Monday, April 18, 2011

Minneapolis trip report/yoga class review, and the elusive durian

This past weekend, I was visiting in Minneapolis for the weekend. Here are some highlights from my trip.

First, I attended a couple of classes at the Yoga House. I went to two classes there: Saturday morning's led primary, and Sunday morning's Moon Day class. The studio is located on the second floor of a strip mall, and is small and cozy. The practice room has a statue of Ganesh at the front. Ganesh, as many of us know, is the Remover of Obstacles; a very apt deity to have on your side when doing something as demanding as Ashtanga practice :-)

When I went to the led primary class on Saturday morning, the teacher leading the class asked me if I have done Ashtanga before. For some reason that I don't totally understand, I was kind of caught off guard by the question, and simply answered yes. I've always fantasized about giving some totally outlandish answer, or even pretending that this is my first Ashtanga class ("Wow, you bound both sides in Mari D... and this is your first class?"), but I never seem to have the presence of mind to be able to give such an answer at the crucial moment, so I always kind of waffle a little, and then say yes.

The led primary was very nice. This teacher seems to be "old-school": She does 5 Surya As and 5 Surya Bs (as opposed to Sharath's 5 As and 3 Bs); which suits me perfectly, because that's how I do it in my home practice too (I'm also old-school in this way). I feel that those two extra Surya Bs really do make a difference in opening the hips and building up precious internal heat. When it came to Garbha Pindasana, she also does nine rolls instead of five. Since I have become so used to doing five rolls, I actually completed the circle in five rolls, and spent four extra rolls simply rolling back and forth in the same position. Which is actually very therapeutic for the back :-) I also got a few useful adjustments in one of the first few downdogs of Surya A, as well as Janu Sirsasana A and C.

The Moon Day class was... interesting. Even though it was supposed to be a Moon day class, it was in some ways more physically challenging than regular Ashtanga practice. Basically, we did primary series, with a few modifications, and  with some second and third series postures thrown in for good measure. Here are a few of the interesting modifications from primary:

(1) In Surya B, instead of holding downdog for 5 breaths, we have the option of doing Vasisthasana (side plank) for five breaths on the side of our own choosing.

(2) Instead of doing all five navasanas in a row, they are interpersed throughout the practice, so that in some postures like the Janu Sirsasanas, instead of doing vinyasas between sides, we do navasana between sides. In the fifth navasana, the hands are in reverse namaste on the back instead of being extended forward.

(3) From Triangmuikapada Paschimottanasana, lift the heel of the extended leg off the ground, and go into Krouchasana for 5 breaths. 

(4) Instead of doing the usual progression from Mari C to Mari D, the two postures are kind of interposed together. Here's how: First, you go into Mari C with the right knee bent. Hold for 5 breaths. Then bring the bent knee into half lotus, bend the extended leg, and go directly into Mari D on the other side. Do a vinyasa, go into Mari C with the left knee bent. Substituting "right" for "left" and "left" for "right", repeat the same thing on the other side.

These are interesting variations, and are quite creative too (especially (4)), but I probably won't do them regularly, because I'm too much of an Ashtanga purist. Besides, I don't know if there can ever be a creative variation that gets you into kapotasana more... creatively :-)

Overall, I highly recommend the Yoga House. If you are ever in Minneapolis, you should definitely check it out.

In other news:

(1) While in Minneapolis, I stumbled upon the highly elusive tropical fruit known as durian in a Vietnamese supermarket on Nicollet Avenue. (Claudia: I found it!) The durian is a highly divisive fruit. It emits a distinctively strong and penetrating smell; some people regard the durian as fragrant, while others find the same aroma overpowering and offensive.

As somebody who grew up eating it, I enjoy it a lot. However, others do not share my opinion. For example, according to Wikipedia, chef and author Anthony Bourdain describes the fruit thus: "Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother." Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says, "its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia."

Of course, as they say, a picture says a thousand words. Here's a picture of the infamous fruit:

Picture taken from this website.

I thought about buying a couple of them, and bringing it up here to Northwest Minnesota, so that the locals can have a little, uh, cultural experience. But I thought better of it :-)

(2) Kino has very graciously posted my recent interview with her at her Richmond workshop on her website. It is titled "An Interview with Kino by Nobel on the first limb of Ashtanga Yoga, the Yamas, at Ashtanga Yoga Richmond." If you haven't already seen it, check it out.

That's all for now. More later.


  1. I've learned to keep my mouth shut if I visit another (non-Ashtanga) yoga studio. If I mention my teacher's place they go "oh Ashtanga huh?" and then proceed to try and kick my butt into submission. Just to show me that they too can be hard core if they want to...Exhausting! As a children we called durian smelly feet. Yum!

  2. Hello s.f., "If I mention my teacher's place they go "oh Ashtanga huh?" and then proceed to try and kick my butt into submission. Just to show me that they too can be hard core if they want to..."

    I know what you are talking about: This is a very interesting phenomenon. I have been practicing by myself for so long, I almost forgot it exists.

    So you are a fellow durian enthusiast? Very good, very good!

  3. Hi, Nobel. I just finished watching your latest interview with Kino. Fantastic discussion! Thank you so much for doing these. Your questions are thoughtful and Kino is gracious with her answers.

  4. Oh my God, you found it!!! and I was hoping the topic of conversation would never come up again!!!! oh dear oh dear... now I must look again, must put it in the to do list for next time I am at Whole Foods, they definitelly do not have it around here in Upstate New York, but maybe in the city....

    Great stuff on the interview! glad Kino shared it

  5. Thanks, Megan. Yes, Kino is definitely very generous with her time and gracious with her thoughtful answers.

    Claudia, hmm... now I don't remember so well, but was there something you said you were going to do if I found the durian before you did? :-) (Just kidding...)

  6. DURIANS! MY favourite fruit. I make durian cakes, durian crumble. We have durian ice cream, durian milk shake :)))

  7. Yes, yoginicory, I am familiar with all the above variations of durian :-). I am also from Singapore; I came to the U.S. for grad school in 2001, graduated with a PhD in 2009, and now teach at a university here in Minnesota. Durians are not native to this part of the world, so it is an event for me whenever I encounter them.

    I just visited your blog. Beautiful pictures.

  8. I'm so grateful for the cybershala that keeps us connected :)

    Thanks for your kind comments re: pictures. :)