Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Week Sixxxxy!

I had to call it that because I'm in Group 6 for posture clinic and that is our cheer when someone from our group gets up to teach. Speaking of my group, they are awesome! Everyone genuinely likes each other and I am so grateful to have such a cool and supportive group because it really makes all of the difference. I am spending at least 20 hrs a week in a small room with these people and I'm sure if you didn't have a group you fit in with it would be hard.

For posture clinic you are always with your group then you rotate with one other group, so there are forty students in the room watching you give dialogue, 20 in each group. My group is great because everyone likes to jump up fast and say their dialogue but no on is doing it because they are a perfectionist or trying to show off. Everyone is a really good mix of ambitious and laid back which is hard to find! I can honestly mingle around and sit with any different person in my group and be happy, they are all great.

We went out for dinner on Saturday night and it was a lot of fun, and kind of cute because we all wanted to hang out together in our free time. However, the weekend sadly went by too quickly and I came to Monday feeling unprepared mentally and physically for the long week ahead, not to mention I had not memorized enough dialogue - I think I hid it somewhere in my room to try to get away from it for a bit!

Luckily on Monday morning Bikram's wife, Rajashree taught our yoga class and she told us she would be visiting all week and we should treat week 6 as a time to reflect on how things had gone so far. She specifically asked us not to think of our expectations for ourselves, such as whether we should have physically pushed ourselves more, but rather focus on how we had changed through the weeks and how we had been able to survive for so long and do such a great job.

Then she announced that we would have no posture clinic that day since she was giving lectures day and night! It was the best news and even better news was that lecture started half an hour later, at 1pm instead of 12:30. Monday actually felt like a vacation, just because of the extra 1/2 hour and no pressure to study dialogue!

The rest of the week went by really quickly, with lots of lectures from Rajashree on the medical benefits of each posture. She asked for volunteers to go on the stage if they were having problems with their postures. When Triangle Pose came along I wanted to go up on the stage since I was feeling like my Triangle wasn't awesome, but no one had corrected me on it yet. I got up there on the stage and got into the posture and suddenly she was pushing my hips down way beyond where I could go, my knees and legs were about to give out and she was telling me to stretch my arm up to the ceiling then telling me to touch my toes with the other, over and over.

The worst thing was that I was on stage in front of 300 people and they were all invited by Rajashree to give their input on what we should be doing better. I have never heard anything like it in my life, it was 300 people yelling at me to SIT DOWN MORE, PUSH YOUR LEG BACK, SIT DOWN, SIT DOWN, SIT DOWN, LOWER, LEG BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was thinking wow my triangle must really suck, judging by their reaction and at the same time just trying not to fall over as I was being bent around, it was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life!!! If I knew I was going to be in that situation I would have thought twice about getting up there, but after I got down I started thinking it was kind of funny and I am sure some people back home will find the humor in me on stage, getting yelled at by 300 people!!

I had to ask a few of my friends later if they thought I was getting yelled at a lot more than others and they just laughed and said no, the audience was really giving it to everyone who was up there. Either way, I had my best class that night because I was really working on getting down more in Triangle!

This week three teachers arrived from my studio in Richmond - Carol, Candice and Natasha! Carol has been one of my favorite teachers for years and Natasha graduated this spring, she was really helpful leading up to training by answering my millions of questions and giving me a sense of what to expect while I'm here. Candice taught me few years ago and she was a really great teacher, now she owns a studio in Langley and her Mom is here doing the training with us! It was so amazing to see them, and of course first thing on Monday morning Carol was in my posture clinic!

I felt really unprepared for the posture as I had not studied enough but I felt I needed to get up and take advantage of any feedback she could give me. I went up last and midway through the posture I forgot the words!!! It was really embarrassing but she had some good advice for me about not stopping talking when I'm teaching a class, even if the words didn't come to me. I felt a little silly afterwards but it was good to mess up in front of someone who understands and who could empathize and provide me with some good advice for overcoming the same obstacle in the future.

