One Hundred Seventeen

IMG_3896A Year of Yoga: April 28, 2014

Pose: Runner’s Stretch or Intense Hamstring Stretch

Location: The Museum of Tolerance. Under the Triana Market, the remains of St. George’s castle is being excavated. This was the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition. The museum tells the stories of individuals who were victimized by the Inquisition. A basic idea of the Inquisition, was that everyone in Queen Isabela’s Kingdom was forced to convert to Catholicism. Anyone suspected of secretly practicing anything else (i.e. Judaism, witchcraft, etc.) were subjected to the Inquisition…which basically operated on a “guilty until proven innocent” system. Anyone accused would automatically be detained and given an opportunity to confess. If no confession was made, well let the creative violence commence. My favorite thing about this exhibit was the sign at the entrance. A rough translation is “These terrible things happened right here in our city. We should know about them and think about them”. Wise words.

Photography Credit: Brandon



One Hundred Six

IMG_5096A Year of Yoga: April 17, 2014

Pose: Cow Face

Sanskrit: Gomukhasana

Location: Near La Macarena church. Most of our day was spent driving back to Sevilla from Portugal. It was a pretty long drive but we arrived back in town just in time for the most important processional of Semana Santa; La Macarena.

Semana Santa in Sevilla is the biggest Holy Week in Spain and maybe even the Catholic world outside of the Vatican. Each church in the city is scheduled to bring our their icon/virgin at some point during the week and parade it through the city to the cathedral. The icons are carried on a platform with dozens of people underneath who have been practicing for weeks. They know every turn and how many steps they need to take. Over the past couple of weeks we have caught some of the rehearsal processions. Some of these churches have been parading their icons out each year for as long as 600 years. El Silencio, the oldest, has been going since 1340. La Macarena, the one we attended tonight, has been going since 1595. Most of the processions also include really cool brass bands playing somber funeral marches (Godfather status). Each processional also has their groups of religious brotherhoods that march before the icon. Some of them wear typical Catholic looking religious garb and carry different props (candelabras, crosses, thuribles, etc). Then there are the Nazarenos, wearing their pointy hoods (KKK took their uniform from this religious tradition). The people of Spain may have heard of KKK but to them these pointy hoods are symbolic of their Semana Santa tradition, not a symbol of hatred and violence. For me, it was a bit disconcerting and uncomfortable to see thousands of people walking around in these pointy hoods.

Thursday night is the biggest night of Holy Week. Many of the larger and more important churches begin their processionals at midnight or so and arrive at the cathedral at some point on Good Friday. La Macarena is the biggest of the biggest and we live a short walk away (we live in the neighborhood of Macarena after all). La Macarena virgin is heralded as the most beautiful of all the antiquities that parade through the streets. There is tons of T.V. coverage and since we got there early”ish” we had a pretty good spot. After we had been there about an hour or so, we looked behind us and couldn’t tell where the sea of people ended. After about 2 1/2 hours of thousands upon thousands of Nazarenos pouring out of the church along with a band and the first icon, they finally brought out the virgin. The crowd gets really quiet and then one person calls out “MacareeeeeeeNA!” And the crowd answers “Guapa!” They do this many times. After the virgin passes most people disperse. By this point it’s almost 3 in the morning. I read later that this procession takes 14 hours from beginning to end, which means they won’t arrive at the Cathedral until 1:00 or so in the afternoon.

This all sounds like a pretty crazy serious religious event. It is that but it also reminded me of the 4th of July. People brought chairs, beers, and were hanging out with friends and neighbors. Then for the 10 minutes the virgin is passing people are somber (some of them even cry), and then it’s back to the fun. Kind of like how  people get patriotic and somber (and maybe even cry) during the 10 minutes of fireworks accompanied by “Proud to be an American”.

Photography Credit: Brandon


Eighty Seven

photo copy 7A Year of Yoga: March 29, 2014

Pose: Handstand/Downward Facing Tree

Sanskrit: Adho-Mukha-Vrkshasana

Location: San Martin Bridge in Toledo, Spain. Today we took a day trip out of Madrid, to Toledo. Toledo was actually the capital of Spain for a long time and has a lot more history and charm than Madrid. I was not prepared for the breathtaking river town. Even though it was pouring down rain and part of our city tour was walking, it was beautiful and worth getting a bit wet for. Our amazing tour guide took us through the city to the Cathedral which holds a decent amount of art, including many works by El Greco. April 7 is the 400th anniversary of the painter’s death so the city was preparing to celebrate. Our guide gave us some interesting information about El Grecco including that he was extremely ambitious but also a bit defiant. Although he was required to paint what he was commissioned to paint by noblemen and the church, he found ways to do his own thing. After the cathedral we went to see this famous painting by El Greco (who lived in Toledo), which is housed outside the Cathedral. The painting was amazing but there were so many rude people pushing and shoving to get to the front. Our guide asked us to form a human wall and not let anyone past us so that she could point out some important information about the painting. She had 3 different people yell at her for this. But she handled herself with incredible grace, kept her cool, and still made sure we had a great tour. After El Greco, we visited the Jewish temple that is thought to be the oldest preserved temple in Europe. Toledo is famous for swords, marzapan, and El Grecco. I could do without a sword (although some of the students bought small daggers….?). We did enjoy the marzapan and El Grecco though! What a beautiful city. Make sure and visit the photo galleries which will soon have more photos of Toledo.

