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. :)