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Week 2 In Review

Babes back home

They say that everyone breaks down at some point during these 9 weeks.  Mine happened just at the beginning of week two.  I was riding on sheer exhilaration for finishing the first week, strong, and in one piece. The air was taken out of my sails when reality hit on Monday morning; there would be 6 more days, 10 more lectures, endless movies, and a bazillion more yoga classes, before the next weekend…. and then another 7 weeks.

And I was feeling pretty homesick for my babes back home.

I managed through Monday okay, but I fought a slight edge of negativity that was inching into my positive attitude.  Then, movie night. We had already been up late from Monday night’s movie,but Tuesday’s movie showing sent me over the edge. It was started at 11:45pm, after a 3 hour lecture. We were not allowed to fall asleep, or put our feet up, or sit on the floor, or stand against the wall, or stretch on the floor. There was nowhere to go but the bathroom. I went many times. Attendance is mandatory. I cried in the bathroom stall.  Yep. In the stall.

There are good, valuable lessons in all of it.  A short list includes; faith, self-control/discipline, determination, concentration, patience, and respect. But it is one of my biggest challenges to keep this in the forefront when exhaustion sets in. I have been on a pendulum of sleep deprivation and mental distress, to feeling rested and filled with energy: sometimes from minute to minute.

Room set-up

Roommate

Having an awesome roommate has made this whole experience so positive.  She is very dedicated to memorizing dialogue, and strict on making sure that I get it right, so she gets all the credit for any of the postures I have memorized so far. I anticipated one of the biggest challenges to be eating well since we are living out of a hotel room for 9 weeks, but we have managed to make sure our tiny fridge is stocked with fresh vegetables and have used every possible resource available to make sure our nutrition is a priority.  Cooking appliances are not allowed in the hotel rooms, but we have managed to eat well, and our system is bullet-proof.

Coralie cleaning "something" off of her foot at Manhattan Beach.

I hadn’t seen sunlight in a week, so my old roommate from New York, Coralie, who now lives in L.A., and came to pick me on Sunday.  We walked around Manhattan Beach, got some sun, and window shopped (okay, shop-shopped).  It was so nice to catch up, relax, and get some salty, sunny air.  Coralie stepped in something near the Manhattan pier, which was the only unpleasant point of the whole afternoon, but thanks to handy wipes, crisis was averted!

Everything that we have learned about Hinduism and traditional Indian culture is so fascinating and I have developed a brand new appreciation for the practice of yoga. We are learning to embrace our weaknesses and make them our strengths. Learning to love what we hate, and learning the make our biggest challenges, our biggest achievements. It is belonging to a community, and understanding how to belong to a community.  It is learning the meaning of discipline, motivation, dedication, and faith.

This is a personal journey, a group effort, and a global challenge.

In the Friday night yoga class, we were reminded to give thanks and appreciation for the forces that got us there, reminding us that we did not get there alone. There is always some reason, some way, some element that made us fortunate enough to get to this place, now.  I had a long list of thanks to give.

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Catching Some Zzzzzzz’s

I think I fell asleep during wind removing pose today… I can swear I had a very short dream.  Don’t ask me how I managed to continue pulling and stretching and lifting my legs, but I got a little bit of sleep.

For the second time, Bikram showed an Indian film, this time it was the story of Mahabharata.  I did try to understand the 2 hour lecture before the film started. I really, really did.  But at 10:30pm, after a full 4 hour lecture, and 2 Bikram classes, I had a really hard time finding my focus.  What I did find, was that EVERYTHING was absolutely hysterical.  I’m talking, laughing in church kind of funny.  I couldn’t help it.  And when I would look over at my roommate, the laughs would come up again! We couldn’t look at each other, which actually made me laugh more.  Having the urge to laugh in a silent room is really torture. Bikram enthusiastically told us the history of Indian life and religion, detailing the same story of Mahabharata that we would begin watching at 11:30pm. This film was 3 hours. It was not an easy watch folks.

We have been finding sleep when and where we can, which might mean during the middle of a posture, or on the floor between the rows of chairs during the midnight Bollywood movie.  I felt like I was 16 again, getting in trouble at a sleepover.  The staff walks around and wakes people up if they are slouching or sleeping, and makes everyone get off the floors who have found a spot to hide.

It is Day 2, Week 2. I feel like my body is operating outside of my head. It feels so sore and so tired, but it keeps walking down to that damn yoga room, and keeps taking me to lectures, I seriously don’t know how it is doing it.  More amazing, is that other people here, manage to look quite well put together.  Doing their hair and makeup regularly whenever outside of the yoga room, their outfits matched and unwrinkled.  I can barely manage to get there with my pants on so I will have to swap secrets with these ladies (well I guess it is considered a swap if they are also wanting to know how on earth I achieve this look.  I’ll tell them, don’t try so hard to match your socks, completely neglect your hair, and pay no attention whatsoever to the bags under your eyes.  That really should be their first 3 steps).

