bruised hips, drunk guys, tears… and a whole lot of love

This weekend, I had opportunity to share Bikram Yoga with a whole lot of people.

Our town was having their local Art & Wine Festival, and one of my studios had a booth. As much fun as it is handing out Introductory Offer cards to people who look at you and think you’re a nut job (or potentially associated with those evangelical Christians shouting about fearing God down the road….. I think regardless of your religious beliefs, we can all come together and resent the guys who try to shame you into the “right” path).

/End rant.

In any case, I found I was better suited to demonstrating postures than approaching strangers. I do a lot of talking with strangers and breaking the proverbial ice (hello, working in retail), and while I’m pretty good at it I never love doing it. Turns out, though, I do love doing yoga. Even on solid concrete. Even when I end up with bruises on my hips and feet from doing it over and over and over again.

Two of us would demonstrate the postures & breathing exercises (one set of each in a hold-maximum-expression-for-5-seconds, flow-y style), which left others to talk to the passersby. It was much more successful this way.

Doing Locust Pose in the middle of the street…. Yoga everywhere!

It was a fun day filled with interesting moments. I’m pretty sure someone recorded a video of us at some point. Also, got lengthily hit on by a drunk guy who didn’t understand personal space (it was a lot more fun watching him try Standing Bow Pulling Pose). All in all, I took 8 AM class, taught 10 AM, then demo’d yoga in the sunshine all afternoon with fellow teachers/friends….what could be better?

My favorite moment, however:

While demonstrating with the studio manager, I saw a woman roll her wheelchair-bound mother up to a spot right in front of us. They stood there, watching the demonstration from the beginning to our final bow & namaste. After, she walked up to us and asked us if we would mind saying namaste to her mother and explaining what it meant. We both approached her, brought our hands into namaskar, bowed, and said “Namaste.” Then Jen explained.

Namaste

I honor the place in you where the entire Universe resides
I honor the place in you of love, of light, of truth, of peace
I honor the place in you, where, when you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,
there is only one of us.

As we left her, I could see tears in her eyes.

And that, my friends, is the full beauty of this yoga. It’s not just locking the knee so you get strong, well-defined quadriceps muscles or lose weight–though these things certainly help, they are only side effects. We can forget this sometimes. But really, it’s about finding and sharing the best in ourselves with each other.

And I’m lucky enough that I get paid to do this now. BOO YA.

inconceivable feats and incredible goals

Yoga is amazing.

Example #638,523?

This past Thursday I got to join in and witness the tail end of an amazing feat accomplished in the name of yoga.

Three yogis practiced five classes in one day. That’s right. Five classes in one day. Every single class offered, they were there–6 AM, 12 PM, 4:30 PM, 6:30 PM, and 8:15 PM.

Chris (an inspiration all on his own account), Priscila, Mary (our 8:15 PM teacher), Huong, myself, and Mirna after completing the final class of the day

By now, you’re probably asking why.

Huong & Priscila are fundraising for teacher training (Mirna joined to support them). If I haven’t mentioned it yet, teacher training is ridonkulously expensive. As in, just under $11 grand–and that’s before the cost of food, regular unavoidable bills, not working for two months, oh-so-necessary massages, et cetera. Many of us who go to teacher training have gone to incredible lengths to find the money. Or, in some cases (like mine!) we sell our souls.

Just kidding….. sort of.

Still, it is absolutely 100% worth it. It’s indescribable, but also immeasurably valuable.

If you could, please think about donating to their teacher training. Even if all you can donate is $5, hey, that’s one coconut water or kombucha that may save their sanity in that killer 130 minute, 122 degree class in week 5 day 4 of training…. you never know.

Donations can be made online to Huong here, while Priscila’s donations go here (UPDATED: Added link).

It never ceases to amaze me how limitless we become with the help of yoga. The unachievable and impossible eventually (in the future) becomes inevitable, and I feel blessed to have had these three remind me of that once again.

Week 9 Recap

Week 9 Lessons

Our last day of watermelon by the pool after the last AM class of the week–all the traditions, ending.

