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Monday, June 20, 2011

Week 9: Namaste Bitches!!


After 9 weeks, 89 classes, 356 triangle postures, 1,958 savasanas, and 1,068 Bikram sit-ups training is over. Our final class was bittersweet, well mostly sweet . . there were smiles, cheers, tears . . . and lots of sweat. The graduation ceremony was long but bearable as most people left the ballroom once their name was called and they had their picture taken with Bikram. The last week was filled with excitement and anticipation regarding graduation and the thought of heading home to see missed family and friends and, of course, to teach the monumental first class. It was a week filled with lots of loooong lectures from Bikram and consecutive late nights so there was little sleep to be had. However, at that point, everyone was running off of pure adrenaline. I spent as much time as possible with my friends from my beloved group, about which I haven't blogged too much surprisingly since they are the most important thing I will take away with me from my training . . well them and the $11,000 piece of paper authorizing me to teach Bikram Yoga. My group, Group 4, played an integral role in my training experience and I will truly never forget each and every group member. Prior to training I had heard about how important the group bond is throughout training but I never could have imagined how significant a role that bond would play in my own TT experience. Although all groups will say it, ours was definitely the BEST group! LOL. Our group camaraderie was evident from the beginning as friendships formed during the first few posture clinics. We supported each other through each dialogue delivery, through each struggle, blunder and success, through laughter and tears and through some pretty wild homework assignments. We bonded during group outings to Santa Monica for dinner, the beach for dialogue practice and the farmer's market for wholesome food and live entertainment. We hugged and cried after the final spine twisting posture and cheered, well screamed, for each other as our name was called by senior teacher Jim Kallet and we received our certificates from Bikram. We sat together during the post-ceremony reception and many of us enjoyed our first cocktail in 9 weeks together later that night. We documented these events in as many pictures as our cameras would allow and have remained in touch via our Group Four Facebook page . . . I am truly blessed to have ended up in such a wonderful group with such special people . . .
As for some other elements of the final TT week, I saw Rory for the first time in 70 days . . he made it to graduation in plenty of time and met up with Katie who took a bus down from Santa Barbara. The three of us shared a room in the Radisson and then rented a car and headed to Santa Barbara for dinner on the water and live reggae music by Soul Majestic. It was a great two days and Rory and I made it back down to LAX to see the end of the U.S./Jamaica Gold Cup soccer game . . sadly, the U.S. won and we were heartbroken for Jamaica. Before we knew it, it was time to board the plane for New York . . and I couldn't have been happier. I took class at Bikram Yoga Grand Central on Monday night from Kyoko who wrote my recommendation letter for training. It was a great class but felt slightly awkward since I had grown accustomed to practicing in the large ballroom with chandeliers and 430 or so other people . . it was the same 26 postures but it felt vastly different . . but it felt good to be back. As far as my first class, I will likely be teaching at BYGC once I return from Germany and Switzerland on July 10 . . I will blog about that experience of course. Now I'm off to study dialogue in the park as this is only the beginning of a long journey and I will be studying dialogue for the remainder of my teaching career . . Namaste Bitches!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week Eight: 'Trust the Process'




