Thursday, November 11, 2010

Update from Izzy

Now that you know about Ted's research, you may be wondering what I do all day. Well, I had planned on sipping sangria, going to cultural events and partying the whole time, but it hasn't exactly worked out that way.

 First and foremost, I am focusing on learning Spanish. My study of the language has come in fits and starts throughout my life, but now I finally have the time to immerse myself.  A copy of the latest edition of LaVanguardia and a cortado (espresso shot with a little milk, pictured below) has become an indispensable part of my morning. 

In addition to a daily Spanish class, I've had fun participating in intercambios, or "internet dates" as Ted calls them.  I meet regularly with my two "partners" and we take turns speaking in Spanish and English. (And for those of you who are curious about Catalan, it's the native language of the region and sounds like a mix of Spanish, French, and Portuguese. I've been picking up a few words here and there, but have decided to focus on Spanish before taking on another language.)

Also, I found an incredible circus gym that is completely free! You don't even sign a waiver to train. It's unreal. Nothing like this would EVER be allowed to happen in the States. Interestingly, the place is full of talented performers who know what they are doing and follow all the proper safetty procedures. In addition to the standard circus aparatuses, there's a flying trapeze rig, a tightrope, two trampolines, a teetotatter, a cloud swing and a perch. Wow.  

The Macabra has been a great place to meet people and pick up new aerial tricks.
One of my favorite experiences was discussing the technicalities of Russian versus French style beats (swinging under the trapeze). I happened to study from a Russian teacher in San Francisco, while my new pal from Argentina learned from the French. It's been a blast learning from each other.

Of course, I've also been doing lots of yoga, and it too, is very different here.
First, studios require that all students matriculate so there is no such thing as a "drop-in." As a result, students rarely miss a class and take their yoga very seriously.

I've also been shocked at how hard teachers are willing to push their students. The concept of "listen to your body" that is so prevalent in California yoga studios doesn't seem to resonate here. In a recent Hatha class, a teacher actually stood on my butt during Hanamanasana (the splits) and pushed my hips so far back during Halasana (plow pose) that I thought my neck was going to crack. It didn't. And though it gave me quite a shock, I survived and actually didn't really mind the pain. But it's nothing like what happens where I come from.

I've also been going to a Mysore studio to practice the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga, which I've wanted to do for a long time.

Ashtanga is a series of poses and motions combined with a particular breathing pattern, established by Pattabhi Jois in the 1930s.

It's a very different experience from most yoga practices in that students go through a pre-defined set of poses, at their own pace, with occasional adjustments from a teacher. If you are unable to do the poses in a precise manner and the correct sequence, you are asked to leave and come back when you know it! Although the environment can be intense, the sound of a full room of practitioners doing ujjayi breathing is extremely calming and meditative.

 My goal is to start teaching yoga in Spanish in January.

Finally, I am still working as the art curator for the Great Wall of Oakland, which has been a great opportunity to stay involved with the art world and maintain a connection with our old community.


  1. It all sounds great. Except maybe for the neck pain. Are there older folks in these yoga classes, ones just beginning? Re the circus gym, did anyone tell you about the PBS series on the Big Apple Circus? Pretty interesting. You might be able to watch it online.

  2. Thanks, Anita! I will check out the Big Apple PBS series.

  3. Can you have someone take a video of you at the circus gym? I'd love to see you there. Guess the Spanish aren't as litigious as Americans - fly the trapeze at your own risk, to say nothing of physical abuse at Yoga! Ouch.
    Miss you lots - hope to videochat soon. I hear you got to see your beautiful niece in real time. We can see why people get carried away with this "little princess" stuff!
    xxoo Miss you lots

  4. Hey kiddo

    I figured out how to post a comment. Great blogs


  5. "But it's nothing like what happens where I come from." Your quote, isn't that the greatest thing about travel!? Aside from the neck pain in your case. Much love!

  6. How are the beats different exactly?

    CC is having a furlough for the next two weeks due to cash flow sucks!