Sunday, September 18, 2011

Something Was Cooking but Wasn't Yet a Chicken

Well, folks, I'm currently flying above Arizona and, as you can see, I've ponied up the $12.95 for wifi so that you can receive this most scintillating update.

Everything has been copacetic so far: smooth cab ride to JFK, no insistence from Virgin that I check either bag, tearful goodbye with Jon, very slight ear-popping upon take off, no real turbulence, loads of free bottled water, decidedly uncrappy airplane snacks, clean airplane restroom, good wifi signal & a working power outlet for my machine. AND we're 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

Did I plan to memorize Standing Bow Pulling on this flight? I did. Did I take the dialogue out of my carry-on? Yes. Has it been sitting pretty in my mesh seat pocket while I marvel at Facebook chat 36,506 feet in the air? You betcha! I swear I'll have it down by Tuesday. Tuesday! 

While I'd like to say that I'll blog 1-2 times/week at Training, we all know I can't commit to anything, so instead I'll just say that I plan to ride the wave. I have brought with me three beautiful notebooks I knew I'd use one day, for copious note-taking, as well as a camera for photographic evidence of my attendance & participation!

With just under 1 hour of flight to go, I want to express my immeasurable gratitude to everyone who has helped make this experience possible for me: all the teachers, past and present, at Bikram Yoga Manhattan -- thank you for such a solid foundation; the beyond-awesome community of yogis who practice at BYM -- thank you for your continual encouragement; my parents -- thank you for coming around to an alternative path; Lo -- thank you for your daily validation & unwavering friendship; and Jon -- thank you for every single MOMENT.

Love & light to all -- stay tuned for what will prove to be an unforgettable 9 weeks.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Manic Monday

As Training looms near, I've been receiving requests (nay, demands!) from folks to remain in daily contact. DAILY contact!

OK, people, I will do my best, but first allow myself to introduce myself's schedule for the ensuing 9 weeks (in PST):

8:30 a.m. - 10 a.m. Monday - Friday..........Bikram's Basic Yoga Class 
10 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Monday - Friday..........Lunch Break
12:15 p.m. - 4 p.m. Monday - Friday..........Posture Clinic/Lectures
5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Monday - Friday..........Bikram's Basic Yoga Class
6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Friday..........Dinner Break
9 p.m. - ??? Monday - Friday..........Posture Clinic/Lecture (yep, "???" is official!)
8 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Saturday..........Bikram's Basic Yoga Class
Sunday..........Day of Rest

This rubric does NOT include dialogue study time -OR- kombucha retrieval time!

How do you like THEM apples?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Say That You Love Me

Long time no post? Yes indeed, blog, but we're like old friends that can pick right back up from July, no?

Time has continued marching on at a brisker-than-usual pace, and before I know it summer has come and gone. Training lurks just one week around the corner, but the enormity of it still hasn't hit me yet.

Intellectually, I know that I'm about to be away from home for a significant period of time for the first time ever; I'm about to fly alone for the first time ever; I'm about to go to LA for the first time ever; and, most importantly, I'm about to take 99 Bikram classes in 63 days for the first time ever!

As I type these words, though, it's as if I'm narrating someone else's life. One week from today I'm going to be a trainee? No way! Two years ago, when I applied for, but didn't get, the scholarship for the Fall 2009 Training, the reality of going seemed so far out of sight and out of reach. The countdown to next Sunday was simply immeasurable! Even when I started this blog in January, Training was still very much a mirage. Now, it really is the Countdown to the Countdown. I may actually have to start packing!

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I gave notice at work. I got myself good and wound up for the proceedings and was convinced it would not end well. Naturally I asked everybody and their mother for advice on how to handle the talk. I'd never left a job I liked before, and I so wanted to leave on good terms. I love this job; the company and the people are totally bitchin'. It was a thoroughly agreeable situation -- a difficult one to give up. Of course the whole scene went off without a hitch. I couldn't believe not only the complete lack of rage but the actual kindness and show of support. Have I become a cynical bastard? Perhaps! Tomorrow is my last day, and I'm grateful to be bowing out with a clear conscience.

After that I'll have a few days to learn some dialogue, practice the series, get my stuff together, and get the hell out of dodge. Every facet of this last minute preparation has me giddy: packing, printing my boarding pass, even the nauseous drive to the airport -- I can't wait!

See you kids in a week!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

So Much to Say

So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.

Hello, reader! Shall I dispense with the explanations of truancy and get right down to business? Yes? Good!