The rest of the week was more exhausting than I thought it would be, especially since we had less posture clinic. However, it was like we were on a bit of a momentum and suddenly we had a chance to relax and reflect and then the tiredness set in and my body suddenly began to really hurt and feel drained in each class. I did get a chance to reflect which was great and I realized all of the things I have learned like love, compassion, patience and obviously most of all, hard work!!!! It was good to kind of reset my mind and intention and just take a breather to prepare for week 7. We ended up having some really great lectures near the end of the week about health benefits of the postures and everyone was genuinely interested which made the mood and atmosphere a lot of fun, overall it was a great week.

We're in week 9 now and I'm far behind in my posting but I'll keep trying to catch up, even if I have to post a couple at home! I'll see you guys in less than a week!!!!

x Julia

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good Vibrations (Week 5 - Week 6 to come!)

This week was a continuation of more hard work from last week. However I think the trials and tribulations of last week forced me to accept that I am really going to have to do the hard work here and so I was in a much better place, mentally.

However, the hard work this week ramped up as we went through dialogue a lot faster than last week, even doing 2 or 3 postures some days. Sometimes we only had 2 hours to memorize the posture. Now that we are getting better at teaching the postures, the teachers marking us are expecting more - strong pronunciation on the important parts, command on the hard parts and clarity on the setup - 2 hours is nowhere near enough to memorize a full page word by word and perfect how you will say it on top of that.

Then there is also the small problem of the brain not wanting any more postures crammed into it, I spent many late nights this week trying to convince my mind to get just one more posture in there, and not mix it up with any of the other ones I have already said The rest of my free time is spent trying to ground myself and calm my mind as it feels split into a million different pieces or perhaps has completely taken a vacation at some point? Either way it was really tough to focus this week but there were also a lot of great moments which made it a good one, I can safely say not nearly as rough as the last one!

Monday I did 2 postures in posture clinic including the hardest (Triangle) and got amazing feedback, I practiced Triangle a lot on Sunday night and I needed to practice saying it in a commanding voice so I put on my deepest voice and it somehow worked and the teachers liked it. It felt so strange to get up there and say it like that but I got used to sounding strong by the end of the week and I feel now like I have a new tool I can use when teaching class. For the yoga classes on Monday I was able to continue the trend of not sitting down in postures even when I'm tired and overall it felt good to just get through more and more full classes and do all the postures to the best of my ability.

Tuesday we had more posture clinic and we had a really cool teacher named Lisa from Texas, she was so positive and direct and had so much energy. She took everyone who did a posture and was able to pinpoint exactly what they needed to improve on and she had some pretty hilarious techniques for people to try out. She made quite a few people shake out the hair, or run out of the room and run back in while everyone clapped for them, little things to get them excited about giving the dialogue and teaching. She gave everyone the suggestion to use 'jazz hands' while we're talking which really worked and just made you more open and confident when you stepped up to the front to teach.

That night we had a senior teacher named Mike do the class and he came in to 'Eye of the Tiger' playing, wearing a robe and escorted by two female yoga teachers, when he whipped off his robe he was wearing tight tiger yoga shorts on underneath! He started out the class by telling us we needed to have fun and anyone who wanted to leave the room at any time should feel free to. He had some really funny jokes and I laughed through the whole class. For the first time I was able to only drink water about 3 times during class, when he allowed us to and suddenly I realized why they try to get us to stop drinking water in class!

In yoga you use deep breathing to warm your body from the inside out and create energy and focus right throughout your core, which allows you to meditate and put everything you've got into every posture. When you drink water it disrupts the flow of your breathing and also cools down your insides which means you have to work hard just to get back to the state where you are focused and controlled enough to be working hard in each posture, it's a huge waste of time and energy. The class was just what I needed as I was already starting to stress out from dialogue and the atmosphere was getting a bit heavy with everyone anticipating a tough week in posture clinic so it was a welcome change!

