Sunday, November 13, 2011

Owning Your Confidence and Other Yogic Lessons

Hi all,

I don't think any volume or frequency of blogging could accurately convey all that I've learned here at TT. I've of course learned tons about the postures (e.g. take the full six seconds to move your head forward and back in Pranayama; be sure your standing knee goes straight forward over the toes, not to either side at all, when bending down for Toe Stand; keep your forward hand squeezed flat between your knee and foot in Spine Twisting Pose, rather than grabbing over your knee; use your kick to keep your body from falling over when balance fails you during Standing Bow), but I've also learned that I can go to class on a full stomach, on only 3 hours of sleep, in the middle of an emotional meltdown, with a pulled neck, strained back, aching knees, and in my least favorite yoga gear and still come out of class glowing. I've also seen what it means to be truly patient and compassionate--and eventually I'll learn to sincerely embody these qualities in my own life (admittedly not an easy task for the perfectionista that I am!). I've learned that I can enjoy socializing even when I'm not feeling social, and that alone time can be both therapeutically relaxing and productive. And I've learned to be showered, dressed, and downstairs for the trolley in under 15 minutes (wow). This hardly scratches the surface. I'll surely be gaining consciousness of and articulating the lessons learned here for the rest of my life.

I'm learning a bit about confidence right now. Last week the TT staff and Bikram held auditions for the graduation demonstration team. The graduation demonstration team is a group of 30 or so TT students that demonstrates all 26 postures as a group, in unison, and to music at the TT graduation ceremony. Think dance team meets yoga. I had heard about the demonstration from my teachers back home and had never considered auditioning for the team, not before TT or at all during. Honestly, there are enough students here who compete for and win yoga championship titles with eye-popping poses (meaning that their poses are visually stunning, not that they have the yogic power to pop their eyeballs...) that I imagined auditioning with my albeit steady but-mostly-normal-looking poses would be unnecessary and entirely embarrassing.

Well, on the day of the auditions I started thinking about my dad. I imagined him sitting in the audience at graduation. He is so proud of my siblings and me. He believes that we can be the best at anything we put our minds to. And he taught us to always put 100% effort into everything we do. And as much as I would hate to disappoint him by not making the team, I'd hate even more to betray the work ethic I learned from him by not even trying. And I was thankful for this realization, because while I learned my work ethic from my dad, it is now truly and absolutely my own work ethic and by not trying, I would be disappointing not only my dad, but myself. So, I figured I had no choice but to audition and try my best.

It also helped that my posture clinic group gave me tons of encouragement on the day of the auditions. They offered to audition with me, told me that I must try out, and tried to eradicate any fear that I would look ridiculous for trying alongside the eye-popping types. And everything sounds convincing in group member Lucy's accent!

The auditions began with a demonstration in front of two of Bikram's scariest staff members, Erik and Antonia. Erik and Antonia are wonderful at their jobs, but somehow remind me of the nuns my mom and mother-in-law describe from their Catholic school days.

The demo team hopefuls corralled in the center of the yoga room and in front of the 10-foot tall podium. Antonia and Erik stood at the podium while a few other staff members waited, like hangmen at the gallows, for their queue to cut the unworthy.

With hardly a moment to breath, we were following Antonia's instruction to move from one pose to another - pushing and holding as much as possible in between commands. She and Erik conferred on who should be in and who should be out. We charged through Half Moon, Backbending, Awkward (2nd Part), and the balancing series (Standing Head to Knee, Standing Bow-Pulling Pose, and Balancing Stick). A tap on the back from the staff at the discretion of Antonia and Erik would mean you were either in or out, a whispered exchange would clarify which it was.

I continuously encouraged my body to keep doing the best that it knew how to do. I fought off a couple falls while in Head to Knee and Bow and actually felt a surge of confidence as I stood standing through the 'almost-falling' sensation that has always precluded a fall during class. After one spin through the postures I was untouched, still in it. We rested a minute and started again with the balancing postures. Standing Head to Knee first. I fought to tuck my chin more, to round my back more, to pull my elbows down more. I started to cramp on the top of my extended leg. And I fought again, successfully, to keep my balance. I was steady. Then Antonia tapped me on the back. A quick look back and she whispered, "You're good honey, you're in. Go ahead and sit down."

I was shocked but uncontrollably excited. A few nods of approval and votes of confidence from the small audience that had gathered in the room and I was officially motivated to want to stay in through the end. I realized then that, somehow, I had what it took to hold my own alongside the eye-popping types, and I wasn't going to let that realization go.

From there, we had to 1) take class directly in front of Bikram that night (so that he could familiarize himself with the remaining hopefuls) and 2) go through another round of demonstration eliminations, with Bikram controlling the cuts, after class. Bikram's class was super-charged with competitive energy and hopeful ambition. The demo elimination that followed was insane. We went through almost the entire standing series and much of the floor series at rapid fire pace and dynamite strength. My body was on fire. But I made it through, along with about 40 or 50 others.

The next day we met again to whittle the group down to 30. This round was lead by Antonia, Erik, and Juan, a world champion and serious comrade of Bikram's, and even scarier than Antonia and Erik. The three judges hammered us with commands and corrections. They challenged us to do even better than our present best. My body burned - it felt like I was finishing the last 4 miles of a marathon, but my mind felt like it was just out of the starting gate.

