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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Newcomer from India Surveys American Yoga

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 10:16 AM

First in a three-part series by Ruchika Rai

When I arrived in the U.S. last June, the first thing that fascinated and appalled me at the same time was this rampant brand of blatant consumerism. Not that I didn’t enjoy spending four hours window-shopping in Giant Eagle; it was a mind-numbing rush looking at tens of brands for something as basic as eggs or butter.

However, my austere upbringing back in India had sharpened my senses to this kind of pleasure. “What’s too good to be true is most probably an impending disaster,” opined my sixth sense, a voice that was soon debilitated by the other five senses.

However, nothing piqued my interest more than the practice of yoga in this country. In India, yoga is an integral part of Hindu culture and religion, more like a religious ritual for the body, like chanting slokas (prayers) for the mind/gods. It is also a community thing — something that everyone can afford because more than your ability to pay, yoga is about the ability to save yourself from disillusionment by worldly traps.

But now I am in Pittsburgh and here for good. After satiating myself with newfound recipes like hot dog (with extra mayo), burgers (and large fries), and fruit smoothies, I started to ponder a reliable fitness regime.

I went online and typed “yoga in Pittsburgh.” Yoga, it seems, has become as commercialized and transformed as as everything else by the ethic of consumer choice. There were some hilarious versions like black yoga (blaring death metal — so much for peace of mind), mommy-and-me yoga (for new mothers) and chakra yoga. (The latter sounds to me like an effort to process yoga — isolating one of its essential components for immediate results, perhaps.)

However, nothing caught my attention more than hot yoga, which is much popular amongst yoga enthusiasts in the city. I had already received recommendations from two of my friends about this particular form of yoga. By divine intervention I also happened to find a Groupon deal for two-month trial classes, priced at a feasible $40. Without wasting another day I booked myself a coupon and landed up at the yoga studio.

Tomorrow: Hot Yoga

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