Monday, June 20, 2011

I am gradumacated!

As I sit here writing this, *not* in the Radisson LAX for a change, I'm still not quite sure if I believe that I did all that.  How did I get from start to finish?  It's very surreal, dream-like, and hard to imagine that my body and mind were able to pull through such a challenging process and make it out the other side with all my limbs still attached to my body and my spine not broken in half from all the back bending.  Never has my body been stronger than it is right now and my mind... well, that's anybody's guess really.  I think it's doing ok but only time will tell on that count.

Just recalling my last post there and I should probably give a brief account of the pain that was and then wasn't.  After last week I was sure my final week of training was going to be a test of my patience and control of my ego.  The pain in my abdomen was so intense that I didn't see how I would make it through those last few days.  So Monday morning, I carefully worked through class and was shocked to find that the pain was gone.  Completely!  Things continued to improve through the week until my accumulated pains and injuries from the previous eight weeks worked themselves out somehow so by the end, I was fairly pain-free.  The process was nothing short of miraculous.  There's my pain lecture done.  Not as engaging as Emmy's but it's all I got.

Dr. Das and Stephen R.
Week 9, final week in the torture chamber.  Everyone was riding a high all week long and counting down the number of classes until we would say goodbye to the ballroom/hot room/room of many small and painful deaths.  Our lectures were outstanding this week starting with Dr. Das who is Rajashree's teacher and a specialist in therapeutic yoga.  Still not entirely sure what that means exactly, but he discussed the Indian approach to healing maladies of the body, mind and spirit.  A core belief of his is that disease is primarily caused by stress (physical, mental, spiritual) and can be cured by alieviating that stress through breathing, yoga postures, and a variety of other "prescriptions" that do not involve medication.  And what a lovely, well spoken, patient man he was.  He didn't look his age at all (64!) and I doubt if he was taller than 5'2". 

Demonstration Group Spring 2011
Monday night I had the most amazing experience.  After our evening class I came back to the hot room to try out for the demonstration team in front of Bikram himself.  And somehow I made it!  So did my roommate Adrienne (no real surprise there since she's a rockstar)!!!  This meant that I had the honor of performing with a group of fellow trainees during the graduation ceremony on Friday.  The routine was a super short version of the class, 26/2, with a little choreography and set to music.  But it was such an honor and privilege to perform in front of my entire graduating class, their families, Bikram, Emmy, visiting teachers, etc etc.  I knew I had a strong practice by the end of training, but never imagined doing anything like that!  For the rest of my life I'll never forget that experience - what a great and totally unexpected way to end my training!  And for the record, I believe I was the sole female representative of the over-30's in that group.  Seriously, if all those ladies were spring chickens then I was mother goose. 

So many half moons!
In addition to the incomparable Dr. Das, we had a lecture on bone density and a study that is currently in preliminary stages to study how Bikram yoga can help both pre- and post- menopausal women gain and retain bone density.  I believe the woman giving the presentation was from USC or UCLA (can't recall which) and apparently her lab did some preliminary testing of about 12 trainees at our training before we started to find out how our training process effected bone density.  The next training they're hoping to recruit more participants to do a much larger-scale study. 

On Tuesday night we were the lucky recipients of the long-awaited lecture by Bikram himself about the postures in the beginning sequence, the 26/2.  How amazing to be able to ask questions to the individual who put the postures together in this order and who trained for much of his life under a highly respected guru, an expert in these postures.  We only got as far as Balancing Stick though, and the second part of this lecture didn't occur until the very last day, Thursday, and was I think the longest lecture I've ever sat through.  It went from 12:30pm - 6pm.  Epic. 

What about 5pm class, you might ask?  All of our families and friends who came to take that last class with us were asking themselves the same question.  All through training yoga class started at 8:30am and then again at 5pm.  No variation save an occasional late start due to teacher tardiness.  But Bikram is the boss so if he doesn't want to break his flow for class, nothing in heaven or earth will get him off his track.  So our very last class of training began at 7pm and the poor folk who arrived for the 5pm had to sit around and wait until he was good and ready to teach it.  Sigh - only at training.

Right after last moment of last class
Other highlights of the week: Wednesday we were treated to an advanced class demonstration with competitors and champions punctuated by the slapstick antics of Bikram and Emmy at the front of the class.  It was incredible to see what these people can do with their bodies.  Equally amazing was hearing Emmy verbally abuse Bikram and otherwise observing their dynamic together.  I might just have to take advanced class at HQ so I can experience it firsthand.  Thursday afternoon Rajashree completed her lecture on the medical benefits of the postures with last year's champion Brandy Lynn Winfield as the demo body.  Amazing.  Thursday night Bikram kept us up fairly late (2:30am) with lectures, wrap-up, etc.  Friday morning I took class in HQ for the first time along with a bunch of the demo team, just to get warm for the graduation performance.  That was amazing, saw some hilarious, ancient photos of Bikram and Rajashree on the walls of the studio.  Friday after graduation was a lovely party complete with Indian buffet (they didn't run out of food this time) and a lovely celebration.

Rajashree and Brandy - Beautiful Bow
And that's it.  Done.  It will take many months to really digest everything that happened during these last nine weeks.  I have absolutely no regrets about this process, despite all the hardships, injuries, and numerous milligrams of ibuprofen I had to take just to make it through the damn classes.  I killed a 100 tablet bottle plus a few spare from my roomie during the nine weeks.  Such a transformative process that it's hard to make any kind of complete summation now that it's done.  So many stories, jokes of questionable taste, friendships, tears, so much laughter, stress, sleep deprivation, hugs and kisses... It was like living a whole lifetime in nine weeks. 

So to close out this blog, I'll quote my guru in one of his more eloquent and less explosive moments, a statement that was reprinted on our graduation program:

"It is my greatest dream that the whole world experience the healing and self-realization that the practice of yoga offers, thereby improving the quality of all human life and shaping the promise of a brighter tomorrow for those who would see its dawn - our children" -Bikram Choudhury

Do you get my point, yes or no?

Now toes on the line.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

And push and push and push...

I was all set to begin this post by describing in great detail the frustrations I'm experiencing as a result of a severely pulled muscle, possible hernia, in my abdomen.  Translation: The last few days of training I will be flat on my mat for most of class thereby totally wrecking any of the beautiful momentum I was looking forward to during the homestretch.

But instead of feeling sorry for myself, maybe it's more important to focus on some of the great experiences I've had during Week 8 and concentrate on finishing training with mental strength if not necessarily physical strength. Just as soon as I can stop crying about it, that is.  Wah.

Monday morning all of us trainees were fairly apprehensive about what was in store for us after that killer Thursday/Friday/Saturday set of classes at the hottest temperatures I've ever experienced in a hot room.  Not to mention the looooooooooonnnnngest classes (most were at least 2 hours long).  However it seems that the Powers That Be were satisfied that we'd all been sufficiently broken and were now set to put us back together again and make us even stronger than we were before.  The heat this week wasn't totally unbearable and only a few classes went to the 2 hour mark.  That's a win as far as I'm concerned.

Share your voice, Mishon
This week has been simultaneously mellow and meaty as far as lectures are concerned.  On Monday evening, while waiting for Bikram to arrive, our lovely staff all shared their experiences becoming teachers and teaching their first class.  It is wonderful, hilarious, and inspiring to hear so many different paths that people have taken on their way to becoming Bikram Yoga Teachers.  Our staff rocks.

The next night, I think (the days tend to run together in a disturbing fashion around here) Sharon was killing time again and Adrian boldly asked how she and Balwan met.  And fair play to her, she told the story in an entertaining, endearing, engaging, and true-to-her-Irish-heritage fashion.  It was lovely and a welcome change from the routine of class-lecture-class-lecture.