In the end, I was still standing, along with 30 or 31 others. Erik advised that we would call it a day (thankfully, for my muscles' sake!), but that they would likely need to cut a couple more people come Monday. Though there is speculation that they'll be able to fit us all on stage and not need to make any more cuts after all.

Surviving three rounds of elimination feels fantastic. It's helping me understand that there is an element of confidence missing from my practice. I'm not sure whether the lack of confidence is a learned behavior, stemming from the societal training that girls be modest, lady-like, or whether it comes from genuine ignorance or insecurity, or somewhere completely different. But I do know that I was raised to be confident in my abilities and, even more, in the fact that I am deeply loved, by my family and God, no matter how much I might fail before succeeding. I hadn't realized until this demo team experience that I was not owning the confidence that is already mine to harness--like having a shiny Corvette in the garage but taking the bus to Vegas. Maybe I won't make it all the way to the graduation demo, but 1) I've made it this far (which tells me that my practice is worth more than I had known), and 2) the love that surrounds me every day is, as Bikram would say, bullet proof, fire proof, money proof, and, yes, even demo team elimination proof!

I will hopefully know tomorrow whether I'm officially on the team. I'll update my Facebook status as soon as I know either way. :)

Thank you all for all of the continued support through this incredible experience. I cannot wait to share what I've learned here with you in person very soon.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Two week recap!

Hi all,

Time in the yoga bubble exists only relative to how much time you have for hydration and nutrition before your next yoga class multiplied by the square root of how many words you have to memorize before your next posture clinic--unless you're crying, in which case time stands as still as the yogis who are there holding your hand.

It's been two weeks since my last blog post, but it feels like for ever. In the last two weeks I have:
  • Delivered the dialogue for postures 9-20 (Triangle Pose to Fixed Firm Pose)
  • Passed the Anatomy portion of TT (with an A!)
  • For the first time, delivered a posture without having studied the dialogue (Fixed Firm Pose)
  • Received another amazing care package from home (thank you Sarah Cargilova!)
  • Stood strong through another legendarily hot class - this time without leaving the room or even taking any breaks
  • Had an emotional breakdown
  • Had a weekend with Mike and Kitty Pooch (a-MAZE-ing!)
  • Missed the 4th Annual Bolger Halloween Extravaganza
  • Made some alone time
  • Been in touch with my home studio about teaching my first class (eeeeeeeeeee!)
These two weeks have been the most challenging so far. Surprisingly, the heat and the yoga are not the biggest challenge nowadays. In fact, the yoga is what keeps me going. It is like the heart of this place--it pumps us in and out and through the TT process. The yoga fuels us for the day, and then again for the night. Just when we're feeling depleted, 400 yogis return to the yoga for oxygen, energy, and love, our fuel for the next push, and then we're off again to conquer the dialogue and defeat the urge to sleep through movies and lectures. I do believe TT would be much more difficult if we had yoga only once per day and not twice. Don't get me wrong though - the yoga here is no picnic. 

The yoga is hard. Everything outside the yoga is just harder. Constant studying, late-night lectures or movies (several starting at midnight or later), eating just-add-water soup out of styrofoam bowls with plastic utensils (while studying), hotel rooms that smell of mossy laundry detergent and feel like the inside of a tent on an cold, dewy morning, always having somewhere to be, and always having someone to be with.

The last two weeks were mentally and emotionally challenging. They actually challenged my determination to be positive. But in the end, the last two weeks also brought the perspective that:
  1. What feels like suffering in the yoga room is actually nothing compared to the suffering of those who carry pain and fear with them through their lives, and 
  2. Surviving and succeeding in the yoga room is practice for surviving and succeeding in life's real challenges.
The yoga room is a safe place to prove your will, to test your limits, to find your love for yourself, to find forgiveness. And on top of all that, the yoga is good for every organ, bone, ligament, tendon, joint, and cell in the body. (I'm definitely drinking the Cool-aid!)

I'm really jazzed about all that's happened these last two weeks, but I'm exhausted and I think I should get to bed. I'm sure you all understand. And I'm sure I'll make up for it with some lovely face-to-face conversations soon enough.

Sleep tight,

PS - A few fun pics from the last two weeks:

Mike and me after our Saturday morning class together
Date night - hungry Bikram Yoga Teacher Trainee style!

"Your two legs should look like a perfect upside down L, like Linda"

Backbends + boardwalks = <3

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In The Yoga Bubble

Hi all,

This week has been a bit funky. Good, but funky. Actually, it probably should have been bad, but instead it was good, which is funky.

The week was hard--we worked through some tough dialogue in posture clinics, Bikram tested our bodies and minds with some major sleep deprivation (he kept us up until 3:30 in the morning watching a Bollywood movie on Weds night), and my hotel room was burgled by a rogue subcontracted hotel electrician--but I haven't had much of a reaction to any of the stress. Hence the perhaps apathetic tone of this post--I think this docility might be one of the effects of the Yoga Bubble.

The Yoga Bubble is the place in which TT exists, where it's normal to feel weird and weird to feel normal. Where your consciousness exists only from moment to moment--where judgment of the past and anticipation of the future are mythical creatures known only through songs and nursery rhymes, like Puff the Magic Dragon or Humpty Dumpty. I like to imagine TT as akin to crazy ninja training--where crazy old guys force you to complete seemingly pointless tasks without any explanation, which make no sense until one day years from now when we find that waxing the car for days at a time has prepared us to defend our lives and save the world... or something like that.