Throughout the past 8 weeks we have been bombarded with a plethora of information covering everything from Karma Yoga to fascia to the name for the lateral curvature of the spine (scoliosis, btw). We have learned about the 5 sections of the spine, about niyamas and yamas (do's and don'ts, fyi), and about how to handle difficult students in the yoga room. We have heard lectues on challenges encountered when opening your own studio, on the importance of locking one's knee and on dorsiflexion of the foot. We have performed the '26 and 2' almost 90 times and attended numerous posture clinics with our beloved groups. We have endured countless late nights/early mornings watching Bollywood films and have pressed snooze on our alarms time and time again. We have spent our Saturdays, perhaps, taking the makeup class or, perhaps, riding the Bikram shuttle to Trader Joe's for groceries which we would later strategically squeeze into our miniature refrigerators. We have filled and re-filled our water bottles in the bathtub, draped our washed yoga "costume" over furniture in our rooms and waited patiently in the long line for coffee or tea before a night lecture. A lot has happened over the previous 56 days and consistently, through it all, we have been told to "Trust the Process". The significance of this phrase cannot be underestimated as it defines how we should react, or not react, to the circumstances that arise throughout TT. According to this phrase, we should breathe, relax, not dwell or panic and simply "Trust the Process" that has been proven successful at the 38 previous BYTT's (at least this is my interpretation). Initially, I doubted the "process' and disagreed with many of its elements (ie, sleep deprivation). However, I have realized that everything here has a purpose and a place in the training. We leave our family and friends, travel from our respective homes to live in a small hotel room with, usually, a total stranger for 9 weeks. We take 11 classes per week in a room typically heated to a temperature well above the "standard" for Bikram yoga and which often lasts well over the usual 90 minutes. We are kept awake until 2, 3, 4 a.m., deprived of sleep that is normally critical to our performance in the yoga room. We attend lecture after lecture, participate in posture clinic after posture clinic, and memorize approximately 40 pages of copywrighted text (aka "The Dialogue") in an extremely short amount of time. We are allotted very limited free time to communicate with the outside world. We are obligated to follow this schedule, to obey the rules, including no alcohol consumption for the duration and "no touchy touchy, no kissy kissy and no fucky fucky", and to sign in for every class and lecture or take a makeup class. And through it all we are told to "Trust the Process", to believe that everything we are going through will make us strong, compassionate and effective Bikram Yoga teachers in the end. Each element of the training, each requirement, and each rule plays an integral role in the "process", although it may take 9 weeks (or more) to recognize this. Essentially, we are broken down and have to maintain a demanding schedule and practice twice daily in this state. In the process, we rely on the people around us who were mere strangers just weeks before for support and encouragement as we are all going through the same thing and encountering the same challenges. The objective behind all of this is to instill in us the capacity to empathize with and demonstrate compassion for our students who come to us with "junk bodies, screw loose brains and lost souls". We will, presumably, be capable of understanding the difficulties confronted by our students in class, whether they have trouble kicking out in standing head to knee or can barely grab their heels in padahastasana, because we have been there. This compassion is extended to the various circumstances with which our students are dealing - fatigue, relationship troubles, problems at the office or a myriad of other personal challenges. We can empathize because we have taken class when exhausted, cranky, sore, injured, sick, missing our home and families, and, basically, broken. The late nights serve to allow us to spend more time with our guru, Bikram, and to create memories with our fellow trainees, as well as simply create fatigue with which we have to perform and practice with the following days. The constant signing in and demanding schedule serves to train us to be punctual so that when we are teachers we appreciate the importance of arriving on time, even if we are teaching the 5:30 a.m. class. I do recognize the significance of the various elements of the process and I am gaining trust for it . . . I think once I am teaching and realize that I do, indeed, know the dialogue then I will truly "Trust the Process" . . .

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Week Seven: The Boss's 'Worst Class Ever'


