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.

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