How they met - Awwwwwwwwww
Wednesday we were fortunate to have a lecture by Brian Tracy, a PhD in exercise physiology, come and talk to us about a study he and Cady Hardt performed about the effects of Bikram Yoga on non-yoga practitioners.  The paper is called "Yoga as Steadiness Training : Effects on Motor Variability in Young Adults" and was the first empirical and purely scientific study, Western-Style, that we've had presented to us while here at training.  It was a great presentation, very informative, and accompanied by a very thorough and clear powerpoint presentation.  Thanks Dr. Tracy!!

That same night Bikram decided that we absolutely could not graduate from his College of India without watching the four episodes of the Mahbharata that comprise the epic conversation between Arjun and Krishna while hovering on the edge of an important battle.  This section is called the Bhagavad Gita and is a humungously important sacred text for Indians as well as a number of Western intellectuals.  It essentially outlines the philosophy of Karma Yoga and the importance of detaching from material and purely physical concerns in order to perform our predetermined earthly duties. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that we all would have been far more receptive to watching it if only it didn't have to last four hours and keep us up until 1am!

Arjun and Krishna laying down the law
Now the really exciting part, the culmination of these four episodes full mostly of TALKING, the moment when Bikram yelled at all the sleepy trainees to wake up, was when Krishna revealed his Universal form:

Skip ahead to 1:07 for the good stuff.  How about those special effects!! I think they ripped some of the audio samples straight from the classic arcade game Space Invaders.  I don't hold it against them, though.  They probably blew their budget on the fancy costumes and all the other bling that went into the production of this thing.

Thursday daytime we were lucky enough to have Rajashree do her lecture on the postures and their medical benefits.  We only got through the standing series so will have her again next week for more.  The lectures this week have been much more in tune with what I was hoping to learn during training so I've been grateful for the new tack we've taken.

Thursday night was another late night of Bikram lecturing until 2am, but by some miracle we had Friday evening completely off!  So there's Week 8 done, think I hit the highlights.  Not feeling quite as sorry for myself as I was at the start of this post.  Just got to concentrate on finishing as strong as my body and mind will allow.

Smiling, sleepy, happy faces.  Let's keep it up!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Not to discourage anyone from doing this, but...

I don't want to sound too disparaging for anyone who might read this blog in the hopes of learning a little about teacher training before attending.  However, I must make some small commentary about tonight's class.  It was ridiculous, dead meat, too hot for words and we all died.  Every single one of us.  Part of this may have to do with the fact that teachers arrived to do their recertification and tonight, Friday, was their first class as part of their process.  It started looking rather dim for us trainees when we were forced to squish together on lines 4-10 to allow the teachers to line up on 1-3, per Bikram's request so he could "see their practice".  I don't think anyone was actually able to practice  tonight, however, as we were all either passing out, throwing up, or being assisted out of the room to pass out and/or throw up.  Forgot to mention that class ran from 5pm-7:15pm.  90 minute moving meditation?

My mom is in town and she practiced with us Thursday night with Jim Kallett and Friday night with Bikram.  I'm proud (and a little embarrassed) to say that she was tougher than me in both classes.  She's the best.

Me and Mom in the hot room!
 After the Friday night survival session (aka yoga class) with Bikram, we had an amazing pizza party and disco dance party attended by Bikram himself.  He is quite the dancer.

Boogie down with Bikram

I'm still not sure how anyone had any energy left after staying up Thursday night until 4:30am watching the Hindi movie with Bikram.  We were treated to a "this movie is only two hours long" movie that began at 1:00am.  Why do you lie Boss?  It was called Kabhie Khushi, Kabhie Gham..., which translates to "Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness" and it co-starred the dreamy Hrithik Roshan.  If Bikram insists on keeping us up late to watch these movies, the ladies certainly appreciate the eye candy.  Thanks Boss!  Seriously, this guy appears in pretty much every film we've seen so far, except The Mahabharata.  Probably he was just a little too young, otherwise he would certainly have been in it at some stage.  Nice.


Hrithik Roshan - Dreamboat

I am officially done presenting postures.  Somehow I made it through everything up to Spine Twisting, posture #25 and the final breathing exercise, #26, I have to learn on my own.  Now all I have to do to be ready to teach my first class is learn both breathing exercises, all of the second set and second side dialogue, and review all the postures to the point where I can say them all one after the other.  For 90 minutes.  Wow!!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Week 7 begins with an early night???

Despite everyone's trepidation about the start of Week 7, and Bikram's promise that he would be present for *all* three remaining weeks of our training, we are somehow done for the evening at the mindblowingly reasonable time of 10pm.  Can you believe it?  We had a lecture tonight from a reproduction expert, Dr. Choudhury.  Not quite sure how this relates to our training, but it was a nice change of pace from back-to-back posture clinics.

Speaking of which, I'm realizing that I've been delinquent in my blogging duties during Week 6.  Not a single entry last week and this is due entirely to the fact that our posture clinics were severely ratcheted up in intensity and frequency all last week.  Monday, Tuesday and Friday were double posture clinic days.  In real time measure, this means 12:30pm-4pm and then again 9:00pm-11:30pm or later.  My group clicked through from Cobra through to Half Tortoise (that's 6 postures!).  It was exhausting and I have no idea how we learned all those postures so quickly.  Wednesday and Thursday we had a brief respite from the frenetic pace when Dr. Jon Burras came to discuss fascia (the Rodney Dangerfield of the medical community - i.e. gets no respect) and the way that emotions and experiences remain within the body years after traumatic events.

Self portrait in the yoga room
 I am grieved to report that my back pain has not yet subsided.  I've been plagued by this stupid pain, in some form or another, since around Week 2 and last week it reached a critical point.  After morning class on Tuesday, out of sheer desperation, I called my trusty massage therapist and booked an appointment for that evening at 7:30, thinking for some reason that posture clinic would start a 9:30.  I blame the incredible pain for my confusion because I don't think posture clinic has ever started any later than 9pm.  So the whole day I was somewhat preoccupied thinking about the logistics surrounding getting myself from the end of evening class to the massage place and then back in time for the evening posture clinic without acquiring a make-up class for tardiness.  Somehow I pulled it off and felt tremendously better.  According to Brian Keith (shout out to my peeps) I did something unpleasant to my obliques on my right side and that is causing much of my pain.  Also my piriformus is tight.  My hamstrings aren't any great shakes either.  And my knees - fuggetaboutit. Basically, Brian suggested that my body, at the moment, is a bit like a classic automobile: Requiring a lot of maintenance but well worth the effort.  I bet he uses that line on all the cute, young yoginis.

Venice Beach Party!!
Speaking of my knees, Friday of last week we had an interesting American Idol-style posture clinic where two groups combined in the main lecture hall and "competed", one person delivering right after the other.  It was a great time, a huge laugh, and very informative.  However, during the start of the evening, due to some logistical confusion, I ended up demonstrating Fixed Firm Pose six times in succession in a cold room.  This is a lovely posture during class, very relaxing and a wonderful expansive stretch, but attempting it cold is a totally different story.   For the uninitiated, this posture involves sitting down "Japanese style" on the floor and then opening the feet enough to sit between the heels.  And then you come back and relax the upper body on the ground:

All I have to say about that is: DO NOT EVER DO THAT.  EVER.  My right knee is still at me, days later.  After posture clinic was over I could barely walk.  I've been slathering Tiger Balm all over myself since and I can't even get into this posture in class at the moment.  Bad, bad, bad.  That is what happens when the ego takes over.  For some reason, I couldn't simply ask someone to demo for me.  And I'm definitely paying the price for it now.  Fixed firm cold is a horrible idea for me and I will never forget it after this experience, cute cartoon depictions notwithstanding.

