Nine signs that I’m in Hilo, my hometown

1. A Hilo downpour There’s nothing like falling asleep to the loud drumbeat of a Hilo rainstorm. In a downpour, you’d be soaked in a minute. When I moved to Vancouver, I was a bit disappointed with the misty drizzle, blowing into my face and frizzing my hair, lacking the satisfaction of palpable pounding raindrops. Since Hilo’s average annual rainfall is 130 inches, people assume that it’s raining all the time. But Hilo’s showers alternate with brilliant sunshine. Big rain, big sun. No wishy-washy weather here. 2. Using the human bank teller Living on the mainland, I use ATMs almost … Continue reading Nine signs that I’m in Hilo, my hometown

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 hours and hours of yoga, the divergence from routine, somehow trigger emotional release. I myself can’t recall ever crying in class. For me, yoga has the opposite benefit. Asana (even a strenuous session) calms my mood swings. If I’m on the verge of losing it, yoga steers me to a … Continue reading Have you ever cried in yoga class?

Home practice in my hometown

Flying into Hilo, my hometown, two weeks ago, I gazed out the airplane window. An endless, supersaturated palette of green, along the Hamakua Coast. While much of the world, including California (my subsequent stomping ground) is suffering from drought, Hilo has had over 12 inches of rain in the month of April alone. The aerial view was striking. What a vast bountiful island. So much undeveloped land. Still a chance not to ruin it. I thought to myself: I’m lucky to have grown up here. I didn’t always appreciate Hawai‘i, not enough anyway. One of my worst habits is not appreciating what I have–in the moment. Only afterward does it hit me. Maybe I … Continue reading Home practice in my hometown

An Iyengar yogini in a flow yoga class

During my Lonely Planet research trip to Hawaii, I dropped on 75-minute classes at two Hilo studios: Balancing Monkey and Yoga Centered. Neither offers Iyengar yoga , but one teacher’s bio mentioned that she’s in training for Intro II certification. Curious, I attended her “basics” class–and a half-priced “community flow” class at the other studio. Guess which is which: SEQUENCE 1 Sukhasana (on two adjacent blocks) Adho Mukha Virasana Spinal Stretch (to wall) Vrksasana (back against wall) Garudasana (legs only) Virabhadrasana I (front foot on two blocks stacked against wall) Parsvakonasana Dandasana (on bolster) Marichysana I (on bolster) Marichyasana III (on bolster) … Continue reading An Iyengar yogini in a flow yoga class

Hilo, my hometown

After a month on the road, I’m finally returning to Vancouver (and blogging). On leaving the island of Hawai‘i, here’s a shout-out to Hilo, my hometown. For a beautiful coastal town, Hilo is remarkably untouristy, thanks to its average annual rainfall of 130 inches (which doesn’t preclude lots of hot, sunny days, believe me). Among my favorite spots is playing in water with kids, getting on some of the best inflatable stand up paddle boards and letting loose! ( Wait that’s not a sport! )  Lili‘uokalani Park, a sprawling Japanese-style garden overlooking Hilo Bay. People come here to picnic, play with … Continue reading Hilo, my hometown

My love-hate relationship with structure

In early April, I visited my parents in Hawai‘i for a week. Ah, fresh Kapoho Solo papaya, my childhood bedroom, backyard orchids, pouring rain. (I love the drumbeat of raindrops at night.) I brought my computer and two books, but ended up doing only essential work and asana. Instead I switched to Hilo mode vis a vis my parents. One predictable thing at home is “the news”: In the morning they read the local dailies, Hilo’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald and the statewide Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Before they go to bed (and sometimes at dinner time), they watch local TV news. Don’t get … Continue reading My love-hate relationship with structure

Resurrecting my blog: inspiration from a cactus

I had high hopes to continue blogging during my Hawaii trip. Dream on. Lonely Planet assignments swallow me whole and, when I’m in Hilo, spending time with my parents is also top priority. In my Hawaii life (a parallel universe to my other life in Canada), sitting for hours at a computer seems incongruous. Even my sacrosanct asana practice has shrunk to a minimum, making way for people and places rarely seen. My blog readership is surely dwindling. Posts are the lifeblood of blogs, and I’ve ceased posting, despite a myriad of free-floating ideas. Can resurrect my blog by flooding … Continue reading Resurrecting my blog: inspiration from a cactus

Rainbow Falls then and now

Growing up in Hilo, Hawaii, I lived five minutes by car from Rainbow Falls (look closely and you’ll see why it earns its moniker). My parents would drive us there when off-island relatives came over—or when rainstorms produced a massive wall of crashing water. Both my mom and my dad were attuned to nature: they would notice when Mauna Kea was snowcapped, when cloud cover signaled rain, when the falls were a trickle or a deluge. But I was blithe. As a young adult, months, perhaps years, might pass between visits. I took Rainbow Falls for granted. When I became … Continue reading Rainbow Falls then and now

Yoga and hula

Growing up in Hawaii, all of us girls took hula lessons. But none of us considered ourselves “real” hula dancers. The serious dancers joined hula halau (schools), led by revered kumu hulu (hula teachers). And the top dancers view hula not as hobby but as lifestyle. Recently, I read “Aloha, Uncle” in the current issue of Hana Hou! and was struck by the parallels between yoga and hula. Not in the details, but in the attitude. The article honors the late George Na‘ope, a revered kumu hula who died last October at age 81. Etua Lopes, one of his students and … Continue reading Yoga and hula

The great outdoors

In January, Katherine, a student of mine, vacationed in Waikiki. Slender and fit, in her 50s, she’s an avid beginner yogi and wanted to find a convenient yoga class. While I’m from Hawaii, I have no firsthand knowledge of Waikiki yoga; she ended up trying Dennis and his Chocolate-Pineapple Sports-Yoga Studio. According to Katherine, the instructor is fluent in Japanese and targets Japanese tourists for his outdoor classes, on the sand at Waikiki Beach or on the lawn at Kapi‘olani Park. The day she dropped in on his “park yoga” class, the 15 or so other participants were Japanese girls; Katherine … Continue reading The great outdoors

In defense of race and ethnicity

Okay, that title is a red herring. But I’d like to add to my last post, in which I posited that race and ethnicity should not matter. I still believe that quick judgments based on those characteristics are wrong, whether when choosing teachers or friends or sushi chefs. That said, isn’t there something delightful about entering a 100% Japanese sushi bar? I love the “irasshaimase!” (“come in!”) from a kimono-clad proprietress and waitstaff and probably all the chefs themselves, clean-cut men, modest yet glowingly confident, with meticulous hands and supreme knowledge of all edible sea creatures. If you speak Japanese, you can banter … Continue reading In defense of race and ethnicity

Leaving and taking

Last spring, a young woman in my yoga class trekked around Mount Kailash. She and her husband practice Tibetan Buddhism and this was a big “pilgrimage” for them. I found out about her trip after class, when she gave our teacher a small stone, taken from the mountain. The student also reported that she’d deposited a lock of our teacher’s hair at the top of the mountain. Apparently, visitors typically leave mementos at a sacred spot up there: locks of hair, teeth, photos, loved ones’ ashes. Having never seen Mount Kailash myself, I wondered what is appropriate. Is it okay to … Continue reading Leaving and taking