Wednesday was more yoga, more posture clinic and more dialogue. In posture clinic I started getting up a bit earlier to present my dialogue instead of waiting until the end and stressing out the whole time and it was a lot better. The rest of the week went by well and I found myself thinking near the end of the week about coming back home. I am really looking forward to coming back and teaching yoga and living such a healthy lifestyle. I am also excited to start a new step in my career since I have not working for quite a while now, but I guess I worked so much in England I hopefully can make up for the time off ;)

I was also thinking about some trippy things that have happened in yoga class:
1. A feeling of being high during one of the yoga classes in week 2. I can't explain it other than the whole yoga room seemed to get brighter and I felt like I was kind of floating and part of the energy of the room.
2. I have been having random memories come into my mind when I am doing certain postures, especially back bends where the muscles and tissues are compressed. Things like a specific day I had when I was 10 years old or a time I spent with my family when I was 13.
3. I sometimes have inspirational dreams for some of my writing, I have a dream that is almost like a movie then it always ends with my closing a book or writing in a journal. These dreams are vivid and I can always remember them to write them down when I wake up. They usually only happen once a year or so but I have already had two since I've been here.
4. In one class that Bikram taught, my '3rd eye' opened, which is essentially your 6th sense and it means the middle of your body is completely open and in harmony. I got a sense of how intense a yoga class here really is - and I felt overwhelmed by the power of the room and the practice and had to stop for a minute.

So yep I am pretty much having some weird experiences and no, I'm not having drugs or alcohol but I'm not really trying to make sense of them right now and just go with the flow. A weird thing that has happened this week is that energy has been flowing out and all around of my body like crazy. It feels weird. The only way I can describe it is like you can actually feel energy particles kind of moving around and bumping each other inside your body, almost like you are vibrating. It has made me feel really unfocused because it's a new feeling and I am also not sure if it's negative or positive energy.

I have also had energy releases where I have physically felt a weight come out of my body when I release an old emotion I have been hanging onto, like regret from a past occurrence or sadness for the way something went. The left side of my lower back stretched out one class when I was doing a backbend and I suddenly felt a release in the lower left side and I could feel it spreading down my legs and it hurt, it felt like negative energy had been stuck in there. I am sure there is a more scientific reason for this and I think it was my kidneys getting fresh blood but whatever it was the weird feeling staying in my lower back and leg for a few days then suddenly it was gone and I felt much better.

The energy that has been running around my body has been pretty strange but this week we talked about the energy we should be feeling from working out so much and channeling it into a positive way by thinking and acting positively and identifying and changing negative thought and behavior patterns. I realized that this is true because the energy was neither negative or positive and it was interesting to learn that I had the power to change it in either way that I wanted. Think of what a huge impact this could have on your life, your body... Anyways.
I have also noticed a lot of senior teachers and tougher teachers have seemed to roll in and I think the next few weeks could get pretty interesting, as in I am going to get killed even more so keep tuning in.

Miss you guys soooooo much. x Ju

Monday, October 13, 2008

Week Wonderful

Well this is week 4 and it has been TOUGH, the hardest week yet, that is for sure. And I thought week 3 was bad! I knew it would be a conglomeration of the previous 3 weeks; tough classes, struggling with the dialogue in the daytime and then staying up late with Bikram. What I didn't expect were the emotions! Emmy told us this program is designed to put just enough pressure on us so that we will release all of our old and negative emotions and she is right.

You don't go through this training without peeling off the layers of your personality like and onion until more than 300 people get to see the true you - vulnerable, nervous, sad, scared, childlike and beautiful. The weird thing is that I have been getting really good feedback on my dialogue, but every time I go up there I get so nervous and want to cry, thoughts are rushing through my head and I don't know if I will be able to perform. It's like I am back to being a little shy kid and have to relearn how to speak and stand up for myself - it is something you have to do and it's really tough, the fact that you can't get away with not doing it is even harder.

I have noticed at the end of class this week that when I lie in class in savasana you have to let your thoughts flow through your head and simply observe them. A lot of the time I hear 'yeah yeah yeah, this is awesome, it is so good, I am having so much fun, what a blast, pineapples! Woohoo I'm in Mexico etc' but sometimes weird thoughts cross your mind and it makes me wonder how I can get by in life with those thoughts stuck in there! Things like, reliving past mistakes, blaming myself for something that went wrong that was outside of my control, or just generally taking an incorrect negative view of a situation that happened previously. I was not aware I was carrying these thoughts in my head and like I said, it makes you wonder how you can function and concentrate in a day-to-day situation, with those kind of things going on in the background!

Luckily yoga is so amazing for becoming aware of those things are once you are aware of your weaknesses, they are yours and you have control of them. I have been carrying around a lot of guilt over leaving my job in the UK but have been able to come to new insights about why it positively was the right thing to do and as a result I am not carrying around that negative energy and I am feeling a lot lighter.

