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Archive for August, 2012

A Little Samba in Your Samadhi: Yoga Report from Rio de Janeiro

Meeting NYC Trained Yoga Nomands in Rio de Janeiro
Posted on Yoga City NYC July 19, 2012

In 2007, I did my own personal yoga tour of Brazil and found the scene so baffling and different that I put away my notebooks and never wrote a word about it.

This June I spent a month in Rio de Janeiro and found that things have changed—on the yoga front and beyond. Brazil is now a country on the rise, with a growing middle class, a stable economy, the World Cup coming in 2014, followed by the Olympics in 2016. (And, sadly for me, prohibitive New York City-level prices as well.)

While many Brazilian yoga teachers still consider India the go-to place to train, (and others, rumor has it, train themselves from DVDs), still others are starting to go to the US for training, or inviting US teachers to come south. In short, the yoga scene is growing up with a definite NYC influence.

Within a few days of arriving in Rio, I found a yoga teacher who not only trained in New York but whose class was the best I’d taken—meaning, best suited to my needs and interests—in a good long while, anywhere in the world.

Kimberly Johnson is a pioneer. A dancer, she found yoga at 19 with a Viniyoga teacher in San Diego, and did her first training at Om Yoga – during one of the studio’s inaugural trainings at the original 14th street location. Not only that, but Johnson has done regular trainings with Rodney Yee and was also one of the first teachers to graduate from Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. We had 27 Facebook friends in common.

Kimberly gives classes out of her apartment in the colonial neighborhood of Santa Teresa, set on a hill above Rio de Janeiro. She moved to Brazil for love and now lives here with her 5-year old daughter. Three times a week, I ran down the cobble-stoned streets to follow her precise instructions in English and Portuguese. The classes fit a maximum of 8-10 people in a parquet-floored salon where she also does Rolfing. Many of the houses in these neighborhoods were built centuries ago for rich merchants and French and Portuguese nobility, so above us hung blue and green-glass chandeliers.

One of my first times at Kimberly’s coincided with a full moon. Towards the end of an exacting class with long holds and repetitions of specific movements, Kimberly threw open the three-sided window that overlooked Guanabara Bay and the jutting stones of Pão D’Açucar and said, “Turn now to face the moon. We are moving through big changes as described in both the Vedic and Western astrology. So feel the energy in your nervous system and in your heart, and take courage from your practice.”

Through Kimberly I found what I’d begun to think was impossible: a Viniyoga-style group class that that challenged me physically and nourished me mentally. I also attended her first “urban retreat” that included a long walk in the nearby Tijuca forest where yellow-and-red striped toucans flew and adorable monkeys scampered in the palm trees.

Listening to Kimberly’s bilingual instructions also helped improve my Portuguese. And so when I went down from Santa Teresa to Ipanema in Rio’s Zona Sul (south zone), I was able to follow the instructions of another New York City-trained teacher, Coaracy Nunes.

Coaracy’s 7-year old studio, Blyss is distinctive in Rio—and in Brazil—for hosting a crew of international teachers as well as locals. Coaracy himself is a big-hearted guy who is in love with yoga, and especially the American yoga scene.

“In the US, it’s an open sadhana—but with concentration, focus, and knowledge. People here say, ‘I’m going to India to study.’ I say, go to a Yoga Journal conference! I’m a real fan of what’s going on in the US. It’s a beautiful mix of traditional and contemporary.”

Blyss is located on a busy street in Ipanema, just a few blocks from its famous beach, in a office building with other small health- and martial-arts studios. Its bright green walls and booming sound system make it a lively place to practice. Coaracy, whose NYC training consisted of attending at least 2 classes a day for 3 or 4 years at the old Jivamukti on 2nd Avenue, says his studio is in honor of the American scene. His teacher training is based on all the different styles of American yoga. He’s even hosted Krishna Das there for an intimate satsang.

“Yoga gives you a completely unfair advantage over other people—it gives you more focus, a healthier body, more presence. You can work longer because your back is happy. It gives you more energy and life. How can you not do it?”

Coaracy graduated from NYU’s Tisch School and works in interactive technologies to support the studio. When my bank card failed to dispense any money before his class, he happily hosted me anyway with the advice, “Don’t take it personally! It’s Brazil!”

Several blocks away in Ipanema, near Rio’s much-loved heart-shaped lagoon, is Joana Borges, a Carioca (Rio native) yoga teacher who works with a roster of private clients in their homes. She spent three months completing New York City’s Yoga Works teacher training after already studying with Brazilian teachers Marco Schultz and Pedro Kupfer, who are well-known in Brazil.

While at Yoga Works, Borges roomed with relatives in East Brunswick, New Jersey, and spent her down-time soaking in Manhattan’s yoga scene. Dharma Mittra, the Iyengar Studio, Laughing Lotus, Jivamukti—she tried to hit all the highlights.

“I loved New York City. The fact that you can go to a place with a lot of everything—good food, amazing yoga, jazz, theatre, dancing—whatever you want—was amazing for me. I loved being exposed to that culture and level of excellence.”

Borges, who sold her car in Rio to pay for her training in the US, discovered yoga at her gym while she was a young university student. “I was going to the gym to get curvy like the other girls. I was always so skinny. But then I found yoga and fell in love. I thought I was going into International Relations but instead I got yoga.” She is now starting a line of yoga clothing called Gam Yoga.