Off to grab some sleep.  Tomorrow I will present Rabbit and perhaps even the final stretching posture.  Can't believe we are almost done presenting dialogue!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Unicorns, patience, and a very long drive down Sepulveda

The strangest aspect of this teacher training process is not encompassed by what goes on within the confines of this hotel over nine weeks.  I have instead noticed that my most introspective and thoughtful moments come when I'm out of the daily routine of class-study-posture clinic-class-study-lecture-movie-sleep-repeat.  Today is a perfect example.

Saturday morning at training is always fantastic.  The buzz during the 8am class is palpable as all of us slap-happy and sleep-deprived yogis and yoginis work to get through the last few minutes that separate us from temporary freedom.  We are all looking forward to remembering what it's like to be outside of this hotel, experience the sunshine and take care of general maintenance like laundry, food shopping, massage (if you're lucky), and everything else that was impossible to get to during the week.  I was no different, somewhat distracted by thoughts of everything I wanted to accomplish and it was hard to keep my head in the game.  But as usual, class began, class ended, and then we were free.  After snapping some posture photos and some miscellaneous goofy shots in the hot room, I gathered my laundry and set off on my errands with the hot tub at my parent’s house as the ultimate destination.

Adrienne and Dia in the Boss' Chair

Kick and stretch!

There were three tasks I needed to complete before I could be on my way to the gorgeous, sumptuous hot tub in the sky (AKA Long Beach): 1. Go to Fry’s Electronics to make a return, 2. Fill up the gas tank, 3. Starbucks caffeine pit stop.  A modest list, but first I had to get out of the parking garage.  Apparently my credit card, which was charged a monthly rate upon arriving in the garage 5 weeks ago, was not automatically charged for the next month as they had indicated so when I tried to exit using my electronic pass, I got the red beep instead of an open gate.  Bollox.  Drove back around to the cashier, had half of a conversation with the woman behind the counter who was simultaneously on her cell phone via earpiece, and drove back to the gate.  Again the red beep.  Drove back again only to have the semi-present employee tell me “oh, you have to use your ticket the first time out.”  What ticket?  I’ve been here for 5 weeks, as I mentioned to you two minutes ago.

Now extrapolate this type of delay, stretch it out throughout all of the tasks I wanted to accomplish today, and that was my entire day.  It seemed as though everywhere I stopped, whatever seemingly small task I wanted to complete, was rife with delays, technical difficulties, and various methods seemingly constructed to try my patience.  But what was remarkable about this experience was not that the delays kept happening.  It was my reaction to these barriers.  I didn’t feel as annoyed or impatient as I normally would.

Blame the yoga, blame sleep deprivation, blame the tunnel-visioned focus we’ve had to cultivate since arriving here.  Even though I was totally conscious of how little free time I had available to me on this beautiful weekend day, I was calm and unhurried.  Instead I had a small epiphany about how much can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time if you are mindful of your actions.  The more thoughtfulness I was able to bring to each moment, the longer it could stretch for me.  Right, we’ve diverted off the path and are now into the more esoteric realm of temporal perception, but that was really my takeaway.  Honestly, events were not unfolding in any sort of practical or logical order for me all day long.  I have to walk away with some kind of lesson or I’m not earning my keep as a yogi-in-training, right?

Lesson #1: Time is kinda stretchy.  Use it mindfully and you will have as much time as you need.

Once I finally made it to my parent’s house, I immediately flipped on the hot tub, threw laundry and yoga mat into the wash, ran out again to go food shopping, came back and spoke to my sweetheart on the phone, and did some Ebay selling maintenance.  Yes, I am still in the process of shedding a number of childhood objects, not the least of which is my extensive collection of unicorn figurines.  It’s like I’m haunted by the damn things!  They keep selling and I keep finding more that need to be sold. 

Lesson #2: Be thoughtful about acquiring material things.  They can be a pain in the ass.

So many unicorns

I should add here that the whole time I was taking care of my various errands I was fooling with the hot tub trying to get it to heat up properly as it seemed not to be heating in the slightest.  By the time 8pm rolled around, my dad confirmed what I had suspected: The hot tub is not working.  Bollox.

Lesson #3: No expectations, no disappointment.  But damn it, I really wanted to soak in that hot tub.

Got myself packed up after hot tub proved to be a non-starter and headed back to the hotel at 10pm. The drive back to the hotel on 405 North started out uneventfully but took a strange turn when I decided to see how much dialogue I could remember from Half Moon (the first posture of class) on.  I was going along nicely, a few hiccups as I struggled to remember various lines, but I got all the way through Eagle when I looked up and saw an exit for Getty Dr.  Hmmm, that’s odd.  Pretty sure that’s farther north than I usually go on the freeway.   Sure enough I had driven completely past my exit and I had no idea how far north I was of LAX.  Bollox. When I exited with the intent to turn around and head back southbound, I saw Sepulveda Dr., the very street my hotel is on.  It was a lovely night so I decided to hop on Sepulveda southbound and drive back to the hotel that way.  Wow, I really must have been into my dialogue because it took me about 30 minutes to get back to the hotel by that route.  And it’s only 30 minutes from my parent’s house to the hotel via the freeway!  The drive was mellow and I was perfectly content to be alone with my thoughts, sans dialogue this time.  I also discovered a fantastic 24 hour Mexican food stand (so cheap!) called Cinco de Mayo where I had a brief pause for veggie tacos.  Yum!

Lesson #4: The shortest way isn’t always the best way.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Six days and a pack of Azithromycin later

Wow.  What a totally insane, depressing, physically draining, emotionally trying, and just generally poopy stretch of days.  As indicated in the title of this post, I have been the lucky recipient of strep throat/upper respiratory infection/sinus infection/some kind of infection that the Z-pack will undoubtedly take care of so that's what I was prescribed when I finally went to the doctor.  I've been fairly well out of commission since last week on Friday, although I thought I could forcibly push the illness out of my body last Friday by going about my routine like normal and hitting both classes.  This may have been my downfall because after that evening class, I wasn't able to get my body back into the hot room properly until tonight, Wednesday. 

This past weekend I nursed myself as best I could and went into the hot room on Monday morning, setting up in the back because I suspected I'd at the very least be blowing my nose the entire time (and possibly passing out to boot).  We started pranayama breathing and the breathing *in* bit was fine, but my forced breath out sounded like a broken teakettle on the boil.  My lack of air flow and the clear obstruction in my lungs, coupled with body aches, fatigue, shortness of breath, and general bodily crapiness, prompted me to leave straight away to go to the doctor.  The nurse here at training had repeatedly asked me if I wanted to see the doctor on Saturday as well as Monday morning, but I sincerely thought it was just a bad cold.  It was wishful thinking, unfortunately.

After the breathing exercise, I just walked out of the room, leaving my mat, towel, and water there on the floor.  After some back and forth with my out-of-state insurance company, I realized that the only way to have my doctor's visit covered was to visit the ER at the local hospital.  I managed to get there through the haze that had by then settled around my head, and after waiting in a room that I shared with a poor man who had been admitted for attempted suicide while intoxicated (!), the doctor declared that I likely had either strep (since it was going around in my group of 428 close friends here at training) or some kind of other infection.  The whole time the doctor is talking to me, I'm in a near panic, not because of the diagnosis but because I have to take my Anatomy final at 12:30 and the clock is ticking ever-closer.  I have no idea if I can re-sit if I miss it (and damn it, I was all studied up for it so I was going to take that exam even if it meant leaving the ER and coming back later).  Fortunately the Dr. came through with the paperwork excusing me from yoga for a couple of days and a prescription for Azithromycin, the 5-day Z-pack that would knock out the bacterial infection of whatever sort it might be.