Anywho, I do appreciate that because of the hotel room burglary, I was able to get out on a bit of a hike. The burglar took my and my roommate's cell phones from our bed and nightstand. He accessed our room while we were in our morning yoga class, using a master room key. He was given a room key by hotel management because he was a subcontractor who had been working on the TVs in guest rooms for about a month. He had probably been casing the yoga school's rooms and schedule for a while and knew exactly when to strike and what to look for. He took pocket-sized items that were left in plain sight from inside at least 5 student rooms. My roommate and I actually feel lucky that he didn't take more than our phones. The police are involved and have what they need to apprehend the guy; the hotel is replacing our phones ASAP (hopefully early this week). Everyone is doing everything they can to make the whole thing right.

So the hike: Yes, because of the burglary, I was able to do a little hiking. Using the GPS signal from my phone, Mike was able to track my phone's location to a field between a major section of roads at the entrance to LAX, which happens to be a quarter mile from our hotel. The signal from my phone pointed to a section of the field just a stone's throw (or, rather, a cell phone's throw) from the road on either side of the field. My theory is that the burglar found that my phone was useless to him, since it was password protected, and therefore threw it out his car window into this field while making his not-so-clean escape.

One of the yoga school's staff and I spent about two-and-a-half hours digging through this field but never found the phone. That's okay though--the field was at the top of a good-sized, pretty steep hill and was covered in thick bushes, which meant I got to play in the woods (sort of). It took just a bit of imagination and optimism to find the whole thing enjoyable. The activity and fresh air really gave me what I needed to keep a positive attitude and maintain a level head through the whole thing. Or maybe it was the 40-ish yoga classes in the 3.5 weeks leading up to the theft.

Tonight I am preparing for our final anatomy exam and for the delivery of Triangle Pose, the master pose of the Bikram series. I should be stressed, but I'm really just going with the flow. There's no point to resisting and much more to be gained by moving with the momentum of the training.

I was overwhelmed this week with care packages. Thank you to Jaret & Ashley Johnson, Miss Pink, Jeff & Jen Bolger, and Mike for the thoughtful cards and goodies. I feel very loved and encouraged. The timing was perfect!

Mike will be in town next weekend, so I may not be posting again for a while. This post is a bit blah though, so hopefully I'll find time and inspiration to post again before disappearing into the only bubble more consuming than the yoga bubble, the husband bubble. :)

From deep inside the yoga bubble,

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gratitude Found

Hi all,

I'm blogging from my cell phone, so please excuse any typos. :) (My cell signal is much more reliable than the internet here, hence the cell phone post.)

This week we started anatomy and posture clinics.

Anatomy is heavy, but our teacher, Dr. P, makes it fun. He is a board certified doctor who works in the ER in Vegas. He's also an anatomy professor, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, an ex-college cheerleader (go cheer!), and a Bikram Yoga practitioner. He is dynamic. We are so fortunate to have a teacher so knowledgeable and passionate about the human body and how Bikram Yoga affects it.

If anatomy is heavy, then the posture clinics are gravity itself. In posture clinics, we break up into groups of about 40 and take turns "teaching" the posture of the moment to three "demonstrators" while Bikram's instructors and staff provide feedback on and record our every move. We are critiqued on everything from how well we've memorized the dialogue to our tone, pace, pitch, volume, inflexion, body language, and posture.

Each posture is approximately 5-8 paragraphs of tongue-twisting Bikram English. The dialogue is like its own language. Until you master it the words can sound arbitrary and awkward. And on top of the BSL (Bikram as a Second Language) challenge, there's the nerves. Each of us is shaking in our yoga pants as we take the floor to deliver the dialogue.

I received some good and challenging feedback on the first two postures of the week: breathe and be more animated.

Breathe. Really. I blazed through Backward Bending and Hands to Feet so quickly and with so little breathing that i was dizzy after. I didn't miss a word, but who cares when you sound scary?

Be more animated. Ouch. Translation: You might be so boring that it's embarrassing. And the worst part was that I was actually trying to be energetic. But I think the trying is the problem. I was trying to sound like a yoga teacher, instead of just being me and doing something I love and believe in.

For the next posture I spent a lot of time focusing on how happy I am, how much I love this yoga, and how proud I am to be sharing Bikram Yoga with the world. I thought back to the time spent on the beach at June Lake leading new friends through the standing series, the office yoga shared with my coworkers at my office sendoff party, and the long conversations with friends on SoHar Island about why yoga is good for the world. I spent time drilling down into the core of my yoga love.

My theory: If I am overwhelmed with yoga happiness when I teach, then the delivery will be nothing but good and happy too.

It worked. My feedback on Eagle Pose: Something along the lines of, 'Wow, what can I say except keep doing what you are doing.' And even more exciting: I felt like myself--like my best self--teaching the posture.

And then on the same day as our Eagle delivery, the posture clinic leaders announced that we were moving on to the next posture, Standing Head to Knee, right away. This was a shock to everyone in the room. Until that day, we had only covered one posture per day. No one had prepared to deliver the next posture. I was one of the few who had memorized it ahead of time, but I certainly hadn't reviewed it since I'd arrived here three weeks ago. And I certainly hadn't practiced my delivery of the posture.

I sat reviewing the dialogue for about 10 minutes while a few brave souls delivered the posture first. When finally no one else would volunteer to go next, I took the floor.