Seven weeks of BYTT are complete. Seventy-one classes done (I missed 6 for my ear infections and took 1 make-up class to compensate). Twenty-six postures have been delivered in posture clinics. Two Anatomy exams have been taken. And countless lectures covering everything from the digestive system to what is yoga to fascia have been attended. There have been many memorable moments here at training up to this point . . . some I would rather forget but mostly those which I hope never to. The most memorable class yet was taught last night by Bikram himself and it came after a very physically and mentally challenging week yoga-wise. Had I known that class was going to be as unbearable as it was I would certainly have drank way more water throughout the day and definitely would have brought more into class with me. Bikram taught not just the trainees but approximately 120 additional people who are here to re-certify, which is mandatory every 3 years after one's initial training. This brought the number in the hot room up to almost 600 people (and with it the heat and humidity) and made for a mat-to-mat class in all directions. In addition, although I don't know the actual temperature, it had to be over 120 degrees. These conditions were exacerbated by Bikram's usual, but especially so, feisty approach to teaching (for lack of a less PC word) . . he was full of criticism regarding our practice and accusations about our collective inability to remain vertical on our mats and to remain in the room at all. Not to mention we had spent more time on our yoga mats over the previous three days than in our beds due to one 1:45 a.m. night and one 4:30 a.m. night following. And finally, add to this the fact that the class lasted an insufferable 2 hours, also usual for Bikram but not for Bikram Yoga classes in general, which last for 90 minutes by definition. In sum, this was one effin' hard a-- class. The re-certs were droppin' like flies from the beginning (along with many trainees too, I will add), most likely because they are not used to the heat the way we are and have not been practicing twice a day for 7 weeks the way we have. They also have not been practicing with Bikram himself the way we have over the past 49 days. By the time the balancing series was over people were escaping the room and by savasana in between the standing series and floor series there was a mass exodus of both re-certs and trainees who could no longer tolerate the conditions. From my space on the carpet I witnessed at least 7 people being carried out and, when leaving the room at the end of class, my roommate saw numerous people vomiting. Although I personally feel that it was hotter in our very first class at TT, I must say that this class was by far the most physically and mentally daunting class so far. Just the fact that the energy in the room was dragged down by the number of people sitting down and leaving made it immensely challenging. Bikram himself announced that it was the 'worst class' he ever taught (most likely an attempt to motivate us but it was met with overwhelming and quite humorous applause by the trainees and re-certs). I must say that, not only did I stay in the room, but I miraculously managed to perform every posture (this cannot be said for the first class at TT). So, even if the Boss was disappointed in our performance in his 'Torture Chamber' I am relatively pleased with myself. The 'Worst Class Ever' was one of my best ever, which I can say now as I'm hydrated, rested, dry, relaxed and far from the 'Torture Chamber'.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Week Six Yo!

Another week is behind us at BYTT. It entailed not only the usual 11 classes but also enough posture clinics to cover five postures and two lectures on Fascia (please don't ask me to elaborate on the latter, after nearly 6 hours of lecture on the topic I am still a bit unclear as to what exactly it is). This week I came out of my Week 5 Funk only to find that I am still utterly terrified of getting in front of 40 or so people to deliver posture dialogue. Again, my homework was to get out of my comfort zone, release from my "shell" and to get out of my own head. Specifically, I was assigned the task of delivering Locust pose as a gangster rapper. When practicing this posture in my room I barely could get the dialogue straight as myself never mind in character as a thug but I was a good sport and, when delivering, threw in some 'biothes' and 'yo's' and 'sheeeeeit' after the lines to enhance my delivery and fulfill my required homework assignment. I was probably beet red while doing so but it got a laugh out of my group. I was certainly out of my comfort zone but whether it achieved the goal of permanently bringing me out of my own head while delivering remains to be seen.
Although Bow Pose did not go as I would have preferred I ended the week with strong deliveries of Fixed Firm and Half Tortoise. I attribute this partially to the fact that these postures are slower and I didn't feel pressured to spit out all the lines as quickly and energetically as the previous four from the spine-strengthening series but also to the fact that I am actually starting to not give a s---t anymore about what I look like up there. I suppose this is, indeed, 'getting out of my own head' . . .
Week 7 promises to be drastically different than Week 6 as Bikram is back from his travels and will undoubtedly be keeping us up until the wee hours watching Bollywood films. This means that the pressure of delivering our memorized dialogue lines will be exacerbated by sleep deprivation and added fatigue from the harder and hotter classes that Bikram will surely teach this week. The temperature rise in the hot room and the time we spend horizontal under the covers will fall. So, although we have only three weeks left, some of the most challenging classes and moments await us in Weeks 7-9. All I can say is "Bring it, biotch!"