Returning up the hill to Santa Teresa from my explorations in Zona Sul, I felt fortunate to find yoga I really like in Rio. Often, it’s hard to find a class I really love, although curiosity (and need!) often takes me to local studios anyway. I still prefer to practice with the group and going to yoga is a great way to meet people. This time in Rio, it’s been a fun and interesting experience.

10 Can’t-Miss Snacks in Rio de Janeiro

10 Can’t-Miss Snacks in Rio de Janeiro
Posted on Fodor’s, July 11, 2012 at 5:02:08 PM EST

Bar food, street food, snack food, beach food—Rio de Janeiro thrives on snacks. And so will you, if you can find your way around the hundreds of the, at times, baffling options. Some foods will be easily recognizable, like empanadas (in Brazil called empadas) and churros. Others won’t resemble anything familiar, and will be made of things you cannot guess at. But that (and the fact that they’re delicious) is what makes them so much fun to hunt down and eat. Find your favorites and sample them at many, many locations city-wide. Trust us, every street corner has options.

Pão de Queijo

Literally “cheese bread,” these little balls of cheesy goodness are highly addictive. Made from yucca flour and several cheeses, they are best sampled hot from the oven, such as at the cafe Cultivar (locally known as Organico) in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa where they are made in several batches throughout the day so they are always fresh and incredibly delicious. They’re also vegetarian.

Insider’s Tip: Snacks sold in the subway are low quality—expect hard, dry, and flavorless foods. Purchase these only in moments of desperation!

Açai

Ah, yes the super-fruit. Made of a very bitter palm berry, sweetened to dessert-levels, açai has become popular in the US recently in everything from ice cream to moisturizers. In Rio, it comes in a heaping bowl or cup with granola sprinkled on top, either for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Rich in protein, fiber and vitamin E, it’s served thick and cold (and is also gluten-free and vegetarian), to be eaten with a spoon.

Insider’s Tip: Cariocas (natives of Rio) add lots of sugar to their fruits so ask for less if you don’t have a sweet tooth: “pouco açucar” (po-co ass-soo-car) means “just a little sugar.”

Pipoca

Brazilians have made an art out of popcorn. Vendors will usually have two options: salty (salgado) and sweet (doce). The salty can come with the surprisingly delicious additions of cheese or bacon depending on the vendor, so ask for options, or look for the strips of bacon in the popcorn itself. The sweet has caramelized sugar darkening the kernels, and some vendors have condensed milk available to pour on top.

Insider’s Tip: For a portion of both sweet and salty popcorn, ask for “meia meia” (may-ah may-ah), or half and half.

Pastel

A large envelope of pastry enfolds hot fillings like cheese, meat, shrimp, or a combination. Pasteis (the plural of “pastel”) can sometimes also come in smaller sizes, deep fried, with about 6 or 7 to a portion, especially in bars. Locals rave about the large fresh ones available at the weekend markets in the Gloria or Laranjeiras neighborhoods.

Insider’s Tip: Pair your pastel with sugar cane juice (caldo de cana) for a perfect hangover cure.

Coxinhas

Translated as “little drumsticks,” these salgados (savory snacks) feature a thick, tear-shaped crust surrounding shredded, spiced chicken. Done well, these snacks are deeply satisfying and highly habit forming. Eat them as is, or with ketchup or pimenta (hot oil or salsa). Great with cold chope (draft beer) or as an afternoon snack.

Kibe

Of Arabic origins, this savory finger food has a dark and crusty whole wheat outside and spicy ground beef inside. Darker than a coxinha, which is more golden brown, kibes make a nice variation in the afternoon snack rotation, and are much beloved by Cariocas.

Tapioca

Found at street vendors and in cafes, tapiocas are cooked right in front of you on a hot griddle come in sweet or savory flavors. Tapioca are poured onto a hot griddle and form a crust during cooking, that is then filled with such things as chocolate and banana or cheese and tomato. Flip it over into an omelette shape, and you have yourself a substantial snack. Can be vegetarian and gluten-free.

Insider’s Tip: Street food carts are everywhere in Rio but are especially concentrated around Carioca metro station in Centro (downtown).

Biscoitos Globo

These puffed mandioc chips, sold on the beach and at street vendors, are a tasty variation on potato chips. The mandioc, also a starchy tuber like the potato (and yucca), is light as popcorn, puffed into the shape of an innertube, and seasoned to be sweet or savory, as you like. Sold by the package, they don’t look at first like snacks, but you’ll soon recognise the yellow packages with either green or red lettering.

Caldinho de Feijão

It’s as easy as a cup of black bean soup. When you’re out late drinking chope (draft beer) or caipirinhas, or need an afternoon pick me up after sight-seeing, a warming caldinho does the trick. Thick and simple, it’s related to the much more elaborate feijoada, the national dish with a black bean stew at the center. This smaller version is often served at bars and will come in a coffee mug. It’s inexpensive, nutritious, and tasty.

Insider’s Tip: Vegetarians be warned: unless otherwise stated, soups will contain meat, even a simple bean soup.

Kebabs

Served on street corners near bars and at street sambas (impromptu samba gatherings), street kebabs usually consist of skewers of pork, beef, or chunks of sausage or chicken, grilled street-side and rolled in farofa (toasted manioc flour). Pratos, or small plates, will come with one or two skewers, a salad of chopped tomatoes and onions, and a mound of toasted farofa.

Insider’s Tip: Kebabs can become dinner, especially if you order a couple of plates. Order some and share them around with friends, old and new, as is the local custom.

For full photo credits see original article here.