It was over before I knew it. I turned to my posture clinic buddy and asked if I got it--he said it was flawless. I celebrated with a quick fist pump and a signature 'woo!' And the feedback from the leads: 'Wow. Again, keep up the great work. I can't think of anything negative to say!'

This was the biggest success of my TT experience to date. I was overwhelmed--with relief, reassurance, and gratitude. I realized quickly that if not for the support and effort of my home studio and, most of all, Mike, I would not have been prepared at all to succeed in this scenario.

As I took my turn demonstrating for the next three students' deliveries, I grew more and more aware of the love it took for Mike to spend so many evenings quizzing me on the dialogue, demonstrating for me while I delivered the dialogue, listening to me (or tuning me out) while I recited the dialogue aloud repeatedly, and taking care of things around the house while I spent more and more time at the studio. I felt so much gratitude for all the work he did and is doing so that I can be here. And I started to really cry for the first time here. I've been grateful since the day Mike and I decided we could make this happen, but this feeling was bigger than that. In the yoga world, I think they call this 'finding your gratitude.'

I was a bit emotional and shaken for the rest of the week--by the strength of Mike's love, the blessing of his support in preparing for TT, and the quickening speed of the posture clinics.

A visit from my parents, a day and a half of studying, and an afternoon near the ocean have me feeling on top of it again and ready for week 4. But I know this week is going to be beyond my expectations (as if I had any!). Bikram's been out of town all week, so things are bound to go up a notch just with his return.

Thank you all for the comments (and sorry for those who can't post to the blog, btw! I'm not sure how to fix that...), emails, texts, Facebook posts, and care packages. They make me feel loved. <3 Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers this week!

With yoga love,

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's Getting Hot in Here...

Hi all,

I'm still alive and well, but this week made last week look like a tropical vacation.

I had the best class of my life on Monday morning. Tutu taught. She's the last remaining descendant of Bikram's guru, Bishnu Ghosh. I took no breaks, had great balance--I stood through Standing Bow (first set, first side) the entire time without falling for the first time ever!!--and felt jazzed and strong after the class. I was ready for a great rest of the week. And then I took Bikram's class that night.

Bikram's Monday night class was super hot. Like, beyond comprehension hot. Too hot for a normal studio, but hot enough to make all us hot shot teacher trainees remember what their first day felt like. Hot enough to know what it feels like to suffer through a class on too much coffee, not enough water, too much stress, a hangover, an injury, the flu, and a killer bee attack all at once. Hot enough to break us down until we have no choice but to be compassionate for ourselves and, someday soon, our students.

They won't tell us how hot the room is, but they did explain that the minimum is 110 Fahrenheit. They only crank it up from there. I believe we've only had a couple classes at the minimum, and 110  feels tepid compared to Bikram's Monday night class. I am estimating the room to have been around 130 Fahrenheit. On top of the heat, we've got lots of humidity and zero air circulation. They don't open the doors for fresh air at teacher training.

During the Monday night hell of a class, at any given point after the opening breathing exercise and the three warmup postures approximately half of the students were either on the floor or out the door. No joke. There was a constant flow of students out the back door. For reals. Students who have never taken a knee or left the room during class were lying down and leaving the class overwhelmed and frustrated. I left too. I don't even remember when.

Bikram did his best to make us feel weak for being overwhelmed by the heat--heckling us from his cushy arm chair perched high on his giant podium. But it was all an act. Eventually the heat was even too much for him. He left the room during Fixed Firm Pose (pose 19 of 26). On his way out he complained to his staff that the heat was too much, it was just like Acapulco (the teacher training session legendary for having an almost unmanageable number of students requiring IVs for re-hydration), and said he would not be coming back in the room while it was that hot. A staffer took over the class. He mercifully moved us through the rest of the postures as quickly and kindly as possible.

The rest of the week's classes have been slightly less hot than that Monday night. The staff claims that a fan is broken and is being replaced, which explains the hellish heat, but I don't fully believe them. I think the extreme heat and the feeling that no one can save us from it might be by design.

I'm working on not judging my classes right now. I'd love to say that I mastered that skill this week, but I think it's going to be a while before I get there. A lot of us come here expecting to practice lots of yoga, get really good at our postures, and get in really good shape. What I'm realizing now is that my definitions of "good postures" and "in shape" may be out of line with the realities of teacher training.

This week I was often so exhausted and overwhelmed during class that I didn't have the strength (mental and/or physical) to get as deep into the postures as I would normally think necessary to improve in the posture. I've also been eating SO MUCH (so that I have the energy to survive the classes) that I don't think I'll be losing any weight here (which, let's be honest, is what we mean when we say get in shape). But I trust the process. I trust that by surviving these classes I am getting better at the postures and I am getting healthier, just in ways that I hadn't expected.

So many wonderful teachers back home told me to come here with no expectations. I'm starting to realize just how literally they meant that. I'm realizing that I can't even expect normal to be normal here.

I'm looking forward to learning more this week. I feel like I've been stripped of my yoga guard and I've got no choice but to learn what it truly means to be a Bikram Yoga teacher. I've been here two weeks, but I feel like I'm approaching my first day again.

Thank you all for your encouragement. I lean on the texts, Facebook posts, and blog views/comments more than you know. They keep me going. Please keep them coming!!

