Monday, September 22, 2008


I stumbled into the Young Library at UCLA, carrying two heavy suitcases of books to return. I stopped at the sofas near the issue desk.
"Are you English?"
The man addressing me in a loud voice had very few teeth, John Lennon glasses, and a long grey hair. He was slouching and his feet were on the small table in front of him.
"Are you English?" he asked again.
No, I'm not. But I live in London.
And where are you originally from?
"Ah, Israel..." he grimaced, emitting a sigh of obvious disgust.
Maybe he realized that was rude, because he then said
"But at least in some ways you're progressive, I hear you openly recruit gays to work in your MI5".
I replied that I deserved neither credit nor blame for the Shin-Bet recruiting policies.
"Of course not! Because you don't work for them, you work for the Mossad! Ha! Ha!"
He walked off pleased with himself, muttering long sentences to no one in particular.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

There's no place like OM

Having arrived to California, signing up in a yoga centre seemed inevitable. I took a 10-class pass and tried six different teachers. Yoga in LA is quite unlike yoga in London. Here are my conclusions:

Thank you (not) for the music - almost all the teachers arrive with their ipods and play music throughout the class. It ranges between new age chanting with electronic drums in the background, sanskrit mantras in an American accent - all the way to James Blunt "You're Beautiful", which really felt like an aerobic class. Most horrible is music during the final relaxation pose, shavasna - it's the "corpse pose", damnit, and corpses don't have i-pods.

Chanting - all classes involved at least three OMs in the beginning and end, but some went further to chant long mantras. I am not especially fond of chanting, especially in a language I do not understand. I did notice however that my OMs in the end of the class were far deeper and longer than the ones in the beginning. I guess I got into it.

Yoga and capitalism - how can a system of thought and activity preaching wholeness, equanimity, and detachment from the material life, be so popular in the motherland of greed? On the face of it there is a contradiction there. One teacher described her former life as a TV producer and how now she found peace in her body, escaping the race of ambition and achievements. But I think that on some level there is no contradiction. The new-age super-individualistic focus on self-fulfillment sits well with both Yoga and late capitalism. As one yoga teacher said at the end of the class: love yourself, so others can love you as well.

You can see that I found much to object to, but still I had to admit at the end of each and every class that the teachers were professional and excellent. Anyone doing yoga knows that the class depends on the teacher, and all of them maintained good flow and attention to the students.