Today at breakfast I had another one of those moments. I was sitting at a beautiful table near the window in the restaurant called Veranda, having a nice breakfast and staring out at the beach and surf, talking to my roommate when I suddenly went quiet for a bit. I felt kind of down and I didn't know why but when Malvika asked me what was wrong I started crying!!! I was thinking about the dialogue and I realized I had a voice in my head saying 'you're not good enough' and it just made me so upset that I would say that to myself!!! I think it's something a lot of us do and learn to do when we are really young. I realized it's something I need to fight against and change my thought pattern to 'you can do it!!!!' (I can hear the Happy Gilmore guy saying it). It's hard since it's a thought pattern but if I am learning one thing it is that most things in life are hard and you just have to do them!

Speaking of hard work, that has definitely been the theme for this week. I started out on Monday feeling great but as is the case, I use all my energy up on Monday classes and just struggle to make it though the rest of the week. It's almost impossible to stockpile energy here by sleeping and resting up on the weekend, you are usually just able to replenish yourself from the energy you have put into the last week, you are THAT drained by the time you get to the end of class on Saturday morning. On Monday Bikram was back with us, he was really sick last week so we didn't have him teach class all week. Everyone greeted him enthusiastically with a round of applause as he strode into the room and he seemed happy to get down to business, telling us he heard no one had thrown up in class last week. His next sentence was 'we'll see how you do with me'.

He started the class and almost immediately people were dropping, people were running to the back to puke, and people were going outside because they couldn't stay in the room. It was bloody hot! He was getting extremely agitated, yelling that if we could not get through the postures and complete class with a smile on our face, none of us were going to graduate! I was scared to death and managed to perform most of the postures, but I was going slightly mental and by the time we finished the strenuous standing series and were on the floor in savasana, weird thoughts were going through my head. I was thinking 'I don't need to go anywhere, the cool outdoors in inside me, everything is inside me, everything I need is in here' in order to try to control my internal breathing, I alternated those thoughts with 'Vancouver is raining right now, I am so happy to be in burning heat, omg I am getting a nice tan, I'm on the beach, it's not hot it here, it's raining in Vancouver' in order to try to cool down my skin and body, which was on fire.

Truly nutty stuff but I was fighting the urge to throw my mat and towel at Bikram's podium and actually run through the glass at the back of the room to get outside where it was cooler. Finally camel pose came, where you have to lean right back and put your hands on your heels for a deep backbend. I remember thinking I had no idea how I was going to do this one because my energy and willpower had completely been exhausted. Suddenly Bikram yelled 'Stop, stop, everyone sit down on your mats.' It was a welcome break but what came next was not, he started ranting about how awful we were, 1/3 were puking in the back, 1/3 were outside and the other 1/3 were dying in our postures, he didn't care if we went back to our rooms, why were we even here???

Then he told us we made him not want to teach anymore, which is a lot coming from a yogi who's life has been dedicated by his guru to have to teach the world yoga... then he suddenly threw down his microphone and stormed out!!!!!!!!!!!!! We were stunned and some people tried to call him back, some tried down the camel pose but to no avail, he was gone and we were in a lot of trouble. They turned out the lights and we were forced to leave and get ready for lecture at 9pm.

When the time came for us to attend lecture, we sat like little mice in the hall, waiting for the wrath of Bikram! Luckily, he came in with a smile on his face. He always tells us that if there is a problem in life, we need to check with ourselves first to see if we are creating it and he had done the same thing. During the break he checked with the senior teachers, past graduates and the engineers who built the yoga room at the hotel and found that the conditions we were in were actually unbearable. The humidity had gotten higher since the spring teacher training because it is now rainy season and also there was not enough fresh air so we were all breathing carbon dioxide. He said he did not blame us and has gotten the man who built the room on the next plane to Acapulco to fix the room for us asap. It was a very noble move on his behalf and I won't forget that part of his character.

