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I’ve noticed a pattern.  Maybe living out of a 100 sq foot hotel room for 9 weeks with a roommate will do that.

In particular, I’ve noticed that these behaviors follow me wherever I go.

Exhibit A:

My clothing finds itself in organized piles around the room.  There is, actually, an organized system in place, where items are placed either in the drawers (clean), on the bed (already worn but will wear them again, probably today), or on the floor (good for one more use but also I just shoved everything off the bed because I’m going to sleep now and I know which items are pretty clean and will reorganize everything back onto the bed in the morning). I now realize that this particular habit is not a function of my living space, awkward furniture arrangements, or lack space, but that I implement this same sort of system everywhere I go.  Anywhere that requires clothing, wearing of clothing, taking on and off of clothing, I will eventually designate separated piles of clothing articles based on their frequency of use, accordingly.  This has a funny way of playing out at home because Wayne and I have similar habits, but different systems.  His system goes something like, I’ll wear it until laundry day, and not put it back in the drawers until its clean again, and then I’m not totally sure it will make it back into the drawers, I might just put it back on.  My way is a bit more systematic, so as a household, we’ve defaulted to my system and I organize his clothing piles accordingly.

Another pattern came to my attention only today when my roommate left for the weekend. Almost immediately, I started leaving my things about, and not cleaning up after myself!  I told myself, I’ll do it in a little bit 🙂  After practicing dialogue with my neighbor, Anna, down the hall, I returned to dishes in the sink, food out on the… dresser (ha!), and clothing all over the room. It hit me, I do the same thing at home while Wayne is working.  I slob up the apartment all day and clean up right before he comes home.  I think, in some way, it gives me a sense of accomplishment, to clean up after my own messes 🙂 Like adding an item to your to-do list that wasn’t there before, but you’ve done it, and it feels good to have items on your list that are crossed off.

Exhibit B:

  

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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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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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).

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Honor Your Practice

The teachers remind you of this at the end of each class.  Honor your practice. You know how I do this? I lie down in whatever position I friggin feel like, usually knees up, arms spread out to the side, huffing, and wiping sweat from everywhere, thanking god that it is fucking over. And then I pick up my mat, and I get the fuck out.

I am not an angry yogi, but have you ever been to Bikram? At the end of the class, right after the last breathing exercise, you are encouraged to stay in the room- the same room you just didn’t die in- for more time, to honor your practice. You’ve just finished a 90 minute class making sure that you were suffering in a completely still manner, zenfully working through blurred vision, nausea, and diziness, and maintaining the posture of someone who does not feel as though they’re about to have cardiac arrest.

For me, it is not until later that I have the capacity to reflect on the whole experience in a more zen and peaceful way. I have come to terms with where I am at in my practice. Precisely between killing the teacher, and having an awesome class. The teacher suggests a mindful breath and to take the 15 minute Savasana to honor your practice. My honoring comes about 10-20 minutes after I have left the room, changed, and had some cold water. I’m working on moving these positive feelings up a bit and see if I can’t get some of that good energy into the room with me on a more consistent basis. I think it’s working.

I used to work very hard through most of the floor series trying not to give the teacher dirty looks. Over time, I find I’m not so consumed with these impulses. It is not on a regular basis that I am scrutinizing all the things that irritate me about the teachers, other students, my mat or towel, my shorts. It seems as though 110 degrees will bring some dominant parts of your personality forward. I suggest you not ignore this. They might be characteristics to take note of.

If you are the person who approaches every class with a joyful enthusiasm, a clear mind, and good spirits; good for you. If you’re like me, and love Bikram yoga because it means that you are digging deep and getting through the tough stuff; then try staying in the room for just one more second. I’m going to try this too.

In short: I’ve met me. I am the worst. I can’t wait to be a yoga teacher and meet all the others just like me. Hate me, love me, but I will give you your Bikram yoga! I am going to look for those dirty looks, smile at you, and then maybe open the door a crack. Oh, and of course I will suggest that you stay put for a few extra minutes, to honor your practice.

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