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,