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!!!