that most Iyengar yoga teachers continue taking classes and workshops (and, if possible, trips to RIMYI in India)–for life. That weekend workshop was taught…… Continue reading The humility to learn

A few quotes by Mahyar Raz

Describing a yoga workshop is daunting. Do I stick to objective reportage or do I share my subjective gut feelings? I won’t even try to describe Mahyar Raz’s workshop, but I’ll let her words (and she is not shy about sweeping pronouncements) speak for themselves: “You must feel the pose, in your muscles, in your body. Before,…… Continue reading A few quotes by Mahyar Raz

Where’s your psoas? Your sacrum? Your big-toe mound?

If a yoga teacher refers to your psoas, do you know what she’s talking about? The Iyengar method of teaching yoga is precise and detailed. Instructions are conveyed visually (through demos) and verbally (through words). Teachers sometimes discuss whether specific anatomical terms should be used. Is it better to say “hamstrings” or “back thighs”? Can…… Continue reading Where’s your psoas? Your sacrum? Your big-toe mound?

Knowing “who’s who” among yoga teachers

When I took my first yoga class in 1997, I had no idea who the “major” teachers were. I didn’t know what “Iyengar” meant and had to ask my first teacher, Sandy Blaine, to spell it. I met Sandy fortuitously since she then taught at UC Berkeley’s rec center (free classes for members!). But I…… Continue reading Knowing “who’s who” among yoga teachers

Mission control

Did you watch Felix Baumgartner’s 24 mile, four minute, 834 mph jump from a helium balloon 128,100 feet above Earth? Wow. My first reaction was vicarious terror. This guy is insane! This video shows him preparing to jump, guided by Joe Kittinger, age 84, a retired Air Force colonel who set the longest/highest/fastest skydive record…… Continue reading Mission control

Cell phones in yoga class? Are you kidding me?

Heard the one about the yoga teacher fired for enforcing a no-cell-phone rule in class? According to her post on elephantjournal.com (and the prior San Francisco Chronicle story), Alice Van Ness taught yoga at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Before class one day, she requested that students turn off cell phones. When she enforced this rule, glaring at a student…… Continue reading Cell phones in yoga class? Are you kidding me?

What professionalism means to me

A few months ago, I had a little falling-out with my massage therapist. While temporary and amicable, it made me consider the meaning of professionalism. I met “Jane” in early 2010, when I decided to treat myself to massage (among my favorite splurges). She had her quirks, but I appreciated her long experience, unpretentious personality,…… Continue reading What professionalism means to me

So many books, so little time

Vancouver’s indie Book Warehouse is closing its West Broadway location (sigh). All stock is discounted 25%. I was tempted by 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die*, a 960-page reference edited by Peter Boxall, English professor, University of Sussex. But the sheer number put me off. It’s probably impossible to read all 1,001 selections, but I…… Continue reading So many books, so little time