Love love love,

PS - The staff told us this week that everyone wears costumes to class on Halloween. I'll be going as Lady Gaga. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Half Moon: Donezo!

Hi all,

I survived the first week! This place is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Nothing could have fully prepared me to be here. Two Bikram Yoga classes a day, 7+ hours of lectures a day, and hardly enough time in between to prepare food, shower, do laundry, and sleep. Eventually I’ll be squeezing some study time in there too.

The classes here are tough. Students drop to their mats like rain, several even leave the room to be sick. A few are seized in head-to-toe cramps after class. Everyone is bewildered. I’ve been strong so far—I have not had to leave the room yet, but I have taken a knee a few times. My last few classes were my strongest—no breaks, no dizziness. I tweaked a muscle in my back during the first class on Monday morning. I mistook "taking it easy for the first week" for "using bad alignment in triangle" (ouch!). I was concerned the first three days after that, but with lots of heat, ice, and yoga everything feels good again. Crazy how that works.

Lectures so far have been focused on Dialogue, with the exception of one late-night Bollywood movie (an Indian musical combination of Grease, Die Hard, and Blue Lagoon). Peppered into every lecture are Bikram’s stories—about his life, his success, his cars, watches, and high profile students. These can be tedious, but they’re fascinating.

A key component of teaching Bikram Yoga is the script. Bikram has written a script for each of the 26 postures and two breathing exercises in his series. This script, known as the Dialogue, is designed to allow the practitioner to turn his or her brain off and let the body respond to the instructions given by the teacher with minimal distraction. The words let the brain sync 100% with the movements of the body, as opposed to having any portion of the brain off thinking about anything else. This facilitates a union between body and mind, which for me is the point of yoga.

The Dialogue also gives Bikram a great deal of quality control. With 8900+ certified Bikram Yoga teachers across the globe, the Dialogue helps to preserve the intent and promote the impact of Bikram’s yoga series. Bikram is very protective of his series of postures and the Dialogue. He seems okay with some changes here and there, but you must be able to remain as effective "off Dialogue" as you are "on Dialogue."

For the first 1.5-2 weeks of TT, Bikram listens to each student deliver the Dialogue for Half Moon pose, the first posture in his series. The experience is a bit like an American Idol audition, only everyone sings the same song and there’s only one judge. If I had to pick just one judge to compare Bikram to, it would be Simon. One by one we each stand on the stage, microphone in hand, and instruct three "demo" students in Half Moon pose. In the audience, 400+ teacher trainees and, front and center, Bikram - listening, judging. Then Bikram provides his feedback—on your voice, your pace, your hair and body size, and your future as a Bikram yoga teacher.

On day 1 (Monday), I made my way to the holding pen area of the lecture room – a group of 25 chairs to the right of the stage. I signed my name on line 24 – which I think indicates that Darci Bolger was the 24th student (of 400+) to deliver Half Moon. When the time came, I made my way to the line of the next 5 students to speak. And there I stood, Half Moon running through my mind a million times in a row (to make sure I had it down pat), heart banging against my chest in protest, and my brain doing its best to remind my body that a physical reaction to any nervousness will only work against me. I forced a smile and I felt calm and happy, even confident. And then "NEXT!" from Bikram and the microphone was in my hands.

My protesting heart took over and I felt a heat wave roll down my arms. Before I could even center my feet on the speaker’s mark, I felt a bead of sweat trickle down my spine.

"Hello Bikram. Hello everybody. My name is Darci Bolger. I am from Issaquah, Washington, near Seattle. I practice at Bikram Yoga Bellevue, owned by Hilary Larson."

True to form, Bikram didn’t miss a beat. He asked if I knew Hillarie’s kids, commented on how great they were, and said he’d just had dinner in Seattle two nights before (with Bikram Yoga Bellevue teachers in attendance). He does this with almost every student—it’s amazing how well he knows his studios. I beamed with pride. I love my studio.

And then Bikram commanded, "START PLEASE!"

My mind blanked and autopilot took over. My mouth ran with the words, verbatim (I think), suppressing my mind’s urge to worry whether I’d remember what came next. I delivered the Dialogue with an ever quickening crescendo, grew louder and stronger with each phrase, and left no pauses between each line. I was showing Bikram that I could kick students’ asses.

I earned a healthy applause and a good dose of cheers from the student audience. And I braced myself to be gracious, no matter how much Bikram loved me.

And then Bikram brought me back down to earth: "I will tell you something I have already said to some other ones: You have to have more varieties. You can’t just come out and push push push push push. You have to have some hard, some soft. You don’t want to eat Chinese food every night. You sometimes want Italian, sometimes want Mexican, sometimes want a steak. You want to have the varieties. You understand? Do I make my point?" I smile, say yes and thank you. I turn to hand the microphone to the next student, and Bikram adds, "That was very good. Fantastic." With this, I felt challenged, encouraged, and good.

I am privileged to learn how to teach this yoga directly from the one who developed it. Bikram is a part of history. People will practice Bikram Yoga forever (or as long as there is enough energy in the world to heat the yoga room to 105 degrees!), and I’m one of the lucky few who are able to learn directly from the source. I am hanging on every word and can’t wait to apply them to my own classes some day.

This whole process is torture and exhausting. But a privilege. They say the first week or two are all about adjusting to the surroundings, the schedule, the nutrition. This experience is a real shock to the body and mind. Even so, I had a great first week and I’m looking forward to the next.