Left the ER, made it back just in time for the exam, did very well (69/70) and spent the next 2.5 days sleeping punctuated by the occasional posture clinic, lecture, and a couple of episodes of the Mahabharata here and there.  My body was completely non-cooperative, I looked terrible, felt terrible, and I'm sure I was a complete pain in the ass to anyone I had to interact with over the last few days.  Sincere apologies if you were one of those people.  I just felt so awful, so dark and weak, that I couldn't even get it together to communicate appropriately with anyone.  My roommate is such a sweetheart to have dealt with me in my cranky, semi-conscious state these last few days.  You're the best, Adrienne!  I owe you a coffee.

But the good news is that tonight, Wednesday, I finally feel good.  Great, even.  I was back in the hot room and it was just fine.  Well, health-wise, that is.  My back feels broken and my knees ache, but these are common complaints here at training so I'm not too concerned about them.  The dramatic contrast between feeling at your worst and then feeling kind of normal is enough to make you feel euphoric.  I'm giddy to not have to feel so fundamentally weak and crappy anymore! 

Despite being out of the hot room, I have been going to posture clinics and keeping up on my postures so I'm not behind there.  We're almost done with the standing series (already!) and I'm realizing that I have to start reviewing the postures I've already done so as not to forget them completely.  We're moving at such a fast pace I'm not sure how I'm going to find that time, but a little review now and then will ultimately benefit my recall in such a big way that I'll just have to make the time.

Still loving training, thrilled that I'm back in synch with my fellow yogis and not just sitting on the bench, and still not quite sure how I'm supposed to go about teaching an entire class when I get outta the joint.

"One day at a time", right?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Staring down Week 5 - Bring it on

Can I bluff the next week into easing off just a little?  Or at least long enough for me to finish getting over this stupid, debilitating cold I've been suck with since Thursday night?  Probably not, but it's worth a shot.

All day yesterday I spent recuperating, i.e. sleeping and drinking water.  Occasionally eating something, though I had no real appetite to speak of.  Didn't get a bit of studying done until the evening, when my buddy Will and I worked on dialogue.  By body was in such rough shape when I work up on Saturday that I managed to get excused from the morning yoga class, my first missed class in 4 weeks.  No fever, but my entire body felt like it had been run over by a Mack truck filled with elephants.  Fat elephants.  Couple that with sore throat, congestion, and a head that felt like it was in a vice and you've got one very sad specimen.  Had to make my massage appointment as it was too late to cancel.  It took every ounce of determination to get myself out of bed and to the car, realized I forgot the car key half-way to the garage (damn!), but got there on time nonetheless.  Poor Brian, my amazing massage therapist, had to keep pausing to allow me to drain my nose every 20 minutes or so.  It's surprising how much fluid wants to exit your nose when you're face down on the massage table for 1.5 hours.

Today, Sunday, feeling a bit better.  Or at least not like roadkill.  Maybe leftovers that are just starting to turn.  I know this is temporary and that everyone gets sick.  And I should feel lucky that this happened on a weekend.  And that I don't have strep throat, like so many of my fellow trainees seem to have.  But instead I'm just frustrated that I haven't been able to get ahead on my dialogue as much as I'd hoped.  Also frustrated that instead of joining in on any fun activities I was stuck inside feeling awful.  It's really amazing how hard it is to feel positive when your body is ill and not functioning at peak.  Right now the idea of getting up tomorrow and making it through a whole yoga class is daunting, but I know it has to get done.  

Ok Triangle Pose.  Gonna get you done.

Anatomy final, I'm ready for you.  You're going down.

Have I really been living here for four weeks already!?!  WOW!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday Night Wrapup

This has been an intense week for many reasons, not the least of which is the stark reality that the “everyone” in the “everyone gets sick” guarantee for teacher training actually includes me.  I finally succumbed to some stupid bug last night and today, Friday, has been an incredible challenge to push through.  I never practice Bikram yoga when I’m sick under normal circumstances, so it was incredibly humbling to have my morning class consist of maybe half of the postures in the standing series and two-thirds of the floor series.  My body was just too weak and devoid of any energy to get on board with class.  I spent more time on the floor this morning (with my eyes closed, even!) than I ever have in any class.

I should probably add that this morning’s adventures came directly on the heels of Bikram’s eneregetic return to training on Thursday night.  He's been gone for about 1.5 weeks.  Last night we had him for class, then lecture, then some uncountable number of episodes of the Mahabharata series.  This series is the serial adaptation for television in the late 1980s of one of the epic works of Indian literature that depicts ancient India through the lens of its royalty, ethical philosophy, mythological characters, gods and goddesses, and great, epic battles.   Did I mention also that evening class was supposed to start at 5pm, ended up starting around 5:15, and didn’t end until 7:15?  That’s two hours plus in the hot room for all of us, followed by a night that went on until 2am.   Almost forgot to add that the room was so hot that all the visiting teachers commented on it when they went up to speak before lecture.  Yeah, it was that hot. Guess it’s no big surprise that I’m not well.

However, in today’s afternoon class, taught by Juan, I had an instantaneous uplift in my mood and overall health.  I can’t explain it, don’t understand it, all I know is that I went into that class seriously ready to spend most of it lying on my mat, and ended up doing most of the standing series and most of the floor series without too much drama.  It was somewhere around separate leg stretching, I think.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel nearly as awful as I had been feeling all day.  Still not great, but not quite as comatose as I had been.  Perhaps my two naps today helped speed along my recovery.

Today marked the end of Anatomy and Dr. Preddy - he has been an amazing, engaging lecturer.   He also helped me tremendously with my back and showed us all two stretches that we absolutely must do everyday: Piriformus and Psoas stretches.    We’ve got our final on Monday, but if the final is anything like the first test, I’m not too concerned.  I think dialogue is going to be the priority of the weekend activities.  We’ve already been warned that we “haven’t had that many late nights yet” (Yikes!!!) and next week will probably be pretty sleep deprived.

Posture Clinic update: I’ve delivered up through Balancing Stick Posture, and am currently working on Triangle.  This weekend will be a welcome relief from the grind.  Again this week, I haven’t made it outside for a number of days and I can’t imagine that the air quality inside this hotel is that delicious here by the airport in Los Angeles.   By that logic, maybe going outside isn’t the best idea after all.

Me and Rajashree after class!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weak and pathetic, but still hanging on

Ok, so maybe I was getting a little too smug in my own head about not having succumbed to illness yet, but I've certainly learned my lesson on that front after today.  I was a sad mess all day and didn't really perk up until evening lecture.  Today's morning class was probably as weak as I've felt in my life, outside of perhaps a serious illness.  Evening class wasn't much better.  It wasn't a matter of being overwhelmed by heat and needing to sit out postures, which seems to happen often enough in our hot room here at training (it's seriously hot - visiting teachers beware) because today wasn't a particularly hot day in there, by comparison.  Rather it was an internal weakness and body stiffness that I usually associate with the onset of illness.   That feeling that your strength has been sapped, your body won't cooperate with the instructions fired off by the brain, and all your extremities have the consistency and power of wet noodles but without the flexibility.  That was me today.