I also know that we were to blame a little bit. After a week of no Bikram I know I had slacked off a bit in my practice so I realized that he was going to a great length for us to fix the room, and we better go to a great length for him to work our asses off going forward. I think he kept us up until around 2am that night, he was talking and talking and talking and showing us movies. Everyone was falling asleep in the movies which made him even more mad. At around 1am he yelled at everyone to sit up in our seats with our spines straight and everyone who was on the floor in the back was getting woken up by the teachers. Finally at 2am when the last movie was over he turned around and asked 'did you enjoy your sleep?? I have been doing this for 50 years, not sleeping, you have no idea.' He sounded so mad and also sad, it just made me feel upset, like he had no faith in us at all.

The next morning our teacher for the class gave us a lecture about always trying hard but putting 110% in when Bikram was teaching. He also said that none of the senior teachers had ever seen Bikram storm out of a class and it was not just a show. That is a bit embarrassing! Either way, the message was that we need to pull up our socks.

That day I had Esther in my posture clinic! I was really nervous to do my dialogue in front of her so my first few words came out a bit jumbled but then I pulled off the rest of the pose and got good feedback! It is sooooooooo nice having her here, I am so honored to be learning from her and also just knowing she is there and seeing her smiling face reinforces that there is someone here pulling for me!

The rest of the week was a blur of late nights, 5 hrs of sleep, long hot yoga classes and long Bikram lectures. Suffice to say I could not move all day Saturday but I continue to get good feedback on my dialogues and also on Friday we got the night off! Bikram made us a deal that if no one sat down, puked or ran out of the room all class we wouldn't have lecture, and we did it! I think everyone was so scared that they would be the one to disappoint 300 people, but just pulling through and actually getting some much needed time to rest really gave us a morale boost and as I start this week things just keep getting better (more on that soon).

Love, Ju

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Horror...

Yesterday morning I woke up, drank the protein then went to morning class at 8:30. Lynn was teaching us, she is the head of the posture clinic program, so she really knows how to say everything correctly. I thought she was kind of strict the first time I met her but after having her for my posture clinic on Monday, I found she is actually incredibly kind and laid back. I was looking forward to taking the morning class with her and it went ok. I was feeling a bit more tired than on Monday and I was holding a lot of tension in my back and lower stomach, it is stress from posture clinic! I managed to do most of the postures fine and it was a nice warm up for the day.

After breakfast we had lecture with Dr. T about anatomy and then he started talking about heart attacks. Apparently there are several things you can do to avoid heart attacks but the most important is to get Omega 3 vitamins, so start chewing everyone! At 3pm we quickly ran into our group rooms and had posture clinic for an hour.

This time we had another teacher marking us, actually today it was 3 teachers watching our dialogue. I had been stressing about it all morning and feeling really upset that I hadn't gone up on Monday to do it. Bikram talks about the point where your mind, body and soul are aligned and I feel like I was more prepared on Monday, I felt more aligned and in tune with the dialogue and my energy, but I didn't seize the moment.

So they asked for volunteers and I put my hand up, I was #7 in the lineup. As I was sitting on the floor waiting for my turn and watching the others say their dialogue I was getting really nervous, I was feeling waves of dizziness and I couldn't remember the words! I tried to do some deep breathing to calm myself down and it worked for a while but then as my turn came up it all went downhill, I was feeling really lightheaded when I stood up and basically crept up to the line to introduce myself. My dialogue started out really strong, I made everyone laugh by pronouncing some of the good lines in a funnier way and things were going fine for the first pose, Backward Bending.

The second pose started out fine too, I was leading the 3 people in front of me into the pose and they had bent over when suddenly I was aware of the teachers' eyes on me, I forgot a line and then there was just a long awkward silence!!!!! My head was literally spinning so much and I couldn't think of the rest of the pose to save my life. At this point I was about 1/2 way through and I literally just started making up words, throwing in sentences, anything to get to the end of the dialogue. I wasn't even looking at the 3 students I was supposed to be teaching! I stumbled through to the end, I couldn't even put any enunciation on the words since I could barely remember them.

It was seriously bad and I waited for the feedback, feeling pretty embarrassed but at the same time accepting that I hadn't done the best job possible. The three teachers basically told me that I had really fabulous parts and my energy was strong but then when I forgot I just stalled and they said I needed to really keep it even and keep my energy up. They also asked if I had practiced on bodies (ie leading my friends through the pose) and told me it would be 100x better if I tried that before. They also said it was really good that I had smiled the whole way through the dialogue, and also that I have a sweet persona but need to be a bit more firm. I was feeling pretty upset!!!!!!!!!!! I took my place in the line of 3 students and had to get taught the pose 3 times then the hour was over and we had to get ready for the evening class.