The internet connection here is superbad. In fact, I’m unable to get online long enough to post this blog update. I can get online long enough to email it though, so this is coming to you from me via Mike. And this means my time online on the weekends won’t be as much as I had hoped. I miss home a ton, but that too is part of this process.

Sending my love and thanking everyone for theirs,


Monday, September 19, 2011

This is awesome!!!

Hi all,

Just a quick post to say I am doing well here at TT. This experience is living up to all of its expectations. I am feeling so blessed to have the opportunity and the support to be here. Everything is going smoothly and I'm surviving (so far).

I so appreciate all of the texts, emails, phone calls, Facebook posts, and blog views. They give me energy and will keep me going when my reserves are depleted. Please keep them coming. I won't be responding, but I am receiving them and they make me smile. :)

Two big points of interest: 

1) I'm all settled in to my hotel home. My roommate and I spent the first two nights walking, cabbing, and trolley-ing around town to stock up on supplies. Living out of a hotel is more challenging than expected, but my roomie and I are a great team and we're making it work wonderfully. And the hotel is much nicer than had been rumored, so that's a great bonus.

2) We had our first yoga class with our 400+ classmates tonight. Bikram taught. The yoga room was gorgeous and perfectly heated/humidified. It was amazing.

I'm journaling to capture the details, which I may get into the blog eventually. But for now, the school has asked that we 'unplug' as much as possible to let 'the yoga' take over. I plan to be mostly offline Monday through Saturday and then catch up with the outside world a bit on Sundays.

Love and yoga,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lucid Dream to Commence in 3, 2, 1

After some last-minute shopping today and about three re-packs, I think I'm officially packed and ready to go.

I leave for the airport at 10 am. Orientation is Sunday. First yoga class is on Monday. And here's what the TT site says about our daily schedule from there on out:

A typical day at the Teacher Training starts at 8am and lasts until at least midnight including two daily Bikram Yoga classes

Bikram's Teacher Training is an accelerated, intensive program.
Your weekly schedule is as outlined below:

8:30am - 10:00am
Monday - Friday
Bikram's Basic Yoga Class
10:00am - 12:15pm
Monday - Friday
Lunch Break
12:15pm - 4:00pm
Monday - Friday
Posture Clinic/Lectures
5:00pm - 6:30pm
Monday - Friday
Bikram's Basic Yoga Class
6:30pm - 9:00pm
Monday - Friday
Dinner break
9:00pm - ???
Monday - Friday
Posture Clinic/Lecture
8:00am - 9:30am
Bikram's Basic Yoga Class
Sunday Day of Rest

Note the "???" on the Mon-Fri end time for Posture Clinic/Lecture. Legend has it that Bikram keeps trainees up until 2 am watching Bollywood movies. And on top of this schedule, we have lots to study and memorize. Any spare minute will be spent studying and memorizing. I'm going to be a yoga-loving zombie.

Before TT takes over every waking minute, I want to answer some FAQs about this whole TT thing. :)

Q. What is Bikram Yoga?
A. From

Bikram Yoga is the 26 postures Sequence selected and developed by Bikram Choudhury from Hatha Yoga. It has been proved and experienced by millions that these 26 postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function. Each component takes care of something different in the body, and yet they all work together synergistically, contributing to the success of every other one, and extending its benefits.

Q. Why is Bikram yoga practiced in a climate of 105+ degrees and 40%+ humidity?
A. From

Yoga changes the construction of the body from the inside out, from bones to skin and from fingertips to toes. So before you change it, you have to heat it up to soften it, because a warm body is a flexible body. Then you can reshape the body any way you want.

Hatha Yoga flushes away the waste products, the toxins of all the glands and organs of your body. It provides a natural irrigation of the body through the circulatory system, with the help of the respiratory system. It brings nourishments to every cell of your body so that each one can perform its function and keep your body healthy. Bikram Yoga also employs heat to further that cleaning process: When you sweat, impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin.

Q. How long have you been doing Bikram Yoga?
A. Off and on (mostly on, depending on what kind of class package specials the studios were running) for 9 years. Very on (like, overtime-on) for nine months.

Q. What does it take to get in to Bikram Yoga TT?
A. 1) Minimum Six (6) months of regular Bikram Yoga practice at an affiliated studio
2) Letter of Recommendation from the studio director of the affiliated studio where you have satisfied (A) requirement

Q. Does everyone graduate?
A. While I've not been able to find any stats on the graduation rate, the legend has it that people do drop out. And graduation is not guaranteed. From

Certification is not guaranteed simply by attending the Teacher Training program. You must pass the anatomy tests, attend and participate in all posture clinics, lectures, be able to deliver the Bikram Yoga dialogue for each posture to Bikram’s satisfaction, and demonstrate proficiency in the Bikram Yoga postures. A midterm exam will identify those students not meeting certifying standards and additional help will be available to them. At graduation, those students not meeting certifying standards may be afforded additional opportunities for practice and certification.

Q. What are your plans for after TT?
A. I will be teaching part time (probably 1-3 classes/week) before/after work and on weekends. I'll keep my full-time day job (my office has been wonderfully accommodating - I'm very blessed to have them in my life). In a couple years, I'd like to cut back on the day job and teach more, but that is still TBD.