Diane Ducharme taught the evening class and I really tried to make the most of it, because I knew it would be a great experience.  I kept going down during the standing series, however, and I mean *down* on my knees, flopped over with my head on the floor.  It was a pathetic sight, but I did keep getting back up and trying to join in when the next set would come around.  With varying degrees of success.  This feeling is a first for me and I can definitively say I do not care for it.  Not one bit.  During the floor series I was able to have a bit of rest between the postures and that made all the difference.  I was able to actually push and get into things fairly well, considering my total lack of energy and strength.

Posture clinic is flying by. Today I delivered Standing Head to Knee.  My feedback - Needs more energy.  After which I promptly sat back against the wall and remained in a semi-conscious state until it was time to go back up to the room to change for class.  I really did try to fake energy and enthusiasm, but I guess there's only some much "fake-it-'till-you-make-it" that can be done when illness looms on the horizon. 

Seated Head to Knee (for dialogue-learning purposes only)

Pre-Class Pandamonium 

My poor roommate, Adrienne, is very sick and has been fighting an ear infection and upper-respiratory infection since last week.  She's finally on antibiotics so will probably feel a great deal better tomorrow, but it's been hard for her to cope, especially today.  It's been a rough day all around and it's only Monday!!!  Yikes!! It can only go up from here.

Almost forgot - Our first Anatomy test took place today and I scored 29/30.  Whoot whoot.  In fairness, it wasn't that challenging or surprising, but a small personal boost in an otherwise dismal day of frequent naps, disorientation, fatigue, and a steady diet of echinacea, ibuprofin, vitamins, and oranges (Vitamin C).

Tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Back into my practice, one vertebrae at a time

Week 3 is almost over and I just can't believe how much has happened.  I can see why teachers I've talked with about training all emphasize that you should just write everything down and spend the next number of years digesting the information that's thrown at you.  Just reading all the recommended books alone would take years!  The anatomy classes are so fantastic, I had no idea that learning about the body could be so exciting.  I don't recall ever spending much time on anatomy in high school, which is probably why I never knew I was interested in it!  Science was never my strong suit, but I look forward to being able to take courses in the subject some time (soon!) in the future.  Somehow being able to apply this knowledge directly makes it more accessible for me and it's really fascinating.

Posture clinics are clicking right along and I'm looking forward to having the weekend to move ahead and be a bit ahead of each class, instead of learning one posture at a time while under the gun to then present right away.  That's no way to retain information, at least for myself.  Saying the dialogue and having people demonstrate the postures is really starting to be a fun experience and I can feel myself slowly unwinding and finding a way to (as has been suggested to everyone) "let my personality shine through".  Such a wonderful experience, and I can't wait to see how things unfold in the coming weeks on that front.

Yesterday (Thursday) had an incredible experience in class.  Maybe it was just that I was feeling pleased with myself at memorizing and presenting Eagle Pose so quickly, or maybe it was Rajashree killing us with kindness in that special way that she does, but I was determined to do as much as I could during afternoon class despite my back issue.  Second line, right near the podium, the hot blower blasting at me like the approach to the fiery gates of hell, I "explored the edges of my performance envelope" while being conscious of not blowing out my back.  Things were going well, I was moving into those damn pulling postures a little deeper than I had been able despite feeling easily as hot as it was during the very first class of training.  Then, during Camel, something amazing happened: I went gently into the posture and kept pushing little by little until my back spontaneously adjusted itself.  It was a loud, deep crack and I knew immediately that something that had been locked up for days finally let go.  I can't express how grateful I was at that moment that the pain I'd been grappling with was one huge step closer to removing itself from my training experience. Not totally gone yet, but about 75% back to pre-training condition in that area.

Another epiphany about my own practice occurred that same day.  During morning class, I was having a rough bout of the "sleepys".  This is my personal description of that condition where you are simply unable to keep your eyes open during class despite not feeling tired, a general lethargy of the body, weakness, dizziness, swaying back and forth, inability to focus. 

Now I've always thought this is just something that happens from time to time depending on body chemistry, food balance for the day, hydration, etc.  But I'm beginning to think that this is not a normal experience for most people and may have something to do with low blood sugar upon waking.  It was so bad for me yesterday that I actually left the room for the first time during training because I was so ineffectual and weak, I felt like something was pretty profoundly wrong.  I came back into the hot room after a few minutes of propping myself against a wall and feeling confused and pathetic, and mostly sat/lay on my mat until class was finished.  The whole blood-sugar hypothesis suggested itself to me on the way up to my room, so I experimented by making a fruit smoothie.  If only all experiments could be as fun. I told myself that if it was indeed low blood sugar that the smoothie should perk me up in 5-10 minutes.  Surprise, surprise, I was perfectly fine after drinking the darned thing.  So the new morning routine needs to include OJ if I plan on making it through morning class in one piece.

Internet connection is making the uploading of pictures nearly impossible so that's all for the night.  One class tomorrow morning, then the weekend is upon us!  Loads of time (not) to prepare for an exam and learn four postures for Monday. 

It's a good thing I get to see my friend Brian Keith for a massage tomorrow to prepare my brain for the rigors of studiousness that will fill my weekend.  I think I've earned this one.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A brief pause to come up for air

I haven't been outside in the daytime for three days, our posture clinics are moving at a crazy fast pace, we started anatomy class on Monday and I feel like information is just flying in one ear and out the other, and the yoga classes just seem to be creeping up in temperature day by day.  Did I really pay money for this?  No, I'm not hitting a slump yet, just realizing that things are going by way faster than I would like.  It is hard to "practice mindfulness" in the midst of this frenetic pace we're being put through, though I know that we are charged daily with accomplishing this very task.

On a positive note, I've delivered, with varying degrees of success, two complete postures thus far!  That is very exciting news if I avoid thinking about the other 24 I have yet to memorize.  Sigggggghhhhhhhhhhhh.  Fortunately I think my brain is finally getting on board with the memorization process and I can visualize myself chugging along nicely through these postures as the days go on.

In other news, I am dealing with a rather persistent back injury/issue that cropped up sometime last week and has held me hostage since that time.  I had one massage with a fabulous sport-oriented massage therapist and I'm booked in to see him again on Saturday, which is one of the main thoughts that gets me through each class.  Any posture that involves pulling on the heels or foot to stretch the lower back is fairly well out for me.  Or, at least I have to mitigate how far I go into the posture.  The pain seems to radiate down my leg as well which makes any hamstring stretch all kinds of fun, even with the heat of the room loosening it up.  Still amazingly tight and in a state of spasm despite the heat.

Interestingly enough, this injury has tremendously changed the way I practice.  Even though I've heard it a thousand times, it didn't really hit home until I was trying to work out how to deal with this injury in class.  Turns out that tightening and lifting the abdominal muscles really does allow the lower spine to relax and stretch without engaging those back muscles and causing pain during those very pulling postures that are bothering me.  So I've been tightening these muscles like crazy all during class and the difference is tangible.  I'm able to get just a little bit deeper without hurting myself, and if I feel even the slightest pinch back there, I can come out safely and with control using those abs.  And as an added bonus, my core is becoming much stronger than it has ever been.  Bring on the sexy abs!  Ok, maybe not really sexy, but at least strong.  Some people have 6/8/10/12 packs, but I'm convinced that I have a uni-pack, single serving.  I've never seen definition there on my belly and if I looked down there one day and happened to see bumps like that, I'd suspect some sort of communicable disease before new definition in my "rectus abdominis" muscles (thanks Dr. P!).

And now some random pictures:

Adrienne, Dia, Kara

Dia and Adrienne in Balancing Stick
Dia and Mike Salsa Dancing

The salsa dancing was a random event last Saturday at Monsoon Cafe in Santa Monica, but such a nice change from the forced confinement of the hotel.  It was such a blast and I ended up going with a woman who taught Salsa for many years and two people who were relative newbies.  So fun but not sure if there will be time for too many of those nights for the next few weeks.