With less than 3 months to go until the first day of the rest of my life, there is, indeed, lots to do -- starting with DIALOGUE! So far I've memorized and taught Half Moon, Awkward, and Eagle (though that first Eagle definitely warrants a second chance!). In the meantime, I'll begin learning Standing Head to Knee, a posture one teacher is a little TOO excited about my memorizing -- curiouser and curiouser.

The next stop on the ride to TT is finding a roommate, which has proven to be no easy task. As it happens, I come with some baggage -- a request for clean living; a desire to eat, sleep, and breathe dialogue; and a monthly house guest. It's probably that third one keeping me from my goal, but hopefully it'll all get sorted out by 9/18.

Thankfully, I have the killer support of my partner (the house guest in question), who has cheered my decision to go to TT from day 1, and without whom I would not have been able to scrape together the $11,000 tuition in such a short time! I'm also really grateful to come from such a supportive studio, where I've been fortunate to practice letting go of my nerves on the podium (a work in progress!).

Coming from an academically-minded family, the decision to become a yoga teacher was not made without its doubts or desire for validation. But I know in my heart that it's the right path for me. I feel happiest at the studio, surrounded by teachers and students who love the practice as much as I do. These are the people I'd be happy to share my days with.

The other night, on the subway ride home from a late class, I found myself on the receiving end of a giant HEAP of validation. I ran into a former law school colleague -- a very nice, intelligent young man with whom I spent 3 years learning some things. He was in a suit and tie and on his way home from the office at 10 p.m. After exchanging a few "Do I know you?" looks (it has been 2 years since graduation), he crossed the aisle and we had a little chat. Sure enough, for the past two years he's been working 80-hour weeks at a top-tier law firm. This 10 p.m. ride home was not an atypical night but business as usual. He makes a crap-ton of money which he promptly redirects to the federal government and doesn't have time to enjoy anyway. But at least he gets to spend his days handling bankruptcy cases! Ay, ay, ay. He's recently married, and that seemed to provide some joy and relief. Catching him up on my life after law school, I could see that he was starved for time. Time you do not have as an associate at Big Law. Time that might be worth more than six figures to some. Ten years later when he makes partner, I hope he is without regret. Me? I plan to enjoy my 20s & 30s, so I can still have some joie de vivre in my 40s, 50s & beyond!

I felt very lucky walking home from the train station that night. Thank you, universe, for aligning in such a perfect way!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Back in the USSR

Well, folks, I think it's safe to say that this blog won't be winning any density awards this year. When you're away for a while, it's a little scary to just jump back in, but here I am again, and I've brought stories!

Shortly after my last post, I received some disagreeable news: the wisdom teeth had to come out. All four at once. Starring needles, pain, and the possibility of dry socket! Once I got past those horrors, my next thought was, "How will this affect my practice?!" Many said that ample doses of Vicodin would keep the pain at bay but would also leave me comatose in bed for days. I guess I'd have to take the good with the bad, so I put on a cowardly face and got on with it.

My first piece of advice: get good and sedated. Stick your arm out and tell the surgeon you want Midazolam or you're outta there. All the perks of general anesthesia and none of the choking on your own saliva! I'd never had an IV in my adult life until this procedure, and the heart monitor spiked as I became aware of the needle. But then so quickly and painlessly I was lulled into complete oblivion. What seemed like moments later it was over. No immediate pain or swelling, no affect on my speech. Just a little disoriented and high as a kite.

A few hours later, after the anesthesia wore off, it was time to tear into some Vicodin. The first dose did put me to sleep -- a comfortable, bloody, gauzy slumber. But the next two went down like good coffee. And so did the following day's. By the third day, I was ready for yoga on a controlled substance. This is where I don't want to get arrested (or kill anyone, sure), so I have to advise against practicing on the meds. But I had a grand old time. Flexibility was through the roof, and my usual good mood was even gooder. Great success!

The next challenge was in no way less nerve-wracking, but infinitely more awesome. I finally taught Half Moon. The first time was during a small weekend class, but I was scared as hell. I could barely keep still throughout the entire breathing -- it was like a countdown to doom! Just like the surgery, it was over very quickly and I remember nothing. Except my shaking left calf muscle -- that I vividly recall. Supposedly I got the dialogue verbatim, which is comforting for a crazy over-preparer.

The second time was during a packed-in-there-like-pickles after-work Monday evening class, featuring a sea of new and familiar faces. My leg was calmer this time, but I was still a ball of nervous energy. It was pretty sweet to look out onto an array of bodies moving in unison to the sound of my voice; now I understand why teachers appreciate full classes.