On the way there I told my roommate what happened and she reminded me my first posture that I did in front of Bikram was really good and I told her that this one must have been really bad because not one person told me after that I had done a good job. I was feeling so upset and sitting on my yoga mat in the burning heat, waiting for class to begin when another student leaned over and told me I did a good dialogue! I had to look around to make sure she was talking to me but she was, and she told me she really liked the way I did it and thought the teachers were unnecessarily hard on me. It was so nice to hear that since I did put effort into it and I felt a lot better. I did vow to work really hard from now on memorizing the poses though.

The evening class was taught by Jim and it was really good, I was seriously dying, alternating between panicking because of the hot room or panicking because I still have to do another posture by the end of the week and haven't memorized it yet. Also my body was feeling all tired, it really hit me that my body is not always under my control and I need to control my mind first in order to make my body do what I want it too. I was struggling a bit and feeling useless when a thought came to me that I just kept using for the rest of the class and it worked - the only way out is through.

Even though my lungs were burning and my muscles were feeling weak, I just pushed my muscles harder than I wanted to in each pose because I knew that if I rested I would fall behind. Most of the poses really hurt and I wanted to give up but some of them were not so bad! I made it through the class and relearned and old lesson, it is best to face your problems head on, they don't go anywhere but just keep adding up if you don't. The only way out is through them but once you get through there is always something much better on the other side. Also some of the might not be as bad as they seem.

That evening Jim gave us a lecture about owning a studio and how great it is. It seems like a cool thing to do but for now I think I am mostly interested in teaching part time while working full time in my field. We'll see how things go but I know that will be the best way for me, to start out at least. There are also lots of options for traveling and teaching around the world so I am looking forward to hopefully dropping into a few different studios if I am traveling. Bikram came in at the end of the lecture and it was fun to see him, he has been gone all week and none of the other teachers can duplicate his energy and enthusiasm, they don't even try because they're not trying to fill his shoes. He left pretty quickly and we ended lecture around midnight.

I stayed up until 2am studying for my next dialogue and I had a shaky grasp on 1/3 of it. I need to finish and present it by Friday at the latest so I'm stressing but I just need to take every second I can to study it - after class writing doesn't count, it's chill out time :) I woke up this morning at 7:30am with a song in my head I have never heard before, something about go go go and don't give up - I think I made it up. I am seriously cracking up and I can only hope I pull off this crazy dialogue thing and that it's worth it! But the only way out is through and the more I study the dialogue the more I see its' power and the more I am motivated to be a teacher so wish me luck and hopefully the words will stick in my head somehow!!!!!!!!!!!!

x Julia

Monday, September 29, 2008

Things Are Gonna Change (I Can Feel It)!

Today was really good! I had a great weekend, even though I was feeling a bit sick on Saturday night it was good to just chill out and relax. I had some nice hot chocolate from the cafe (I know, weird in Mexico) and then watched part of a movie but mostly studied some of the dialogue for the poses.

Sunday I lay by the pool trying to study but ended up sleeping for most of the day. It was so nice to be able to recharge and just relax in the hot sun but unfortunately my face got a bit red because while I was sleeping the sun moved from behind my palm tree...

This morning when I woke up at 6 I actually felt like a human being for the first time since I have gotten here. I drank my compulsory protein shake (which I am sure I will be sick of in 6 more weeks) and we left for class at 8am. The morning class was taught by Diane, who is a senior teacher visiting from Boston. A lot of teachers come back over and over to the teacher training. They come just for a week or so and they pay their own way, just to be part of the experience. I was talking to one of them the other day and asking her why they did it and she explained that it's like having your finger stuck in a socket for a week, you get an instant jolt of energy and your teaching greatly improves because of it. We are studying with the best teachers in the world so I can see why people want to come in, get their butt kicked in class and be part of the student's experience and energy. I have a feeling that if I come back I will be able to take a lot more in because I won't be so stressed out, it will be kind of fun to see the new teacher trainees and remember the time when I was in their shoes!

