NIZHNY NOVGOROD: I was pretty surprised when Vlad told me that he gets up around to exercise at 6am in the center of Nizhny Novgorod with a group called Smile Team, which was formed a few months ago. He said he used to get up to do yoga at around 5am, but then joined Smile Team after accidentally meeting them one morning. But I was even more surprised when he told me that he was born and raised in Nizhny and has a job in town, yet lives in a hostel. He said he decided to rent out his apartment, which is only 100 meters from the hostel, so that he could have more money to enjoy life and work less. Vlad said that his father is currently in the midst of a long trip around the world. His father, who made decent money from his business, decided to take time off, transferring management to another person. Vlad, who works in marketing, said he wants to help change people's attitudes toward work and life. He says one of the biggest problems in Russia is that people aren't positive.
MOSCOW: Misha, 24, was sitting near a metro station eating a cheese sandwich, his foot scooter at this side. Misha said he grew up in the mining town of Norilsk in the Arctic, where he first studied martial arts. He said he was initially inspired by Bruce Lee, whose movies Misha watched. However, Misha said martial arts were wearing his body down and he switched to yoga. He said he taught about 50 people, adding that yoga isn't very popular in Norilsk. Misha sold his apartment in Norilsk last year and moved temporarily to Moscow to take a one-year yoga course. He hopes to move next to India to continue his studies.
IRKUTSK, EAST SIBERIA: The weather in Irkutsk on a recent weekday couldn't have been any grayer...and Sasha, 31, couldn't have been any more colorfully dressed as she walked through the city. With her maroon skirt, green leggings, purple socks, pinkish scarf and light green sunglasses, this Linux systems administrator stood out from the crowd. She said she was on her way to meet friends to 'celebrate' receiving her new passport post a divorce. I asked her about trends/developments in Irkutsk. Sasha said she has noticed more bicyclists around Irkutsk and plans to join them. She also said she noticed more so-called 'Yogis,' or or people leading a more healthy lifestyle. Her comments have confirmed the same trends in nearly every city I visited. Sasha said she is also interested in tattoos, has half her back covered in them and hopes to add more. She also dreams of visiting Chile.
‘Siberia’ and ‘Yoga’ are two words that don’t seem to belong in the same sentence, so I just had to visit a yoga studio in the provincial town of Chita in Eastern Siberia. There, I met Anastasia, a mother of two girls.
Anastasia said she wasn’t happy with her physical appearance after the birth of her second child, having put on some 10 kilograms. So, at age 30, she signed up for Yoga classes.
She hadn’t regularly done a physical activity since gymnastics some two decades earlier and, at first, she was frustrated. ”Initially, I didn’t like it. I said, this is boring. Why am I doing it.”
I remember how some friends in NYC changed their look and image rather substantially after one or two years after highschool...Anna, who grew up in a provincial Volga town, entered university as an architecture student in Sept 2013 with brown hair. By January 2014, she had black hair. By June, when I first past her at a bus stop, she was blonde with dreads and 'India-inspired' clothing. She said she was on her way to a weekend-long outdoor music festival and dreamed of visiting India. When I saw her again at end of 2014, she said she was taking time off from university, spending her days drawing India motifs and doing yoga.