  • We will find the answer by experiencing it: I asked two questions on the first day during Bikram’s long-anticipated posture lectures, and he didn’t like either of them. I’m quite sure he didn’t understand my first question. My second, though…. well, it went something like this:
    [In discussing the first part of Awkward]
    Me: “Why is it six inches between the knees and the feet?” (I’ve heard it’s so you’re aligned with your shoulder/hip width.)
    BC: “Because that’s the way I want it. That’s a stupid question. I thought you were smarter than that.”
    Can you say, “OUCH!”?!?
    Later–after the humiliation and embarrassment receded–I realized that (1) had he said that yes, it’s 6″ because that’s the distance between your hips/shoulders, someone less intelligent and dialogue-driven than me would have started to tell students that instead (even if I never would); and (2) he didn’t want “why” questions about the dialogue because he believes it is our responsibility to learn “whys” of the dialogue by practicing with our own bodies and by teaching and watching other bodies. Yoga is not academia. Here, we learn by doing, by experiencing and feeling.
  • “You’re supposed to die. You didn’t do good enough, because you didn’t die.” -BC: Just in case I’d started to feel stronger & better, our last class kicked my ass. It was so hot and humid, it felt like week 5 all over again–even with a bit of that disturbing numbness in my hands. I suppose it was for old times’ sake? In any case, I’ll take it as a sign I did well enough since, as Boss had said in lecture earlier, if we’re not dead at the end of class we didn’t try hard enough. Welcome to Bikram’s torture chamber, here to kill yourself for 90 minutes……
  • “Freedom brings uncertainty. So love your uncertainty. You’ll be 100% fine.” -Balwan: This last week felt like equal measures of terror of leaving the bubble and teaching your first class, sadness at leaving all of your amazing new friends, and relief at not having to keep up the same grueling routine. Balwan’s parting speech to us about our lives post-training was so apt and encouraging, though (and so in line with his wonderful spirit). It was very reassuring. I’ve never liked uncertainty, but teacher training, and this teacher training in particular (thanks, Week 7), has given me ample opportunity to practice equanimity and flexibility. So this quality I’ve been trying to learn, and will continue to practice.

Week 9 Highlights

Look at me with that hot little certificate in my hands!


  • Goodbye, deluxe torture chamber: Ok, so as hard as the actual last class was for me physically & mentally, it was also amazing. As soon as we hit final savasana, no one was dead. Everyone was standing, dancing, hugging, and crying their hearts out as one of Bikram’s songs was playing. Beach balls were hit around. It’s akin to simultaneously finishing a marathon with 400+ of your soulmates, only a thousand times more amazing. The hot room will never feel any better than that again.
  • “Ask me why”: Bikram’s posture lectures were so rewarding. Too short, as we ran out of time and he had to speed through things, but rewarding. I learned so many details and insights, even in that little amount of time! I couldn’t possibly summarize it all, so this will likely be something I’ll post about posture by posture [eventually] in the future.
  • Licensed to kill: Best of all, I’ve graduated and am officially a Bikram certified yoga teacher! Graduation was not that exciting (imagine any college graduation, add in typically Indian late timing and disorganization, you get the picture). But it’s over and done, we’ve said our goodbyes, and we’re packed, gone, and (in my case) even unpacked. The last night was a blast–I personally didn’t stick around for the disco/dance party in the ballroom (former known as the yoga room) but headed to a friend’s house where a ton of us were congregating. Then had a late night wandering session with my roommate and finally crashed at 5 AM. But most importantly, after 5 years practicing and 1.5 years of planning for TT, I’ve reached the starting line. I’m a frickin’ Bikram yoga teacher!

Week 8 Recap

Week 8 Lessons

This was one of the reasons I was tired on Tuesday, but it was worth it to see Roshan again.

  • Yoga is easy, real life is hard: This week was my most emotionally challenged week. I had several nights where I just didn’t sleep well and that, combined with some outside conflict regarding the realities of being a yoga teacher, definitely had me more unbalanced. I was still fine (and will be fine), but it was definitely a concrete reminder what teaching this yoga will actually look like when I get out of our little Yoga Bubble. Upon the best advice, I retreated back into the bubble and left the outside drama behind for the moment. The bubble is safe. All is happy in the bubble. Stay in the bubble. It’s there for a reason.
  • “A smile is the beauty of the mind”: Bikram’s contemporary and Rajashree’s guru, Dr. P.S. Das gave several lectures integrating medical diseases, yoga asana poses, and yoga philosophy. Dude has more degrees than I was able to count, including a Ph.D. in yoga therapy. Like many geniuses, his lectures were somewhat challenging–the result of a very thick accent, slow writing, and an unclear (to us) lecture game plan. But he was so patient, sweet, and calm, and we were so lucky to have him since he’s rarely able to make it to teacher training. This was my favorite quote of his, followed closely by “Men, don’t ejaculate yourselves.” That’s wisdom for the ages for you fellas!
  • Labor dispassionately without attachment to results, and so results will come: I tried out for the graduation demonstration team, in which 25 of the strongest (and non-tattooed) students out of the class do all of the poses during the ceremony. I tried out upon the insistence of one of my group members who really thought I’d be good enough. Moreover, I’m trying to enforce a new attitude to get myself to experience new things (being a creature of habit–a Cancer, if you believe in those particular character profiles–I’m not very adventurous). Much like the Bhagavad Gita adage above that Jim Kallett shared with us– –I ask myself three questions: (1) is it new for me, (2) does it push my comfort zone, and (3) could it be worthwhile/interesting? If so, I gotta give it a shot…. so I did. I made it past the first day cuts, but didn’t make the final cut. Oh well! Besides, I clearly didn’t want, need, or deserve it as much as some of the other girls. Plus now I don’t have to have bonus practice after our normal classes this week. But I’m really glad I tried, and at least know that I tried.