But before I get too far ahead of myself, this morning's class was really good, I actually had enough energy to do every single pose and I put effort into it. I felt a bit stiff and a lot of my muscles were protesting and sore at being woken up but I did the best I could and was happy with the results. No lying on the mat, no crazy breathing episodes and no running out of energy halfway through the class. The teacher was trying to lighten the mood, telling us she was the bus driver and we can't be left behind (being lazy) or run over (trying to jump into the postures before she got to them). It was actually a great stress-relieving class because I was feeling a bit nervous about our upcoming anatomy lecture. By the end of the class I was feeling so strong and mellow that I was prepared to do my best and be happy with whatever the outcome was.

I went for a nice swim in the saltwater pool, which is just like a lagoon including rocks and waterfalls. It felt so nice to go in there after class and just float and let the water hold me up.

We're not supposed to swim in the ocean as much anymore because it's rainy season in Acapulco and when it rains it creates runoff into the ocean which attracts the big fish, meaning sharks and barracudas! It hasn't been raining for the past few days though so I'm sure it's ok and there are tons of surfers out at the breaks so I think they would probably get eaten first anyways ;)

We had a nice lunch in Chula Vista, the buffet but it wasn't as relaxing because my roommate & I were studying for anatomy. We got to lecture at 12pm and the test was handed out, it was actually pretty easy once I turned it over and started filling it out and I got 45/50. The only problem is that all my friends did better than me! Oh well, I really didn't put that much effort into it and I am just glad I passed! We still have another one next Monday so hopefully I will do better then.

We had more anatomy after that on the respiratory system, then a visiting teacher got up on the stage and told us that tonight we will be starting Posture Clinic!!! This is really putting the fear into me because it means more memorization, of every posture, then standing up and teaching it in front of 40 people while you get critiqued! I don't have too much of a problem with the memorization, but it is hard to recall it when you're up there and having to lead 4 people through the pose, while trying to think of the correct way to deliver it and also wondering what everyone is thinking of how you're doing!!! I am feeling very nervous but it's something everyone has to do and I am just looking at it as a great public speaking exercise.

At 5pm we had another evening class, led by Jim and again I actually had a great class, managing to do the strongest class I think I have ever done. He told us lots of inspirational stories to keep the energy going and it helped a lot. I was really proud of myself and I hope this trend of 2 hard weeks, one strong week continues. We have 9 weeks in all and it would be so good to end on a high note. But it's teacher training and you are never sure what to expect!

I just got back from posture clinic and it was held in one of the hotel rooms. 40 of us all squished into the room and 3 people acted out the posture while one person got up at a time to 'teach' it to them. You always have a different teacher leading each posture clinic and today our teacher was Lynne, who happens to be the head of the posture clinic program! I expected her to be really strict but she was incredibly nice and even if people forgot the dialogue she had positive feedback. I didn't get a chance to go up as everyone was really jumping up.

It's actually really competitive here, with many strong people who excel physically in the classes and also with the dialogue. There were only 1 or 2 out of 20 who missed some of the words. I'm not scared of a little competition though so I will go tomorrow and do my best and bottom line is that I'm here to learn to be a teacher so I'm sure whatever I am able to come out with will be decent and I'll learn something either way. I have to say it's a lot less intimidating than in front of Bikram and the 300 people so I just have to go for it. I have to go study more now since we're going to get through 2 postures this week then hopefully I can go to bed early - at midnight!

Hope everyone is fine and thanks for all your messages! I hope to have more time this weekend to write to you so I'll talk to you soon.

x Ju

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Sleep-Deprived Week 2 Recap

Hi guys! This week has been mad, here is a look at our schedule:

6am - Wake up and eat smoothie - bananas, milk, mexican vanilla protein powder
6:15 - 8am - try to go back to sleep. Woken up by roomate around 7am
8:30am - Morning class with alternating teacher
10:30am - finish class, lie on ground outside, go for swim, shower, go eat at buffet
12:30pm - lecture
4pm - get changed for evening class
5pm - evening class with bikram
7pm - class finished, lie on ground inside, shower, eat
9pm - lecture
1am - go back to room and sleep

This morning we woke up at 7am because on Saturdays the classes start at 8am as opposed to 8:30. I was so tired but I'm really getting used to that feeling so I basically stumbled out of bed and got ready for class. The tiredness here is so awful, sometimes I go to bed with my yoga stuff on just so it's less effort in the morning, and a lot of time I fall asleep on my yoga mat while waiting for class to begin. We got there really early this morning and people still had not filled up the lines so we got a great place!