Photography Credit: Brandon



IMG_2508A Year of Yoga: March 22, 2014

Pose: One-legged crow, Flying crow

Sanskrit: Eka Pada Bakasana

Location: Somewhere in the lower Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain. I finally found some nature! This is what I have been waiting for since arriving in Spain. The Spanish Sierra Nevada is the highest mountain range in Europe, although it doesn’t hold a candle to our California Sierra Nevadas. Highest peaks here are around 10 – 11k. Not bad. Most of the higher elevations are still covered in snow, so we had to settle ourselves with a hike at around the 3 -4k level. To start the hike, we took a bus from Granada to the small mountain village of Guejar Sierra. From there we hiked up to the edge of town where the trailhead is. It was a gloomy cloudy day, but it didn’t stop us. The hike was about a six mile loop. For the first couple miles we basically climbed straight up; no switchbacks. Definitely tougher than I expected. Once we reached the top of the saddle we stopped and made a picnic lunch out of apples, olives, cheese, bread and beer. We also ran into a guy walking about 5 dogs and they were running all over. (Our family has a dog obsession). After lunch we continued on and found some old Spanish Civil War bunkers. For those that don’t know, in the mid 1930’s when Franco came into power, various revolutionaries fought a civil war (and eventually lost) against him. They hid out in the hills above Granada and we came upon some of the bunkers they used. Exploring these bunkers made me sad for the soldiers that fought for and lost control of their country to a cruel fascist dictator. While we had stopped off at the bunkers, we also were witness to a helicopter rescue of a man who had fallen and sprained his leg or ankle or something. His friends told us it wasn’t too serious but that he wouldn’t have been able to hike out. We all walked carefully after that though. The rest of the hike passed uneventfully except that it got a lot gloomier and mistier and we were all thoroughly cold and exhausted by the time we returned to Guejar. We had about an hour to wait for our bus ride home, so we found a cafe and enjoyed some cafe con leches (aka cappuccino) and chocolate waffles. We made it safely back to Granada after that and were all in bed early (by Spain standards). Can’t wait for more hiking in Spain!

Photography Credit: Lulu


Seventy Nine



A Year of Yoga: March 21, 2014

Pose: Tree with namaste variation

Sanskrit: Vrksasana

Location: Just one of the many incredible courtyards at the Alhambra in Granada. Today was excursion number 2 with the students. We boarded a chartered bus at 8am and set off on the 3 hour drive to Granada. I was especially excited because our family rented a kick ass loft and planned to stay in Granada until Monday in order to take advantage of our proximity to the Sierra Nevada mountains. (Just like in California!) Also, this is the first trip that we planned on our own. I love the excursions that have been planned for us, but it’s nice to have an opportunity to do something a little more our speed and style…(i.e. nature). But I’m on a tangent. More about Sierra Nevada in the next post. Today we explored the Alhambra. The Alhambra was originally a small fortress and then built up into an incredible palace by the Muslim kingdom back in the 11th and 12th centuries. We got a wonderful tour guide, Israel, to walk us through the grounds and buildings and give us a very detailed history lesson about Granada being the last Moorish stronghold in Andalusia, and how it was here that Queen Isabel finally won her war in 1492. The history is sad (like all wars) but the architecture is truly spectacular. For more pictures of this beautiful place, see the photo galleries.

Photography Credit: Brandon

Seventy Eight

A Year of Yoga: March 20, 2014

Pose: Side plank with tree variation

Sanskrit: Vasisthasana + Vrikshashana

Location: Real Alcazar garden. Today’s cultural calendar event was a visit to the royal palace in Sevilla. Concepcion (pronounce – Conthepthion) was our tour guide for the palace and was extremely knowledgable and kind. We started our tour in the newer buildings of the palace which date back to the 16th century. Yeah, those are the newer buildings. We went back in time seeing each part that was built prior to the one we just saw all the way back to 11th century Muslim architecture. Apparently the palace is the oldest one in Europe that is still currently in use by a royal family. (Yes, Spain has a royal family). The real gem of the palace though is the garden. Of course I am always more drawn to nature and the outdoors no matter how impressive the architecture is. These gardens are expertly manicured with lovely fountains and pools around each corner. There’s a garden maze and peacocks wandering around. We didn’t have enough time for me to wander and enjoy all it had to offer. Hopefully I will get a chance to come back.

