The yoga hand

The “yoga foot” has been much studied, taught, debated, and photographed. But what about the “yoga hand”? A few weeks ago, I was practicing yoga with my friend Sharmeen. She observed one of my standing poses and suddenly asked, “Why are your fingers spread apart like that?” Surprised, I exited the pose. “You mean like this?” Imagine fingers spread as if for Downward Dog. Since my formative years, yoga-wise, in late 1990s, I’ve typically spread my fingers in open-hand poses such as Urdhva Hastasana, Trikonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, and the Virabhadrasana family. The one pose for which I prefer closed fingers is Garudasana. … Continue reading The yoga hand

What it’s like at RIMYI (Part II)

Note: This post continues my “self interview” about RIMYI. Read Part I first. Was the student population diverse? Based on my unscientific observations during August 2014, the biggest contingent was from Italy. I met dozens of Italians and many British and French. I met a handful each from the US, Canada, and Japan, and others from Germany, Australia, Spain, Russia, Hungary, Hong Kong, Israel, Mexico, Singapore, Chile, Colombia, and South Africa. The Indian students were local, i.e., Indian citizens, mostly Pune residents. In terms of race/ethnicity, the majority of foreigners were Caucasian. There were some Asians and Hispanics; I saw no blacks or people of African descent. The gender ratio was relatively balanced, with about a 60/40 … Continue reading What it’s like at RIMYI (Part II)

What it’s like at RIMYI (Part I)

Since flying home two weeks ago, my temporary life in Pune already feels distant–long ago, far away, a parallel world that words cannot quite describe. Once back, my mind switched to the here and now, the immediate stuff of life. Sooner than I probably realize, my memories of RIMYI and India will grow fuzzy, however vivid they once were. People will stop asking me about my trip; I’ll stop thinking about it. Time marches on. So, before I forget, here’s a two-part post on “what it’s like” at RIMYI, dedicated to other first-timers. I’ll post the second half next week, so feel free to ask any burning questions before … Continue reading What it’s like at RIMYI (Part I)

Packing wisely

Before my nearly seven-week trip to Pune, Bombay, and London, I debated about luggage. Initially I planned to travel light: rolling carry-on, plus computer backpack and messenger bag. In chatting with colleagues, however, I decided to bring a 26-inch check-in suitcase. One friend always packs important items  such as survival tools in her carry-on bag, but checks in a suitcase stocked with favorite foods, such as Brazil nuts, and her OdorKlenz Sports which she can’t find in India. Others want luggage space to bring home yoga props, books, textiles, cookware, or souvenirs. I asked people, “Can I find rolled oats in Pune?” since oatmeal … Continue reading Packing wisely

London: civilization as I know it

I love London! On my first day, I was in fantasy land. How can streets and sidewalks be this clean? Where’s the garbage, poop, and unidentifiable muck? Why are cars stopping for pedestrians? Tap water is drinkable and power outages rare? In India I spent my final week in Mumbai. This city is incomparably larger than Pune–and urban life is amplified and multiplied. The noise, the air, the population, the traffic, the rain and wind and humidity! Since I stay with a friend, however, I was generally shielded from the struggles of daily life. Take food. I’ve raved about the cooking of Abelin, my friend’s wonderful housekeeper. She’s … Continue reading London: civilization as I know it

Odissi, Ganesh, and complexity of Indian culture

India has long intrigued the Western imagination. Ancient, colorful, and intense, it is a beacon to those seeking a place unlike anywhere else. People often rave about the country’s “exotic” culture and downplay its negatives, such as rampant corruption and abysmal infrastructure. But even the culture, as practiced today, is thorny. Here are two examples. First, on Ganesh Chaturthi, I was treated to a wonderful impromptu Odissi dance done for me. In Mumbai, Hemali Talsania, the Bravo Bombay tour guide I met in July, invited me to her home south of Crawford Market. Amid narrow, bustling lanes that confused even my cab driver, her house is an old, … Continue reading Odissi, Ganesh, and complexity of Indian culture

10 tips for touring Pune

During the first three weeks of August, I rarely ventured beyond the neighborhood around RIMYI. In the past week, I’ve gone shopping and sightseeing with Nana, a favored rickshaw driver who became my informal tour guide, insider source, and translator. Going around Pune, I noticed a few things (including this orange billboard featuring Mr Iyengar). 1. Large chain stores come with a price Large-scale retailers, such as The Bombay Company, are spacious, clean, and luxuriously air conditioned. Bear in mind, however, that you might pay higher prices and you cannot return or exchange purchases. (At Fabindia I was surprised that I … Continue reading 10 tips for touring Pune

What to do, where to go: further “adjusting” in India

RIMYI is closed until September. No more classes for us August students. Suddenly, the purpose of my trip, yoga, was gone–at least in the way I’d expected. At first I agreed to join my Canadian colleagues on a three-night trip to Ellora and Ajanta. That wasn’t my first inclination. I wanted still to practice daily, to be solitary, to go inward. I didn’t feel like embarking on a five-hour road trip twice in three days. I also wanted to head to Mumbai sooner, definitely before Ganesh Chaturthi. Still, I figured that I “should” go and see the caves. On second thought, however, … Continue reading What to do, where to go: further “adjusting” in India

Acquiring a taste for Indian food

In the past three weeks, I’ve eaten more Indian food than ever in my life. Truth be told, Indan was never among my favorite cuisines. Perhaps because I grew up eating Japanese food, I prefer lighter preparations, vegetables that resemble their original form, translucent sauces, and plain rice. Folks seem to gravitate toward unfamiliar cuisines just because they’re “different,” but to me that’s not enough. Then, in Mumbai, I was fortunate to stay with my friend Phiroze, whose housekeeper, Abelin, is a fantastic cook. Suddenly I liked Indian food–or, perhaps, homemade Indian food. Perhaps this conclusion would apply to any cuisine. Whether Chinese, Greek, Italian, Japanese, or Indian, native … Continue reading Acquiring a taste for Indian food

Glimpses of Mr Iyengar

In August 2012, I was chatting with a few friends about travel. Where are we going? Where do we want to go? I mentioned that I hope to go to India while BKS Iyengar is still alive. “How old is he?” Doug asked. “Ninety-four in December,” I said. When I explained the application process, which entails a waiting time of up to two years, Doug said, “Shouldn’t you be applying now?” His mom is elderly, and he knew I had no time to spare. Two years later, I finally made it here. And I might be unlucky in my timing. Mr … Continue reading Glimpses of Mr Iyengar