Q.Where is TT?
A. The Fall 2011 session is in Los Angeles. The last few sessions have been at the same location, the Radisson LAX.TT is offered twice per year. Prior to the Radisson LAX, TT was held all over, from San Diego, to Hawaii, to Vegas. LA is exciting though because it is close to Bikram's world headquarters, so you get to see more of the man himself.

Q. Will you meet Bikram?
A. Yes! He will teach classes and critique our "dialogue" (the recital of the script Bikram prescribes for teaching the 26 postures).

Q. Will you see Mike while you're at TT?
A. This is TBD, but is probably a yes. He'll probably come visit for a weekend, but we're going to see how things work before we make plans. I'm guessing I'll be at a breaking point around week 5, so hopefully we can coordinate the visit w/that. :)

Q. What will Mike do while you're at TT?
A. 1) Play with his new XBox
2) Exercise every day that I'm doing yoga (so we can share a bond of some sort)
3) Play bachelor w/our friendo whose wife is also away for school :)

Please let me know if you have any other questions. No promises though on whether/when I'll get back to you. ;)

The next 2.5 months are going to be insanely different from anything close to normal. I've been so focused on making this thing happen all year that now that it's finally happening I realize I've spent little time envisioning myself there and I can't quite see what it will look like. But I know it's going to happen and I'm going to shine. This is a very surreal feeling.

I wish Mike were here. He's on our annual backpacking trip in The Enchantments. He left yesterday. This place is so special to us - when the permit dates came back, we only thought for a moment about him not going. But we knew he had to go, for the both of us. I can't wait to hear about the trip and see the pictures.

And while it sucks that we won't be together until the very last moment at the airport, I'm glad to have had this time to adjust to the separation. Hopefully this will make my adjustment to TT a bit easier. :)

The Enchantments, August 2009

The Enchantments, October 2010

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Send off week

Time is flying by - I leave for TT the day after tomorrow. I just finished my last day of work before TT and am taking tomorrow off to tie up some loose ends before I leave:
  • Final physical therapy appointment (my knee is really going to miss my regular PT appointments!)
  • Yoga with my TT roomie (we're from the same studio and so blessed to have each other)
  • REI for some last minute supplies
  • Pedicure
  • Sync my phone (my Lady Gaga playlist has been acting up - I hope a sync w/the computer will fix it!)
  • Laundry. So. Much. Laundry.
  • Kitty Pooch grooming appointment (hopefully I can find one!)
  • Costco for my photo print order

It's been a busy week. I haven't thought about packing or leaving or yoga or teaching but a few times this week, so I'm very thankful that I started packing two weeks ago. :)

Last weekend, Mike and my friends spoiled me with a dreamy sendoff. We all started by taking a morning yoga class. I even taught the first three poses of the class. I had asked that morning's instructor if I could not teach any postures that morning, which of course meant she had no choice but to insist that I teach. And I'm so glad she did. The whole thing was a wonderful experience - to share this yoga with the people closest to me. I'm still riding the wave of emotional support.

After yoga we all went out for pizza, where more friends came to wish me farewell. Then Mike and I spent the beautiful Seattle afternoon at the rooftop pool of a swanky Seattle hotel. That evening we took Kitty for a walk around the block that turned into a night on the town, where we had the good fortune to meet up with friends and find a bartender kind enough to let me attempt a yoga pose on his bar top. The photo op was irresistible.

My coworkers have been great too. They threw a yoga sendoff party yesterday, complete with 'yoga food,' some light chanting, and a group yoga class, in which my coworkers took turns trying yoga poses with me. Again, the photo ops were irresistible.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. I can't wait to get to TT!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

For Old Time's Sake

I went running tonight for the first time in a few weeks. It felt great. And it took me back to my first attempt at training for a marathon and the fun I had blogging about that. So, this is an ode to my first blog.

Running is near and dear to my heart, but a bit outside of the yogi's creed. Bikram yoga heals the body, and running breaks down the body (or so they say...), so the two don't really play nicely together. At present, my attitude is that Bikram yoga will allow me to run longer... we'll see if that sticks through TT (and never mind the converse - that running might mean I do yoga shorter... or something).

My goal for now is to run a few miles every Sunday through TT. This will give my body a break and maybe even loosen it up after almost too much yoga Mon-Sat. It will also (and more importantly) clear my head.

And to make running even more fun, I am giving the minimalist approach a try. I picked up a pair of Vibram 5 Finger road running shoes this weekend. And so far I think I'm hooked.

My run tonight felt great, knee included. (My knee and I have a tumultuous history, but through lots of patience and therapy we are now in a good place. We tread rough waters from time to time, but we know each other well and can make it through anything now.)

The magic of the minimalist shoe is that your feet and the ground tell your body when it's running well, or running poorly. Your feet can collect more feedback in minimalist shoes than with traditional running shoes. If your foot strikes the ground at a bad angle (aka in poor form) in minimalist shoes, then your feet and body feel the error in form and correct accordingly. For more information on this, please see Jordan Johnson. :)

Poor running form lead to my first knee injury. Poor coordination and a comedy of errors lead to my second, more serious injury. Nonetheless, I have been crazy focused on my running form the last 2+ years. And tonight, with my feet in direct communication with the ground, I found my running to be the most efficient, pain free, and enjoyable since before running the marathon last Summer. I have not been as hopeful about running again since my second knee injury, and tonight I'm totally pumped to be a runner again. What kind of distances will I run? Only more time on these 5 Fingers will tell.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pose Pics - Before TT

Test-packing is going well. I've decided to check a second bag. Two yoga mats, 10 pounds of my new favorite protein powder, and a big stuffed polar bear (i.e. Mike hug supplement) and I am over capacity on my hoped-for one bag. But checking the extra bag is less expensive than shipping the stuff down, and gives me more peace of mind. Most importantly though, I've got a game plan two weeks in advance. Woo!