Week 8 Highlights

Four of my favorite people sweating it all out on the dance floor!

  • The best sober dance party ever: Thursday night Bikram gifted us with a pizza & disco dance party instead of evening lecture. Most people didn’t stay, but a lot did– we had probably about 150 people stay dancing as Bikram’s son DJed for us. Even though the night was “dry” in the alcohol-sense, we were all soaking wet with sweat! (At least we’re all used to that.) It was a lot of fun; the staff joined in and got crazy, as did Boss himself, and I jumped up and down so much my calves were sore Friday.
  • T.G.I.F.!: After another 135 minute class from Bikram Friday afternoon (and it being 12 consecutive days with a total of 20 classes for me), he gave us the evening off. I used the time to go out for dinner and had both excellent company and a delicious milkshake. After, I watched Whip It on my computer with three fellow yogis (a great film, but also has some great yoga-applicable lessons). All in all, an excellent use of time.
  • Bend it like a Yogi Champion: The hotel was hosting the international yoga asana championships and all teacher trainees got free tickets. I didn’t watch on Saturday, because I needed at least one day outside without having my butt stuck for hours in those brown chairs. I did watch them today for the finals, though, and it was A.MAZ.ING! There were 10 finalists each for the youth, men’s, and women’s divisions, plus demonstrations from last year’s champions and this one crazy talented Indian girl, Dipannita Mondai, who had everyone‘s jaw dropping to the floor…… And we’re yogis, so we’re pretty used to really bendy people. She single-handedly redefines how it’s possible for your body to move. It was an incredible gift to be in that room today.

Bonus shot: This wasn’t mine, but it’s a great shot of the aftermath of the pizza party. Enjoy. Only six more days until graduation!

PSA: I’m going to be a yoga teacher, watch out.

My internal dialogue in response to the idea of teaching my first class.

[This is your friendly Monday afternoon public service announcement] OMG, I am actually going to teach Bikram yoga! I am terrified (the excitement will come when I feel better prepared)–not at the idea of being a yoga teacher–but at the concrete, unavoidable fact that in less two weeks I will have to:

1. Stand up.
2. Remember the dialogue for each and every posture.
3. Remember them all together.
4. And teach the left side.
5. Do all of the above in front of other people who are depending on me and have faith in me.

Double-edged sword, this. And yeah, I know I’m only scared because I care a lot. I know the anxiety will motivate me. I know it’s “only yoga.” I know it’ll be okay, one way or another. Yadda yadda yadda.

[Now back to studying like a hedgehog on crack.]

Week 7 Recap

Week 7 Lessons

Beautiful little reminders….. “happiness is an inside job” (in the words of Gandhi).