I overpacked.  I’m not sure if I packed too much, or just too many weird things, for instance, 10 sponges.  When I arrived at the hotel, I had no idea what I had in my luggage.  The past 24 hours of packing and spending time with my honey, were an anxiety filled, blur.  I was fully aware that there is no green allowed during this training, a request I found absurd before arriving, and now feel respectful and understanding of this one small wish.  It is said, if you cannot honor this one simple request, what will you be able to do in life?  Even though I packed, unpacked, and repacked, about 4 or 5 times, green items somehow managed their way to L.A., but they have not made their way out of my hotel room.

As it turns out, This Is So HARD!

Hot room on Day 1.  420 people practice yoga in this room twice a day. Im in this picture! The black line makes it look like a mirror, but it is electrical tape going down the center of the room where I am standing. That is actually how huge the room is.

But, I learned that I am so much stronger than I thought, too. During the first week, the temperature in the yoga room was up to 120 degrees. It’s hot. There are large fans in front of the heaters to circulate the hot air around the room, but as I figured, there are no doors or windows to open. Every now and then I can swear that I have possibly detected a slight breeze, but it may just be people moving around me.  During the first few classes, about 20% of the class had to leave the room, either on their own, or with assistance.  Some were carried out, passed out, throwing up, or having anxiety attacks.  Bikram’s first class was very intense. It was hot and he held the postures forever. Bikram teaches the 5pm classes and they are consistently 2 hours long. Morning classes are not taught by Bikram, and they are kept to the usual 90 minutes. I was careful to not push my limits this week while my body is adjusting. The schedule and the environment are new and Bikram asked us to be careful and to go easy.

This training is kindly referred to as the “Bikram Torture Chamber”.  For me, this term applies not only to the yoga room, but also to the lecture room because we spend more than 8 hours a day there, in conference room-style chairs, sometimes until 3:30 in the morning watching Ballywood or Hindu movies. All aspects of the 9 week training are compulsory.  The movies are actually very good, but very hard to embrace at 2am, sitting upright after having already done 2 Bikram classes and stayed up until 2am the night before.

During the first week, I stood up in front of the entire room- 420 students and Bikram himself- and delivered ‘Half Moon Pose.’  As soon as I stepped on stage, I forgot the entire thing (quick addendum to advice on planning; definitely look at your dialogue before you come, a lot). I had some assistance from the front row, but Bikram was kind and said, “See how happy you are? Just the one posture you finish and you so happy. Yes it is true. You so happy just to finish one. Imagine when you finish all the posture, how happy.”  It was true. I was SO happy to be done with that.  For the rest of the training, we will work in smaller groups during Posture Clinic to learn about the postures and work on dialogue.

It is clear that this process will bring out challenges for most people. Each person seems to be working through their own unique challenges in a different way.  Some are challenged by the heat, but have a lot of self-discipline during lectures.  Others can stay awake through every movie, and need to leave the room several times during yoga.  Some can memorize dialogue quickly but have a difficult time delivering the dialogue in front of other people, while some have amazing presense but no focus to learn the postures.

I will be honest.  I did not think I liked Bikram Choudhury.  All the things I had heard and read made me believe my practice was separate from the tradition. That is not to say that I have not had a love/hate relationship with him this week- love (inspiring lecture!) Hate (3am obligatory Bollywood movie)- but what I have learned is that I did not know anything about Bikram Choudhury.  We learned about Yama, and Nyama this week.  What to do, and what not to do.  Traditional Indian culture teaches what Not to do (Nyama), not, what to do (Yama). When you can’t love, at least do not hate. When you cannot tell the truth, at least do not lie. And when you do not know, at least be quiet enough to learn.  That is what I did this week.

On Friday, Bikram surprised us with the night off after the 5pm class! I did not know what to do with myself! I was so happy that I ran in circles all night deciding how to spend my time, and then went to bed. After morning class on Saturdays we have the rest of the weekend off.  I somehow managed to completely fill all of my time off over the weekend so I am learning early on how to better manage my precious time off.  Sleep is on the itinerary.

I am so happy that week one is over, but there are still 8 more weeks to go. 8 weeks is so many days and so many Bollywood movies, and so many yoga classes, and so many lectures, and so much time away from my honey.  The hotel charges a fee to accept packages, so I will warmly think of all the chocolates that you really wanted to send but had to eat for me instead.  Yes, when I am in my darkest hour, the thought of all the chocolates eaten on my behalf will definitely drive this bus.

To plan effectively, and efficiently, for your 9 week Bikram Yoga training, it is important to do a lot of thinking about it beforehand.  Think hard. Think of everything there is to think about.  And then come to the realization that you need a few details.  For instance, it will be helpful to know what sort of accommodations are being provided for you with the million dollars you just invested to attend this thing. To make your research simpler, I have included a few details here.