I foresee two primary non-physical personal challenges at training: (1) calming the nerves, and (2) finding my dialogue voice. Currently, my dialogue voice sounds like an insecure automaton. Public speaking has never come naturally to me, and I'm constantly trying to distill my written voice. I'm grateful for the pre-training practice and look forward to kicking these doubts in the balls. For now, though, I'll just default to my favorite public speaking quote, brought to you by that lovable cheese-ball, Jerry Seinfeld:       

“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Bet You Think This Song Is About You

Bet you folks thought I'd lost the grip, eh? Thankfully, it's been tight and right on the practice front, and as for the blogging front, well, I'm baa-aaack! With a toxic employment situation now behind me (square one, here I come!), it's back to the business of blogging BIKRAM.

Several factors distinguish Bikram Yoga from other styles: the heat, the dialogue, the sweet smell of success. One factor I hadn't given much thought to, until recently, is the mirrored wall. I sort of overlooked this feature as a given in yoga--how else am I supposed to align myself? But it turns out that the mirrors aren't universal. Some styles rely instead on the initial adjustments of the teacher to accomplish the alignment objective.

Some oppose the mirrors as part of a larger criticism of Bikram's culture of vanity, and perhaps they have a point. I've certainly been guilty of self-pity and of surveying the room with the mirror's help. Hey, I wouldn't kick a room full of Bikram yogis out of bed. But the mirror is an alignment tool--a pretty good one if you ask me, especially for beginners. One of the goals of yoga is to strengthen the mind-body connection--in some cases build it up from practically nothing--and the mirror provides a powerful visual aid.

As beginners, we set up at the back of the room behind the veterans who provide guidance when we're unsure of something in the dialogue, eventually bringing the focus back to ourselves. That's the idea, right? Yoga's the oldest self-help book on the shelf! The challenge then becomes ignoring our critical mind. One of my teachers frequently starts class with: "Use the mirrors not to judge yourself or those around you, only to fix the natural alignment of the postures." A lovely turn of phrase, no? But so difficult to accomplish with a senior teacher to your immediate left. Look at her! She's locked out in standing bow! Wow! When will I lock out in standing bow? Will I ever look good in those tiny shorts?! Time out. Breathe. Eyes on yourself. And so it goes.  

The mirror's also good for confronting yourself and your choices. Maybe you had a few too many last night. Maybe your couple spoons of ice cream turned into a pint. Maybe you said something shitty to your friend or mate. Well, now you've got 90 minutes to deal with it in the mirror. Sometimes keeping your gaze is the greatest challenge, but also wholly illuminating and, therefore, satisfying.

So, yes, we wear tiny outfits, suck in our gut, and check ourselves out in the reflective surface. We ARE so vain. But we're also trying to fix ourselves, and isn't it easier to fix something you can see?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Got a Secret, Can You Keep It?

My home studio recently did away with the practice of not publishing teachers' schedules. When we'd get calls asking, "Who's teaching the 5:30 today?" we used to respond with, "We don't have a fixed teacher schedule, but we do have a 5:30 class." One evening, a regular even handed me a schedule card and asked me to cross out the times a particular teacher taught. Now the schedule is posted online and on the bulletin board in the studio.

I know that most studios make their schedules available and that our studio is just catering to the preferences of its students. Still, I prefer the old system. Sure, that's easy for me to say--I'm a workstudy with access to the schedule. But this new arrangement opens the door to favoritism, attachment, and avoidance. In my pre-workstudy days, I remember asking for teacher times regularly. Sometimes I, too, wanted to dodge a pushier teacher in favor of a more Kumbaya class. They'd never tell me, though, and eventually I had to let go of the need to know. Now the pushier teachers are some of my favorites!

We form attachments so readily--to class times, teachers, spots in the room--and the perpetual quest for control can become pretty exhausting. Meanwhile, it's surprisingly liberating to surrender to these externalities and focus instead on managing our reactions. Easier said than done? You betcha!

Sure, there are probably some teachers with whom we connect more than others--specific teachers we find particularly inspiring. But every teacher has something to offer, even if its just a test of our patience!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Always Be Prepared

I love rules. Numbered lists of rules. And structure. Consistency, even at the expense of variety. In other styles of yoga, classes vary, postures vary, and modifications rule the day. Not so in Bikram. The postures don't change, your body changes. And s-l-o-w-l-y, your mind learns to let go of micromanaging and multitasking, if only for 90 minutes.