  • “Knees are where you store fear & resistance”: Our teacher for Monday morning class mentioned this, and it really resonated for me as my left knee has been troubling me for two weeks now. It’s probably from an old knee injury four years back, but who knows. I was doing really well being patient with it for the first week, but by the end of the second week my frustration level went up. It doesn’t hurt a lot or at the “normal” problem poses for knees, it hurts in Awkward and Bow. After hearing this, however, I’ve tried circumventing my expectation that it’s going to hurt–don’t think, just do–and it has definitely helped. In other words, stop being afraid my knee is going to hurt and stop resisting the pose. My knee’s still off, but the sharp pain isn’t happening. Progress!
  • “Things don’t happen when you want them to happen. They happen when they’re supposed to happen” -Jim Kallett: To make a long (rumor-filled) story short, the hot room got shut down and 6 classes were cancelled this week from Tuesday afternoon until Friday afternoon. It made this whole week feel rather weird–it definitely made us live “in the moment,” though, since we never knew what the schedule was going to look like! Along with some of my group mates, I used some of our breaks to track down yoga at the local studios so thankfully I managed to at least get one class each day this week. As a result of the quandary, we have 3 bonus classes this weekend. So, no weekend really, but at least I’ll only be 2 classes down from the original 99-class estimate.
  • Yoga as therapy: One of the major themes of our lectures involves refocusing from Westernized medicine– namely doctors and hospitals and “disease care”–to a more (w)holistic outlook on genuine health care. As in, promoting physical, mental, and social well-being (instead of “healthy”=”absence of disease/infirmity”) and looking at the whole person and not just the problem area. Although obviously Western modern medicine is extremely advanced and excels in many areas, I think we can all agree it sucks when it comes to chronic & stress-related problems. On Friday, Dr. Dilip Sakar came and spoke to us about yoga therapy in the U.S.. Not only was it a clear, concise, and well-organized lecture, he talked (amongst other things) all about how hatha [physical] yoga helps treat and even prevent genetically predisposed ailments. We also got a really cool sociological look into how yoga’s media portrayal has changed. SO COOL! I love learning. I am a geek. That is all.

Week 7 Highlights

Sunshine + Pool Party = Happy Yogis

  • There’s no party like a yogi party: They gave us Monday afternoon off for Memorial day and had a pool party instead. It was awesome! We played pool games, danced, and enjoyed each other’s company at a point in time when we’d expected to be locked indoors reciting postures. Cue immense gratitude.
  • Learning from each other: Monday night a bunch of my groupmates and I got together to dinner and dialogue studying, but instead spent most of the time sharing how we were feeling and saying anything we wanted to say. It was incredible, not only because I feel like I really know these people so much better and love them so much, but also because it was incredibly thought-provoking! For instance, we talked about the idea of “the box”–the normal life path that, as yoga teachers, we’re necessarily not quite fitting into. Instead of fighting so hard to avoid it, don’t be afraid of the box either. Just be true to yourself. If you land in or out of the box, don’t worry about it…. well, more likely we’ll all spend some time weaving and jumping around those particular boundaries! In any case, that evening was a really special moment.
  • Posture clinics done: WE FINISHED POSTURE CLINICS! All postures presented. However, in the nature of teacher training (and life), now we’re moving on to practicing multiple postures together and actually learning how to teach a class. Which is waaaay more intimidating. Onwards and upwards, folks!

Week One Recap

Week one is over and week two is about to begin. I’m going to try to do my best to post more often–daily, if possible–for my own selfish reasons. As much as I enjoy sharing this with all of you, I want to make sure I remember it.

“The answer to everything [Bikram says] is Bikram Choudhury.” – Nzinza

Week 1 Lessons

  •  Food: I’ve felt nauseous and unhungry, so getting myself to eat has required determination. This is especially true for the mornings, for which I think Gu is going to be my answer. A nice shot of non-solid carbs and caffeine to power me through the AM class. I’m also learning that I need to just fork over money for whatever my body tells me it will eat, because nutrition is key to surviving.
  • Don’t get attached, no judgement. Classes that were rough for me were easy for others. The opposite has also been true. In doing 98 classes, there will be lots of good classes and lots of bad classes, so there’s no point getting attached to either one. On a similar vein, I’ve been feeling tingling (or as I like to call it, “thrumming”) in my hands and occasionally my feet–kinda scary, kinda nifty! I checked in with the nurse just to be safe, but as Jim [Kallett] pointed out, it’s probably just my body rearranging and opening itself up. It will pass.
  • Preparation is key: Abhi has prepared me so well for teacher training, and I bless my stars he’s been on my side!

Week 1 Highlights

  • The whole room saw Bikram’s ass. Literally. He showed it to us, in great detail, and there was flexing involved.
  • Bollywood introduction! The first of many films.
  • Abhi’s visit & class
  • Posture insights, e.g. how one of my new friends  finally taught me how to grip my hands together correctly. Really looking forward to putting this into practice tomorrow!
  • My roommate is awesome. She’s from Mexico City, and the best part is she fairly well-prepared in dialogue  (less far posture-wise but knows the ones she’d done more thoroughly than I do)and driven to study. So far, the luck of the draw is treating me pretty well!
  • Getting to know everyone–so many backgrounds! Such cool locations! Amazing stories! Crazy [former] jobs!

So much has happened in only eight days. Funfunfunfun. And crazy. And insane. Now it’s off to bed for me, to cuddle up with some dialogue and then call it a night. Adios.