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lundi 15 novembre 2010

Yoga in Cuba

Meeting with a Remakable Yogi in Havana, Cuba

A line from Pablo Neruda’s poem always sticks in my mind when I am in La Habana, Cuba. In it the poet points out to the tenacity of the growth of a vine in the midst of destruction of the wall from which it sprung. To see the beauty of such perseverance in front of such difficulties of growth, and I always feel good reading that line.

In Cuba, I am given the chance to enjoy such beauty in many of the unexpected encounters. When I arrive in Havana, my agenda is open since I know that many unexpected pleasures await me, usually in the form of persons who are connected to the same universe that I am connected to, even though my Passport has a different colour.

That line from the poet reminds me that in Havana, there exists a humanity which like a vapour is present but evades vision and inspection but requires much deeper involvement.

Yoga was introduced to Cuba, soon after the independence of Cuba at Santiago de Cuba where there is a suburb named after the Yoga centre which used to exist there. There is branch of the Theosophical Society and Self Realization Society as well as a branch of the Yogananda Society.

Unlike the recent increase worldwide in Yoga, Cuba had maintained an interest in Yoga and once again that interest existed almost in a subterranean sense, you really had to search for it. Currently there are at least three places to learn Yoga in Cuba and the most popular (currently with 108 students) and the longstanding one is the one run by Maestro Eduardo Pimental.

A practitioner for more than 40 years, MEP, has had the chance to visit India twice and take a teachers training course at the oldest Yoga Institute in India at Santa Cruz, Bombay, he had chances to visit various Ashrams and Sivananda Swamis disciples and the places of Yoga therapy throughout India. He had received intense training in various forms of Yoga: Iyeangar for example but it is Hatha Yoga that he prefers and practises.

How I met MEP is itself is rather curious. I am reminded what my Meskwaki teacher once told me: Stop looking for people, those who you need to meet will come your way. Without doubt, Maestro Eduardo Pimental is among them.

My colleague at the University of Havana, with whom I have long standing collaborative efforts in the field of Medical Anthropology was waiting for me at the front of the building that houses the dept of Philosophy the other day. The first thing I noticed about her was that her face had a rejuvenated look as if one had gone to a Spa or to a Cosmetic Surgeon in Rio de Janeiro (both of which is beyond conception in Cuba). I kept on asking her, tell me what has happened in your life, your face tells me a story. After a little hesitation, she said, I have been attending Yoga classes for the last two months. She mentioned the name of Maestro, and I immediately recognized the name as his name is prominently displayed in the website of Embassy of India in Cuba. I wanted to meet him and sent my card with my colleague to present to him on her next visit. He was very interested after seeing that I was an Anthropologist since he had longed for a long time to learn the tools of anthropology which would help him understand the society a little bit more and of course help him put Yoga in context of the society. As Merleau-Ponty had put it: without context things have no meaning.

I called him and accorded him the respect of a person well travelled and who had dedicated his life to the service of Yoga and humanity. Our conversation over the telephone went off on a good note and we had a good conversation and made plans to visit the next day.

I had already a copy of his book Prana, Mantra and Kundalini Yoga published in 2009. Before I left to see him at his home, I was looking through his Yoga experiences and was quite impressed with the range of them: From Rodney Yee in California to Sivananda Ashram in Pune and Ramakrishna Mission. Thus prepared well to meet this person already a remarkable Cuban in my esteem, we knocked at the door of his house and a man with wavy white hair with a joyous face opened and smiled with a perfect welcome.

For the next hour and half we talked about a variety of subjects which spanned the globe and themes were all universal in nature. His genuine nature let alone his expertise in Yoga was evident and in fact was radiant in his joyous face. He is a walking testament to the goodness of Yoga.

He has finished the manuscript of his book on the Matrix of Yoga brining in Baghvad Gita as well as writing an extensive history of Yoga in Cuba. I hope to read it when it is published.

His erudition shows in the book of his I have with me. This book is not a cook book on Asanas or glossy interpretation, usually superficial, of the new age gurus that are are sprouting like Experts in Diabetes all over the world.. (mm ..nice to call the charlatans of the world of Diabetes as the glossy superficial new age interpretors of an ancient disease! That thought just occurred to me as I was writing this). The book is not an easy read and needs your concentration as he was correlating the science of the likes of Einstein with pronouncements in Rig Veda about the unity of creation and energy that exists in the universe as the result of the Big Bang of creation.

I was genuinely happy to have this friendship. He attests to the fact that there are remarkable people all over the world. I was reminded of what Rabindranath Tagore once said: What a Blessing to have been born in this land!

What a blessing is Cuba for me, how much good wishes go with me, to fuel my desires for the people I am able to assist, whether in Malaysia or Vietnam or among the Indigenous peoples of the world. Thank you Maestro EP, for transmitting such a fire to me. I am grateful that there are people like you in this world..

Contact information for Hatha Yoga in Havana

Telephone: 53 7 8709237