I did take a break this weekend to take some 'before TT' pose pictures. I'm looking forward to seeing and feeling how my postures will change through TT.

For me (and I hope for lots of other Bikram yogis out there), yoga is not about how flexible/inflexible I am, how great/not great my balance is, or even about getting a good stretch.

It's about pushing to my limits and putting 100% of my effort into the pose. The stretching aspect is important, but even more important is the compression and massage applied to the inside of the body during the stretch. And my favorite is the idea that I am torturing my body to strengthen my mind. For me, yoga is an exercise for your determination, concentration, and even perspective (i.e. 'yes I'm suffering right now, but will I be suffering after? no. am I lucky to be doing this? yes. is it good for me? yes. therefore, quit whining and enjoy the fact that I'm here.' This mantra often gets me through class).

As I do more yoga, my body changes - what is easy becomes hard, what is hard becomes easy. Then I adjust. And the cycle continues. I'm ready to take on whatever new challenge comes from this steadfast yoga in Bikram's TT Torture Chamber.

Standing Deep Breathing

Half Moon - Backward Bending

Hands to Feet

Head to Knee

Standing Bow

Friday, September 2, 2011

Packing Test Run

Hi all,

I leave for Teacher Training two weeks from tomorrow. To prepare, I'm spending this Saturday picking up any last minute items and doing a packing 'test run.'

They say not to have any expectations going in to TT, except to know that you will have 'no choice' - about how much sleep you get, whether you will practice more yoga than seems humanly possible, whether you will memorize the 90-minute yoga dialogue, or whether you eat your favorite foods or prepare them in your favorite ways. In short - I must prepare to have zero control.

My plan is to expel as much type-A from me as possible by being an excellently organized and prepared packer. And thanks to my practice packing two weeks in advance, I will have full control over what may literally be the very last thing I do before boarding the plane for TT.

To illustrate my obsession, let me show you a snippet of my packing list:

And in my defense, and to give you a glimpse of what life at TT will look like, let me say that I will be living in a 2-star hotel for 2.5 months and trying to nourish and rest my body well enough to exert about as much energy in yoga as you would running a marathon every day for 5.5 straight days a week. and on supposedly zero sleep.

My hotel room will be equipped with a coffee maker, teeny complimentary shower products, beds (one for me, and one for my lovely roomie), a TV, I assume, perhaps even one of those permanently plugged-in blow dryers, a dorm fridge (the little ones), and California tap water (eek!). No microwave, no stove top, no living room, no kitchen counters. It's going to be rough, and amazing. (Right now I'm super thankful that I LOVE backpacking as much as I do... somehow, I think it's prepared me for these conditions.)

My roomie took class today at our home studio (Bikram Yoga Bellevue). She texted me afterwards to say that the classroom was about 112 degrees F (7 degrees higher than the minimum 105), and that the instructor said (I imagine she did so with a twinkle in her eye) that TT will be about 10 degrees warmer (and twice a day!). It's going to be awful and awesome at the same time. I am so excited!

Hope you all enjoy your Labor Day weekend. I know I will.


Yoga blog: Check!

Hi all,
I'm counting down the weeks until beginning Bikram's Teacher Training (TT for short) and I have an ever-growing list of things to accomplish beforehand, not the least of which is getting a blog up and running. And I hereby proclaim the blog up and ran!

The purpose of this blog is to keep friends, family, teachers, and potential future students (grin) informed of my adventures in TT. In return for my efforts, I hope to receive lots of hip hip hoorays, cheers, and general well-wishes (via blog post responses, text, email, Facebook, prayer, thought, care packages, phone calls (i.e. voice mails), etc) throughout my TT experience. Though a few interested parties have requested this blog, I will admit that keeping it will serve not only as a communication tool, but also as a therapeutic vent for me. I imagine this blog will be one of my strongest connections to the outside world while on lock down inside Bikram's Los Angeles Torture Chamber. Your following will keep me smiling in the hot sweaty room with the crazy yoga guru.

I could probably cover a lot of background in this post: Why am I going to TT, what are my plans/goals for when I return from TT, why Bikram (and why is it so damn hot???), how have I prepared for TT, and lots of other details that are potentially only interesting to me, but for now I just want to conclude by acknowledging all of the support and encouragement you have given me these past 9 months - all of you, especially the Baylys, the Johnsons (all 4 of you!), the Carbaughs, the SCU kids, the parents and siblings (both sides!!), coworkers, yoga teachers (I <3 BYB!!), and above all Mike.

Mike has been his usual amazingly supportive self throughout this whole process, which is saying A LOT--this TT prep process is not an easy one (did I mention I've been training/prepping for 9 months??!). Even someone as amazingly cool as Mike should be expected to get a little heated under the stress of it all, but not Mike. He's got superhuman coolness. And not just for himself--when I start to crack under the pressure, he musters up some extra cool and gives it to me. He's kept me calm and focused from day 1. I can't imagine getting this far in this goal without him. Thank you honey bunches!!!!!!

Looking forward to more sharing,