A native of India, Ila Vidyarthi of Hanover is a woodworker, master yoga instructor and is working towards biking in each of the 50 states.
WHO: Ila was born in India in 1949 and at the age of 20, was married and came to the United States to start a life with her husband, who was employed as a chemist at Miller Chemicals Company in Hanover. She studied Civil Engineering, but never actually worked in the field.
“Society was different when I went to college 50 years ago,” Ila said. “In our days if we worked, it was saying to our spouse that what he was doing wasn’t good enough. Today it’s totally acceptable [for the wife] to work.”
So when Ila came to the United States, she took care of her home and raised her two sons who are now grown – one is a doctor and one is a lawyer. She has been married to her husband, Akshay, for 47 years and the couple remains very active in the Hanover community.
WHAT: As Ila was raising her sons, she took to wood working, first as a hobby. She said her father was a textile designer and created wood carvings as a hobby when she was a child. She learned the craft from her father and while her boys were in school, Ila worked with wood. She said today most of the furniture in her home has been hand carved by her. When her boys were grown and left home, Ila said she wanted to spread her wings as well.
“I had two choices,” Ila said. “I had started getting orders for my wood carving but that’s a hobby where you are really alone and I like people because we grew up in an open society where doors are open, windows are open, we were always chatting with other people.”
So she chose the more social of her two loves – yoga. Ila has been practicing yoga since the early 1960s. She started to teach friends in the early 1980s and five years later began teaching formal classes. A registered yoga teacher, she has racked up more than 2000 hours of formal yoga education in yoga practice, philosophy and psychology (most yoga instructors have 200-500 hours, according to Ila). Seven years ago she founded the Ahimsa Yoga Research Center, a not-for-profit organization in Hanover.
WOW: As if being a master wood worker and expert yoga instructor isn’t wow enough, at 67, Ila is working towards a goal of biking in all 50 states.
“Growing up in India, everyone had bicycles. We biked everywhere,” Ila said.
She started riding with a few of her yoga students who were into the sport and she decided to challenge herself to see, and ride in, all 50 states. So far over the past few years, she has biked in 28 states, with Louisiana being one of her favorite. She plans vacations around biking – like last year she went to Italy and biked 130 miles and prior to that biked around Germany.