Monday, May 23, 2011

H2Overdose


64 ounces per every 24 hours is the daily recommended dose of water for the "average" person. A little more if you drink coffee, tea, soda or alcohol, of course and definitely more if you exercise. That sounds about right. Rarely do people actually fulfill this recommended prescription though. But, we all love a nice ice cold glass of agua now and then, right? Well, here at training, you had better love it . . a lot. Staying hydrated has been a major theme here at BYTT and rightly so. Practicing twice a day in temperatures of 110 and higher can really drain one of vital nutrients, electrolytes and moisture. In order to maintain proper hydration and electrolyte balance, the staff at training has urged us to drink 5+ liters of water throughout the day (more or less depending on our personal needs and weight), to put salt, lemon, sugar and/or honey in our water to replace nutrients lost through sweat, and to consume copious amounts of coconut water and Gatorade as well. That's a lotta liquid. On a daily basis, it feels as though I am drinking some beverage at all moments and if I'm not I'm in the bathroom peeing. In sum, I'm in H2Overdose. Which one also has to be careful of as well because drinking too much water can flush the nutrients right out your system and deplete you of energy. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. The effects of too much water (or simply a really hard class) hit me last week when I returned to my room after morning class and literally projectile vomited nothing but water all over my hotel floor (your loving this visual image I'm sure). That was a less than pleasant experience (as was explaining to my roommate, who was in the shower at the time, why there was a towel spread out across the hotel room floor). Ah, just another day at BYTT . . but I definitely learned my lesson regarding consuming too much water.
One beverage I haven't sacrificed through all this is my morning coffee. I generally don't check e-mail, put my contacts in or even open my eyes fully until I have my morning cup of jo and I wasn't planning on altering that routine for training. As mentioned in a previous post, I purchased an inexpensive coffee maker from the local CVS just to facilitate my morning java addiction. Some mornings, after having watched the a Hindi film with Bikram until 3 a.m., it is my saving grace. Of course, that also means more water to balance out the dehydrating effect of my coffee. I can live with that.
However, I, like all of the other trainees have sacrificed one type of beverage throughout this training: alcohol. Initially, I must admit, I thought it would be tough not enjoying an ice cold beer or soothing glass of wine for 63 days. However, I have not even thought about imbibing since I arrived and am not even tempted to do so . . . after all, doing so would just mean drinking more water and, like I said, I'm already in H2Overdose.

Week Five Funk

Today is the first day of Week 6 but I have yet to post a blog entry for Week 5 partially because it was a less than stellar week for me and partially because my weekend was consumed by studying the spine strengthening series . . so here goes . . . all in all I had a rough week. I fell behind in postures and had to scramble to learn Tree and Toe the same day I delivered them which ended up being a bit of a debacle. I got the demonstrators in and out of the posture and hit some of the actual dialogue but overall I was dissatisfied with my performance. My homework from the previous posture clinic had been to go "over the top" . . to "get out of my comfort zone" and, specifically to add some body movements to the words in Tree Pose and Toe Stand, one that resembled Elvis's hip gyrating dance moves. Now, I'm generally an outgoing person when I am confident and comfortable and amongst friends but when I'm in a new group of strangers I tend to be less so. The very thought of shoving my hips forward obnoxiously while delivering the dialogue was enough to catapult me into my shell for good here at training . . of course, I could also have used it as an opportunity to bring me out of that shell and take it for what it was, a silly assignment from posture clinic that, at the end of the day, no one would remember anyway. Had I been confident in the posture's dialogue I probably wouldn't have minded embellishing my delivery with an over the top hip pulsating move but feeling the way I was I was not into it. Anyway, that was that but it was the "highlight" of a week in which I was feeling over it all already. I was missing Rory . . a lot . . along with my family, my apartment and New York in general. I also have a lot of other things on my mind, like starting the PhD program in a new place in the fall and worrying about my husband finding employment in Colorado. The yoga has actually been my saving grace throughout this whole experience. It has been the one constant in a situation in which we never know what our schedule entails or what's coming next . . Posture clinic or lecture? Who will teach class? Will there be a movie until 2:30 a.m.? How hot will the room be? With all of these unknowns it is nice to have the 26 and 2 to rely on (26 postures, 2 breathing exercises) as stable factors. However, in my Week Five Funk, I grew to resent even the yoga. I found it hard to push myself in Half Moon which usually provides me with the energy and motivation for the remainder of class. All of this is normal, of course, and I'm neither surprised nor upset with myself for being human and feeling less than exuberant about the yoga and about dialogue delivery. This week I am going to work on letting go of my perfectionism a bit and aiming to do the best I can within the time frame I have. That is all I can ask of myself. So with my Week Five Funk behind me I begin Week 6 this morning . . .with a smile;)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All Ears

A mid-week blog is definitely not my norm as my schedule barely allowed for time to call my husband today on our anniversary, but c