Photography Credit: Lulu

Seventy Five



A Year of Yoga: March 16, 2014

Pose: Warrior 1 with eagle arms variation

Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana 1

Location: Just outside the Museo de Baile Flamenco. If you look up in the window you can see a cool flamenco poster. The streets here are so narrow it was hard to find a great angle. Tonight we had a cultural calendar activity. We got a private guided tour of the museum. It happens to be the only museum in the world dedicated to flamenco. We learned that there are many kinds of flamenco and each type is dedicated to a different emotion. Tango, for example, is about the emotions of passionate love and lust. We learned that although flamenco has been around for a long time, it didn’t gain any international attention until the 1960’s when some movies started featuring flamenco dancing. One famous flamenco dancer, Cristina Hoyos is the founder of the museum. The museum also houses a dance school and performs flamenco shows in the evenings. After our tour we got to see a show. It was definitely a touristy thing to do, but holy crap! I have never been so impressed with guitar playing, singing, and dancing. It is impossible to follow the rhythm of the clapping. It was a one hour show but I could have easily sat through several hours of it.

Photography Credit: Brandon

Seventy Three


A Year of Yoga: March 14, 2014

Pose: Reverse Triangle

Sanskrit: Parivritta Trikonasana

Location: The Mezquita in Cordoba. Today we went on a field trip to Cordoba. This was our first major excursion with the study abroad students. We got to the rendezvous plaza a bit early and got some café americanos, churros, y chocolate. FYI, if you’re ever in Spain, churros y chocolate, does not mean churros with chocolate. It means the restaurant serves churros and hot chocolate. They look like this.

The bus ride to Cordoba was about an hour and a half and was very beautiful. One thing we discussed on the ride was how in Spain there are no suburbs and no sprawl. A few minutes outside the city and the only thing to see was rolling hills and farmland. We did pass through a few small towns on the way but there is not much between Sevilla and Cordoba.

Like most towns in Andalucia, buses really can’t just pull up in front of your final destination because of how narrow the streets are. In Cordoba, there was about a half a mile of buses lined up down by the river full of tourists there to see the Mezquita…which of course, is why we were there too.

The Catedral de Cordoba (aka the Mezquita) was our first stop. As a part of the program we were provided with a private tour guide. The bummer was that the cathedral was unable to provide us with whispers. This meant if we wanted to hear Ana’s lecture we really had to try hard to stand close and pay attention. This proved difficult so I ended up only catching snippets here and there. But here are some things I learned about Cordoba and the cathedral:

1)   The Muslims arrived in Cordoba and proceeded to build the largest and most impressive mosque in the West. They used recycled materials from the Roman ruins to build. Mostly they took the old columns and reused them. If you look closely at photos, you will see that the columns are all different from each other. They are slightly different in height and design. Also important to note, (I think) is that the Muslims did not destroy the Roman architecture and buildings. The Visigoths had already done so by the time the Muslims arrived in Andalucia.

2)   Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together peacefully in this area under Muslim rule. Over a period of about 100 years, the Catholic Spanish monarchy took over more and more of the Muslim Empire. Ferdinand III re-conquered Cordoba in 1236 but thought the mosque was so beautiful that rather than destroy it he had it preserved and expanded. Newer parts of the building reflect renaissance, gothic, and boroque styles while integrating the existing Muslim structures.

3)   We also toured the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba and visited a Jewish Synagogue. All the synagogues were destroyed after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. We visited a synagogue that became a hospital. During the conversion they just built a wall over the Jewish parts of the building and they remained preserved for centuries. Centuries later, the hospital was being renovated and builders discovered the well-preserved synagogue underneath. It is one of only 3 medieval synagogues to survive in Spain.

So what I learned during my visit is that it is possible for multiple religions to live peacefully and respectfully together. I mean we are talking about the 3 major religions that have warred against each other for most of history.  The result of this kind of tolerance is an incredibly beautiful building that reflects all the beliefs and aesthetics of every group that has contributed to it.


A Year of Yoga: January 30, 2014

Pose: Upward Facing Dog

Location: Living Room piano. This piano was made in 1905. So it is well over 100 years old. We acquired it for free from a friend who works for an old church in Fullerton; the kind that had a piano in every Sunday school room. When the church was renovating they were getting rid of all these pianos and we were lucky enough to be the recipients of this beautiful piece of history. We planned for Lulu to take piano lessons on it. She took piano lessons for 2 years and from what I could tell she didn’t learn much. I don’t blame the piano teachers. She’s just the kind of kid that was less interested in the theory (she was also playing flute, guitar, and violin at the time). She wanted to be able to play the songs she liked. So she just basically figured them out. I do think the lessons were a good foundation because she is now the sort of piano player that sits down and figures out how to play a song and then nails it. I always wished I could do that. She plays show tunes, Adele, Taylor Swift, and whatever else 16 year old girls listen to….and sings at the same time. I plan to pass this piano on to her someday. I hope it stays in the family for another 100 years.

And that is my dog Princess Toph laying on my yoga mat making her first cameo in my Year of Yoga.

Photography Credit: Momo