A friend and occasional Bikram toe-dipper asked me to write the definitive guide to class preparation--to spell out the lecture I gave her and other willing participants before their first class. Write a list of Bikram rules? Yes, please!

So, for those of you who missed the bus, Bikram Yoga is a 90-minute beginner-level series of 26 classical hatha yoga postures (including two breathing exercises) practiced in a room ideally heated to 105*F/40*C with 50% humidity. Of course it's not easy--where's the fun in that? But it is doable, especially with a little prep, and it leaves you feeling EUPHORIC! Thus, without further ado, here are my guidelines for a fabulous Bikram class.

Before Class

As a beginner, proper hydration is half the battle. During class, your sweat glands will be working overtime to flush out toxins and cool your body. To prevent dehydration, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day: 1 1/2 - 2 liters, even if you're not thirsty. For those of you not accustomed to this much water, get ready for frequent bathroom breaks! You'll want to stop drinking 1 hour before class to give your body a chance to absorb and digest.

On a related note, it's best to practice on an empty stomach. Not ravenous, mind you, but if you're thinking of eating a falafel sandwich or double cheeseburger 2 hours before class, wait until after. Eating too close to class guarantees an encore during the floor series! Skip the savory treats 3 hours before class, but feel free to enjoy a piece of fruit (perhaps a filling, potassium-rich banana) 1-2 hours prior.

Another comfort factor you have control over (unlike the heat, sweat, or teacher!) is your outfit. As someone who began her practice very out of shape, I understand the urge to cover up in long pants and a baggy t-shirt. If you can rock the teeny bikini, go for it! If you're feeling a bit more modest, that's cool, too. Just know that minimal clothing means less sweat-drenched fabric dangling from your body. It's also important to be able to see your knees in the front mirror when practicing (a locked knee is the foundation of much of the standing series), so above-the-knee shorts are preferable. My favorite women's yogawear brand is Lululemon. Yes, their pieces run $40-$50, but I'm still wearing the same Reverse Groove Shorts I purchased 3 years ago. If you're well-endowed, Moving Comfort makes excellent sports bras. For men, I like Shakti Activewear--similarly priced and durable. Clothing Tip: avoid that shiny biker short material; it's itchy, non-breathable, and it rides up, causing lots of distracting fidgets and adjustments.

Additionally, you'll want to forgo fragrances and lotions in the hot room for two reasons. First: heat magnifies odor, so the whole room will begin to take on the collective scent of its occupants. Second: seemingly absorbed lotions will sneak their way up to your skin's surface, creating a slippery obstacle course to a nice, tight grip. Slick it on after class!

My last bit of pre-class advice is to get enough sleep the night before. Maybe skip the tequila shot contest in favor of a nice cup of tea and an early bedtime. Refreshing!

After Class

If you thought you were done with water for the day, you thought wrong! Drink at least another liter after class, even if you're not thirsty. The body loses a lot of water during class, so replenish, replenish, replenish. You'll also want to replace your electrolytes, which are lost with your sweat. Think bananas, coconut water, tomatoes, and melon.

After my very first Bikram class, I felt both exhilarated and terrified to return. Exhilarated because every cell, tissue, muscle, organ, and gland had been stimulated. I felt so alert and alive--a boundless heap of energy. Terrified because the class was no longer a mystery. I knew exactly what I was in for on day two, including an array excuses to blow it off. Thankfully, I didn't.

As one of my favorite teachers will tell you even before class starts: come back tomorrow. It's the only way to get used to the heat, which for many is the greatest challenge. Consistency will also allow you to zero in on your strengths and weaknesses, and improve your mind-body connection. But don't worry, it never gets easy!              

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Final Countdown

Welcome friends, old and new, to my latest (and hopefully last!) blog. I've been a blog commitment-phobe for many years now, but this time I finally think I've got it right. Bikram Yoga has never left me at a loss for words, and with my plans to attend the Fall 2011 Teacher Training, what better time than now to corral a captive audience.

I started practicing Bikram in the summer of 2007, just after completing my first year of law school. The timing was impeccable, as I had spent the previous year questioning my career goals and gaining plenty of weight. Cut to 3 1/2 years and more than 1,180 classes later, and I am SO ready to teach this yoga!

Even though training is a whopping 8 months away, I am eagerly memorizing dialogue and reciting it ad infinitum to a very patient man. I am daydreaming about electrolyte mix. I am envisioning late night practice sessions with my roommate. Adrenaline is coursing through my veins!

And thus, The Final Countdown begins. A couple of superwomen inspired me to chronicle this exciting time, so let's ride the wave, shall we?