Now off to brush up on Eagle and get some rest for tomorrow when we will do it all again!  Whose crazy idea was this anyway?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

BYTT Spring 2011 Countries of origin

Our lovely staff put this list together of where individuals at our training have come from and I just want to post it here so I will be able to revisit it later:

Out of 257 Countries we have people coming from 39 different ones, and may be much more nationalities in that case.

3 Argentina
33 Australia
5 Austria
1 Belarus
1 Belgium
2 Brazil
41 Canada
2 Chile
2 Colombia
4 Czech Republic
5 Denmark
2 Finland
2 France
7 Germany
6 Hungary
1 India
5 Ireland
4 Italy
5 Japan
3 Korea, South
2 Lebanon
1 Luxembourg
13 Mexico
5 Netherlands
5 New Zealand
4 Philippines
1 Poland
1 Portugal
2 Russia
1 Singapore
5 South Africa
9 Spain
4 Sweden
2 Switzerland
1 Thailand
1 Turkey
1 United Arab Emirates
19 United Kingdom
209 United States

And because US is the one that has the most people on this training; out of the 50 states, we have people form 34 states....

1 Alaska
11 Arizona
46 California
2 Colorado
3 Connecticut
6 District of Columbia
7 Florida
2 Georgia
3 Hawaii
1 Idaho
13 Illinois
1 Kansas
2 Kentucky
3 Maine
3 Maryland
12 Massachusetts
6 Michigan
1 Montana
8 Nevada
5 New Hampshire
1 New Jersey
26 New York
1 North Carolina
1 Ohio
4 Oregon
9 Pennsylvania
1 South Carolina
1 Tennessee
14 Texas
1 Utah
2 Vermont
8 Virginia
1 Washington
1 Wisconsin
1 Unknown

Friday, April 29, 2011

Crisis Narrowly Averted... subtitled Why Electrolytes Suck.

Everyone keeps talking about it, there are all sorts of theories and suggestions about maintaining it, everyone around here is constantly thinking about it, and it somehow seems to work differently for everybody.  I'm not talking about some esoteric, philosophical topic like life, yoga, or human relationships.  This is a far more basic and immediate (for me) concern: Electrolytes.

Ok, the basics as I understand them, for the uninitiated.  You sweat way more than usual, you lose essential ions (salts) like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in greater quantities and faster speed than you are used to, and your body starts shutting down.  Unless you manage to replace them in the appropriate quantities at the correct speed.  That is where things get tricky.  Doing double hot yoga classes every day results in a staggering amount of sweat (one trainee calculated that he loses 10 lbs of water through sweat during one class... maybe a slight exaggeration but even if it's 5 lbs, that's still insane!).  And it is key to replace fluids not only in the form of water, but also water charged with the electrolytes that are lost.  Also important is to not overdo the proportion of electrolyte replacers to water or you will be the lucky recipient of stomach cramps and other unpleasantness.

Sooooooooooo last week I was diligently using my Ultima brand electrolyte replacer powder during every class to combat this demon, but ended up with stomach cramps and a crash/burn on Friday anyway.  Too much digesting going on I think and an unpleasant, manufactured taste to boot.  So decided to switch to a mixture of lemon, sea salt and honey to keep myself in balance.  I thought things were going well (back issues aside, of course) until yesterday and today (Wednesday and Thursday) when I absolutely could not keep my eyes open.  I was a zombie, wanted to sleep every second of the day, couldn't function, could barely move, and essentially felt like I would not be able to get through one more class.  Out of desperation I took a couple of electrolyte replacers in pill form right before afternoon class today and dragged myself down to the "torture chamber" without any idea how I was going to make it through.

Then the magic happened.

Little by little, even before class started, I began to perk up.  I was able to hold conversations again (this had been totally beyond me for most of the day), was able to look around and note my surroundings (also a superhuman feat during the previous 24 hours) and get a little bit excited about class.  Then I proceeded to have the best possible class I could, despite having to sit out or not go too deep in the forward bending or front-side pulling postures (thanks to my stupid back).  It was amazing!!!  And during this class I realized that my sweat for the last few days hasn't tasted salty while it dripped into my face for 90 minutes.  I can only presume that I was so low in salts that I was sweating pure (or mostly pure) water.  This despite drinking multiple liters of sea salt-infused water.  No wonder I felt like reheated crap for the last two days!

The energy that came back to me continued after class, into the evening, and during and after lecture tonight.  I am back to myself, perfectly fine, and re-inspired about being here.  I had no idea how bad I was feeling until I started coming out of the stupor.  It is scary to be in that place, everything seems dark and hopeless, your mood is completely shot, and it feels like you can't possibly move your body any more.  Electrolytes.  Arg.

In conclusion, many thanks to John from my home studio in Northampton for hipping me to the tablet electrolytes.  They truly saved me today.   Now if only I could calm down and get some sleep.  The positive side of being so lethargic was that I was able to sleep like a rock at any moment of the day.  Now I'm back up again with this crazy energy!  Well, at least I have a loyal readership I can entertain while I sit with my insomnia.

Hi Mom!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

And cue the new/old/weird injuries.

This week has presented some fairly big challenges for me so far and it's only Wednesday night!  Something unpleasant is going on in my back that makes all forward bends rather painful by the afternoon class.  Might just call that massage therapist I've heard such good things about because dealing with this kind of pain during class (and while sitting in lecture) is exhausting.

On the flip side, there is a great deal of opening in my shoulders, hips, and neck that I wasn't at all expecting!  That is also painful (oh, my right hip!) but it's pain of the positive, moving-forward, achieving more flexibility kind.  Stupid back.  Get with the program.

The Today Show special taped in part on the first day of training aired yesterday:

Fairly well balanced and they didn't highlight all of the trainees who died small deaths during that class (like me!).  If the non-initiated had watched that entire class, they'd be terrified to actually participate in their first one!  It was *that* hot.  I did not make the video cut, so no images of me sweating away in the hot room. Probably a good thing.  That first class was brutal.

Speaking of the heat, the hot room here at training has been fairly moody.  It bolted out of the gate last week, an inferno, then cooled to merely an industrial furnace.  Then it went cold for a full day to the point that I could feel cold air blowing on my body.  But have no fear, the HVAC elves went to work and as of today, we are all the happy recipients of the real "I kill you more" treatment in the proper heat.

Last night was another late night (3:30am) and tonight isn't much better.  Hopefully five hours is enough time to recover enough to get through morning class.  Glad I have a solid few years in grad school under my belt to prepare me for these late nights.

As long as I can keep eating, staying up late isn't too bad.  Gotta front-load those carbs for tomorrow, right?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 1 done!

Done, over, gone forever.  In a way it's like playing music.  That gig is over and the playing is done.  Maybe you sounded great, maybe everything went to hell but either way, you'll never hear it again and it has no bearing on how you'll sound the next time.  And that's a good thing.

The process of learning is always very organic and often not exactly linear.  This week has demonstrated to me in so many ways that this training will wholeheartedly embrace a variety of processes to teach us some important lessons, both for getting through these upcoming weeks and for taking out into the world.

What I started learning about this week:
1. Be kind, compassionate, and open to everyone because you *never* know who that person is, where they're coming from, or what they might teach you.
2. Patience will be one of the most important qualities to cultivate during these next 8 weeks. 
3. Removing the ego will be another one.
4. Yoga works so much better when the brain is not allowed to make decisions anymore.
5. Time is very valuable, every moment is important, and a whole lot of stuff can get done in five minutes.
6. My body is apparently hardwired with receptors in the brain that respond to potatoes like they're drugs - at least while I'm at training.  :::currently in very satisfied potato stupor:::
7. Sometimes there is no greater feeling than to sit and do nothing and think nothing.