  • You will be staying at the Radisson LAX hotel located adjacent to the airport.  No need to stay somewhere where you will be able to explore the city.  There will be no time for that.
  • For a few million more dollars, you can get a room to yourself, otherwise, you will be paired with a roommate. Earplugs may be of use unless you are certain that your future roommate does not snore.  If you inquire, and the response sounds something like, “I don’t think so, no one ever tells me I snore,” bring earplugs.
  • You will be provided with a mini-fridge. Assuming you have a roommate, you will need to share this appliance.
  • Microwaves are provided in the “designated cooking area.”  There are two (2), for all students to share, so your best course of action is to stock up on highly processed, unrefrigerated foods that you can eat straight from a can/bag.
  • Four (4) washer/dryers are provided in the hotel for 500+ students, so your best bet is to pack enough clothing to last you 9 weeks.
  • You are not allowed anything green.  So although you have already spent a hundred bazillion dollars to attend this training, you may not bring anything you currently own, including your mat or yoga clothing.  You will have to buy new.
  • Make a friend 1-2 years earlier that you can encourage to move to L.A. so that you will have someone to take you grocery shopping on the weekends. I have made 2 such friends.
  • It is recommended that you memorize the dialogue before training. Give yourself several months to stare at the text.  Take it with you wherever you go. Look at it from across the room. Read it over a few times. Make a laminated copy to bring with you on vacation.  Several days before you are to leave for training, decide that no one else will have it memorized either, and stop freaking out about it.
  • It is required that you do yoga at this Bikram yoga training.  Twice a day as a matter of fact.  For that reason, do not feel pressured to attend one single class for at least 4-6 weeks before the training.  The 8 days in February where you went every single day, should be sufficient.
  • Get on the Facebook event page early, and snag the best roommate.  This will be one thing you will be glad to have done because then you can text and Skype each other for a few months up until training and share each other’s anxiety.

Think about all these things for 3-4 months. If you plan well, you may be able to work a few of your training needs into Christmas or birthday gifts.  Relatives and friends will be relieved to have an idea what to get you, and happy that it is something they can likely order online.

I will let you know, at the end of 9 weeks, how well this strategy worked.  I’m going to guess now, pretty well.

Hands-palms touching,
Feet together at the line,
Arms over your head from underneath,
Heels and toes together,
Lick the back of of your knees,
Everybody nice and straight grip,
Ears always touching with the thighs,
Maximum body weight from coxcyx to the neck,
Do not even breathe.
Do not move a muscle.
Come down and push, and push, and push,
Last chance, breathing only through the nose,

Change.

Yeah, I’ve got this.

One of them was very diligent about their work.

  

The other one couldn’t balance in the sand so decided to play in the water instead. This one practiced dialogue sometimes too.

   

But they both enjoyed the morning walk with a cup of Costa Rican coffee. 6am doesn’t get much better than this!

 

Letting Go Of Expectations

I moved across country and tonight attended my new yoga studio for the first time. Not only that, but I made my way navigating the bus system through a brand new city! How empowering!

I miss my old studio in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but this has been a true exercise in letting go of expectations.  I have always put my mat in the same place in the room-which, as it happens, is directly in line with the breeze when they open the door a crack just before I vomit or die. I attended my home studio for 7 years.  I knew who I would see at the 6pm class, the weekend  classes, and all the usuals coming and going before and after class. It wasn’t intentional, but I made mental notes of the teachers I liked (and disliked) and planned my week accordingly. And, if I’m not getting nostalgic enough, just a quick word on the carpeting- I miss it! I miss the way it feels and I miss the way it makes the whole studio smell “close”, and the way they attempt to cover up the sweaty mustiness with lavender-soothing freshness. It’s familiar.

In the weeks before my move, I decided to practice every day, which was new for me since I’m normally a 3 time-a-weeker. I learned a lot. Iearned that the running list of elements that had to be just right in order for me to go to yoga that day, were my own obstacles. I will share a few here:

  • Too tired
  • Didnt drink enough water today
  • Really don’t like the teacher tonight
  • Havent pooped yet (sorry but true)
  • Not feeling 100%
  • Didnt plan my meals well today and maybe will be too full/hungry

This list does, indeed, go on.

In my new studio today, I felt completely lost.  This studio did not have carpet! It was like gymnasium floor (not one of those wooden ones from elementary school, more like specially imported recycled materials used in olympic training facilities.  I felt very pressured to work hard.). The students formed three rows. Three! The heat seemed to be coming from every angle instead of from a vent overhead.  I had no idea where to put my mat, where the cool spots where, or where the breeze would come from. As it turned out, the breeze did not come. They didn’t open a door ONCE! (full disclosure: there was a fan, and it wasn’t even that hot. But it’s like I said, you get used to things).

One day this studio will become normal too, but I will never stop missing the joy from the breeze of the door being opened a crack. If this practice doesn’t make you appreciate the little things, then I don’t know what you’re doing for 90 minutes.

Without the familiarity of my old studio and everything I was accustomed to, I had to completely let go of my expectations. I realized that the one familiar thing in there was me! I listened to my body, and it remembered right where we left off. I can still do it! Even in a new place! I still have muscles and bones and joints and ligaments. It was all still there. I did the same 26 postures and I still sucked at the ones I suck at. I couldnt have been happier. There I was. Me! Just in a new place.

It is a good lesson that sometimes, our bodies take our minds somewhere new, but it is with you every step of the way. And in just a few weeks, I will be practicing in a new space in L.A., with 400+ other bikram yogis.  I can’t wait to show them how freakin’ awesome I am at standing bow.

(those of you who know me, know I have the flexibility of a metal clothes hanger- it’s a tough bend).