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. :)