There are lots more but I plan on taking advantage of this time for some well-deserved sleep.

A few shots of the hot room before class today:

Mike, Dia, Adrienne (my roomie!!)
The Torture Chamber
 Aren't those crystal chandeliers amazing?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Let the sleep deprivation begin

Things have really started rolling here in teacher training and I'm beginning to get a small glimpse, maybe just the tip of the iceberg, of what my teachers were trying to tell me (warn me, advise me, caution me) about before setting off on this journey.  I knew there would be lots of yoga, late nights, and Bollywood films, but knowing and actually living through it are dramatically different activities.

Last night were were treated (and it really was a treat after all the half-moon recitations) to a film called Kaho Naa Pyar Hai (think this is "Tell Me You Love Me") and it was everything you might expect from a real, dyed-to-the-wool Bollywood film - Overly dramatic facial close-ups, large groups of people spontaneously breaking out into song and dance, clothes that looked like they came directly from a Sir Mix-A-Lot music video, a rather fluid interpretation of time, place, day and night, and more costume changes in one film than Paris Hilton goes through in a year.  It was amazing.  Still not sure if I would have enjoyed it as much if it hadn't gone on until 3:30am.  Something about the late hour tends to make what the rational mind might consider "cheesy" a small bit more entertaining

And tonight is another late-ish night (out at 1:30 this morning) so I need to make this brief or I will be flat on my mat tomorrow morning.

Tonight was the most amazing yoga class I have ever, ever, ever experienced in my life.  By the time afternoon class rolled around, all 400+ of us were exhausted, disoriented, sore, discombobulated, overstimulated, and just generally feeling out of sorts before class began.   Boss was teaching so I imagine there was some anxiety about where we were all going to be able to find the energy to get through and, hopefully, not produce too much yelling from the podium.  Personally, I like it when Bikram yells but perhaps not so much when I'm in such a delicate physical state.

But the most amazing thing happened when class began.  Things - just - crystallized.  The entire group moved together, we all tried very hard in every posture, we all held postures much more consistently than we had in any class leading up to this one, and the focus in the room was just incredible.  It was a phenomenon of total submission, giving up control, and it worked.  Our minds were too exhausted to give conflicting information to our bodies (ok, mine was anyway, I suppose I can't speak for the remaining 425 yogis in the room).  I was blown away, even as it was happening, and in some small part of my brain I was able to note what was going on, even as my body was moving through the postures.  I didn't even have a view of myself in the mirror but it didn't matter!  If I hadn't been there myself, I wouldn't have believed that such a thing was possible. And there was a beautiful demonstration of standing bow from one of the trainees today that goaded me push harder in that posture myself.

So if any of my fellow trainees read this, congratulations on doing something truly amazing (on only 3 hours sleep) and keep it up!

If you're a Bikram Yoga student, seriously consider doing this

If you don't practice Bikram Yoga, go do some yoga.  NOW!  (I think that works better with an Indian accent).

Now to go chase some sleep, wake up, and do it all again tomorrow!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hot as 100 donkeys... what-ing?

Not only was today the first class we had with Bikram, but there was a film crew from the Today Show present the entire time!!  I think I caught a glimpse of one of those poor fellows, dressed in very practical street clothes of course, after having given up on his sopping wet shirt and filming without it on.  But I died a small (very small) death in there so it could have easily been a hallucination.  The show will air on April 26th at 8am on NBC.

It will be fascinating to see what hits the cutting room floor and what is kept intact in what I presume will be a fairly short television spot.  There were a number of choice phrases thrown around today by Boss, so it's kind of a crap shoot as to how it will turn out.  Hopefully will paint a representative picture as they have over 90 minutes of footage.

The first class today was exciting and amazing.  It was also incredibly hot.  I mean hotter/more humid than any class I've ever ever ever taken in my entire life.  No joke!  During the meat of the standing series people were not only dropping like flies but they were leaving the room!  At least 1/4 of those people left the room at some point during class, in particular when transitioning to the floor.  My own experience was intense and it took some incredible determination to stay in that room today.  The humidity alone made it feel like a real-and-for-true steam room, complete with a heavy mist in the air.  I set up third row, left hand side, and didn't have nearly enough water.  Tomorrow will be better!

Speaking of tomorrow, things really begin in earnest come 8am so I'm determined to get some last precious hours of sleep before killing myself again in the morning.

Feeling very grateful tonight for the opportunity to be able to undertake this incredible challenge.  Knowing that there are 425 (the number went down by a few yesterday apparently) other yogis on this path is overwhelming and really serves to bolster my own sense that this is, indeed, the right challenge for me to undertake now.  

Have to add that I'm loving the mini dialogue practice sessions that have popped up randomly in the hotel lobby.  The reactions of the poor guests who have to deal with all of us sweaty, incessantly reciting, and ubiquitous yogis as we go about our business here is just priceless.  Can not begin to imagine the impression we make on them as one person recites Half Moon and two or three others move into the posture in tandem.  Love it!

All stocked up, organized, and ready to be ground into (vegan) hamburger

Today was such a long time coming that all the events, even as they transpired, felt very surreal.  It feels like I've spent the last few months preparing for today and that this was the final - really final - I truly and absolutely mean it final - preparation before we begin Teacher Training.  Even just the process of driving from Long Beach to LA (via a stop for supplies), unloading, and getting checked in was epic!

Orientation was scheduled for 3pm, but due to the record-busting number of people, we were delayed at least an hour while the check-in process wrapped up.  Bikram's daughter (Laju?) kicked off the afternoon and we were introduced to a number of individuals that I've only either read about, like Emmy Cleaves, or corresponded with via email, like Sharon Clerkin (amazingly organized woman) and Shelly Kopel (loved her!!).  Jim Kallett was just fantastic at conveying a context for the yoga we are about to become completely immersed in and forever changed by.  What a wonderful character and lovely spirit. I hope I have the chance to talk with him a little.

On a lighter, more frivilous note, my requisite TT haircut below.  If you hadn't met me before today, this photo probably doesn't hold any meaning for you but it's a good few inches shorter.  No more sweat pouring into eyes and nose during forward bends!!!!

Diversion over, back to the events of the day.  Once I was finally all checked in and sorted out (thanks in no small part to my amazing roommate), and orientation over, I was able to pick up a number of essentials: Fruits, veggies, tofu, hummus, chips, cereal, OJ, etc.  After spending a few hours organizing space and a sizable array of appliances (juicer, blender(s), hot pot, coffee maker...) things are feeling much more calm in my own mind.  There is a fridge, food is in it, water is plentiful, yoga clothes are clean, I didn't do something ridiculous like forget to bring my dialogue, and things are as right with the world as they can be in this strange, artificial environment.

Notable firsts today:
1. First kale salad made in a hotel room.
2. First time seeing an entire table of people doing seated half moon while someone practiced dialogue
3. First catered, completely vegetarian buffet (thank you Radisson LAX!)

4. First time utilizing the media cabinet in a hotel room to house food

5. First time sitting in a room with 429 other people aspiring to become Bikram Yoga Teachers!!!  Yes, apparently 430 is the final count for this training.  All speculation can now be put to bed.  While practicing at my local studio in California, I was told that the rumor was a number above 500.  
6. First look at the famous Bikram shop

Now going to take the advice of all my yoga teachers regarding the lead-up to this training: "Sleep while you can."  

Yes, boss.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Out with the old and please stay out

Sometimes it takes a dramatic life event to prompt yourself to reassess your life direction and priorities.  Whether this observation has long since passed the point of being pithy and should now be relegated to the land of tired cliches is irrelevant since it has meaning for me at present.  So there.

Specifically, I've been thinking about this during the last few days while staying here at my family home in California as a result of some major water damage in one of the rooms.  We discovered the leak/sopping wet carpet late on Saturday night and spent the better part of two hours clearing the room of the most important items, in particular some fairly important artwork that is related to my family's side-business.  The next morning, reinforcements were called in to assist with the clearing of this "gallery" room and it took almost two full days to pack and clear everything out.  Not fix the water leak, mind you, but just to clear the room.

It was during these two days that the thought occurred to me: I do not want to *ever* own that many things.  Ever, ever, ever.  The stress related to the obligation to care for these items, these things, overwhelmed my father and radiated out to affect the rest of the family as well.

When I made the decision last year to move, sell my house, leave the country, and, ultimately, come to LA for Bikram teacher training, I knew that I couldn't "take it with me".  So everything had to go.  Everything.  I used craigslist, ebay, and had a major tag sale that lasted the whole weekend.  Salvation Army was the lucky recipient of a number of items I couldn't unload for cash and I gave a number of things away to friends.  But this process was a liberation for me and it became very clear to me that the Western focus on acquisition and consumerism as a barometer for happiness and success is completely f#@ked up.  But remembering this is very difficult and a constant battle since I live in this culture and will continue to rub up against it no matter where I go.

All of this brings me in a roundabout way to the laborious act of going through a number of boxes from my childhood and diligently selling what I can on ebay.  The parents have been bugging me about these damn boxes for years and I thought it best to just suck it up and deal with it while I'm home.  So if anyone is interested in acquiring an extensive set of unicorn figurines, an awesome pink and gray Polaroid camera (with carry-case), or an charming Alice in Wonderland toy tea set (circa 1989ish), I'm your gal.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Arms out like airplane wings... so why does my plane need a gas station?

Well, I made it to Logan Int'l Airport (Boston, Massachusetts) and am waiting patiently at my gate for the flight that will take me to California, 3,000 miles closer to Teacher Training.  In an interesting development, it looks as though my carefully considered and consciously chosen nonstop flight into Long Beach has acquired an extra stop.  For gas.  That's right, my 747 will need to stop at a gas station in Phoenix, AZ due to strong headwinds.  Should I take this in stride or read some kind of metaphorical significance into this stop? 

Arms out like airplane wings... so why does my plane need a gas station?  Since reality is really a matter of perception (love that I can make sweeping statements like this and not have to defend them at every step) I have decided to interpret this rather unusual turn of events as a personal directive to make sure I take a moment to pause during the upcoming TT craziness and "refuel" my mind/body/spirit/energy.  I can only imagine that after the first few weeks of moving along, slavishly learning dialogue, moving from task to task with zombie-like obedience, forcing the reluctant body through class after class in the hot room, that the autopilot probably starts to take over.  This is a survival mechanism and very important for the whole getting through piece of the experience.  But maybe this odd little hiccup in my travels is meant to be a reminder that pausing to refuel, to reflect on the process, may be important as well.  Now if I can hang onto this thought past week 2 I'll be mightily pleased with myself.

Now we've reached the portion of our programming devoted to the obligatory packing photos.  What would this Bikram Yoga Teacher Training Blog be without it?  It's like a rite of passage.  I didn't post my packing list, as it's still evolving, but I did have to do a fair bit of packing to get from one family house (Western Massachusetts) to the other family house (Long Beach, CA).


5 sets of hot room clothes
4 sets of posture clinic/non-hot yoga clothes
2 pairs of sweatpants (the uniform I will probably wear whenever not actively in clinics or hot room)

(not going to comment on how aggravating that particular requirement was - whoops, guess I just did)

Time has passed and have since starting this post, I have arrived in Los Angeles.  Going to try my luck at a few Friday afternoon yard sales to see if I can find a juicer, blender, and electric tea kettle at a deep discount.  

Anyone else having anxiety dreams about delivering dialogue to a class full of people only to have two things happen:
1. Go completely blank after the words "Everybody together"
2. Have a teacher prompt you with dialogue you have never, ever heard before?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

First Advanced Class - Ouch City

This is a first.  A first of many firsts to come, I'm quickly realizing.  This is my first blog, my first post, and the first day I have ever practiced the Advanced Bikram Yoga Series!  Well, perhaps "practiced" is a somewhat glorified description of what I looked like flopping around on the mat attempting to balance only on one toe, an elbow, and my fingertips.  And occasionally my head.  I will freely admit that it wasn't pretty, graceful, or even amusing enough to be considered comical by the other practitioners, but even the attempt felt amazing.  My back has definitely never bent like that before, and I've been blessed with a fairly bendy back.

Let me back up a moment.  I'm assuming that anyone reading this blog will have at least a passing familiarity with the Bikram Yoga Beginner's practice of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in a heated room (approx 105 degrees, 40% humidity).  This series is meant to be practiced by anyone and everyone, always a challenge no matter how often or how many times you've done it. 

But gaining access to the Advanced Series has always been elusive, the holy grail of yoga practices for Bikram students, open only to teachers or students training for competition.  Today I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time (not to mention so close to TT that I can feel the heat from the "torture chamber" billowing down the back of my neck) to be personally invited to practice the 84 Asana Advanced Series.

I won't blab on about this experience too much, except to say that I feel newly humbled by this practice and am excited in a completely new way about the potential for change in my own body.  The Advanced series allowed opening in my hamstrings that I've never been able to achieve and it also, magically, addressed a stubborn issue I've been struggling with in my leg/hamstring for months.  To watch the experienced teachers execute these postures was profound and inspirational.  Thanks so much Diane!!

Oh, did I neglect to mention that I hurt all over and that I think I suffered a mild allergic reaction to either the carpet in the hot room or my sweaty x 2 towel and yoga clothes after class(es) were finally done?  No so important, but just don't want anyone to think I'm SuperYogini just breezing through both Beginner's and Advanced Series with no repercussions.  The real pain will be felt upon waking in the morning.  Good times.

Another first along this weird, sweaty journey towards teacher certification occurred yesterday: My first double!  I had never before seen the benefit to two classes in one day so had not given the matter much consideration.  But with TT just around the corner, it seemed like a good idea to get myself a taste of what I was in for.  I tried to approach it without expectations but, as everyone knows, that's nearly impossible.  The morning class was fine, uneventful, fairly strong.  Come 3:30pm, the time I needed to leave for the studio, the fatigue was overwhelming.  Since there was no choice involved (so nice to not think) I just left the house and went to the studio where I practiced dialogue with the mic (another first!) until it was time to set up for class.

As it turned out, I had the same wonderful teacher for both morning and afternoon class so was able to have a very balanced perspective on what was same/different between the two experiences. Much love to Jennifer for this one.  What I noticed most was a distinct lack of personal drama in class #2.  Bend all the way back?  Ok, no problem.  Touch forehead directly on the knee?  Sure, I can do that.  It was as if my body had been wound up and was just puttering along while my mind observed its progress and form.  Sooooooooooo strange and freakishly cool.  Now how to make every day of doubles during training just as enjoyable... Nope.  Probably not going to happen, but a sweet and optimistic thought nonetheless.  I have a feeling that those types of warm-and-fuzzy intentions might go the way of the dodo in the coming days so best give them life now to inspire my future self.

Hear that, future self?  You like doubles.  You looooooooovvvvvvvvvvveeeeeee them.  Now repeat that to yourself 45 times and you'll be done in no time.