Last week I thought it was best to go right at the back, that way if you need to lie down you can, and also you're further away from the eye of bikram. However, we soon learned that there are hot air vents running across the middle of the room. After the class gets underway, it heats up so much more from the body heat that the vents are just moving air and they actually feel a little cool, it really makes a huge difference. When you are in the back you get no ventilation at all and it can feel like you are just lying there trying to gasp for air.

Every week I need to dig deep and find another reason to stay. This week I have decided that I am here because I love yoga so much and it has enabled me to do so many things, including stay fit and have confidence. There are some times at home when I can't make it to the classes or I really struggle through class but ultimately I am grateful that there is something in my life that I can do for 2hrs every day or so and know that the rest of my day will be positively impacted by it. The pressure here is so intense that you need to constantly evaluate what you are doing here, a few people have quit already, fortunately I have been able to dig deeper and deeper into that question and always come up with a satisfactory answer so it means I am doing the right thing!

Tuesday: The morning class was pretty intense, we had Emmy again and she was leading us through all the postures in a very technical manner, ensuring that every muscle was aligned and that our bodies were doing the things they should be. We were a couple of postures away from ending the floor series and time was running over a little bit and by around 10am an older European gentleman named Stan started having some random outbursts regarding the time. People were generally upset at his lack of respect for the silence of the room and a few told him to be quiet, shutup etc. Suddenly he jumped up, grabbed his matt off the ground and started yelling 'class is finished! It's 90min class and it is done,! It's 10, no more class, you say 90 minutes...' etc, all while heading towards the back of the classroom and the exit doors.

Class can run over, and we have had up to 2/5hr classes so it was really disturbing and bewildering to a lot of people, who I'm sure have had similar thoughts but it's just not something you yell out when a teacher is leading you through the postures. The back of the yoga room is reserved for the the teachers who are helping out with the training. They do class along with us but stay back there to act as a buffer for people who try to leave the room and also to keep a general eye on us just in case anyone is injured or something happens. As Stan neared the back of the room, Dale, the head teacher, jumped up and tried to calm him down and steer him to the side of the door. Stan wasn't about to be placated and he violently pushed Dale out of the way while yelling 'fuck you! No - I am leaving and class is over!' He was yelling it over and over again at Dale and by then a bunch of the guys from the class had to jump up and surround him in case a fight broke out.

Eventually Stan made it out the door, followed by several of the teachers and that was that. The guys went back to their mats, Emmy told us to chill out and ignore what had just happened and class was completed about 15min later. Her only comment regarding the whole matter was 'now there is a man that really needs some yoga'. That didn't stop the gossip though and at lunch everyone was speculating about what had happened.

We went for our usual anatomy lecture and then we had the evening class with Bikram at 5pm. At the beginning of the class he explained to us that he had spent an hour reasoning with Stan but the guy had decided to leave. Bikram said he talked to him for a while and told him that the classes sometimes run over because the teachers are trying to help out the students and they would probably get shorter as the training wore on. Stand couldn't accept this and Bikram obviously thought something was weird because it was midway through the second week when he had the outburst, he should have been yelling in any of the numerous classes we had the first week when Bikram took over 2hrs while we were trapped in the room. After talking to him for a while he eventually found out that Stan was sexist and had a problem with Emmy breaking the rules and taking him over the 90min, with Bikram he was fine but he admitted he could not take orders from a woman. Pretty crazy stuff, and even Bikram said Stan would have benefited the most from staying and working out his issues in a non-judgemental environment but either way he is gone and is only one of the probably 6 or 7 who have already peaced out!

Emmy talked a bit before class about the guy having had a harder life than most of us who were younger hence he needed to work through more things so all was forgiven on her side. Bikram gave us a pep talk after class along the lines of how we should have been training like the green berets before we came and what did we think we were here for, to eat cheesecake??? Pretty inspirational hehehe!

The other crazy thing that happened was that once class got underway we were in the middle of the standing series doing Triangle pose, I had my left foot on my matt, my right foot firmly planted on my neighbors and was in the pose when suddenly I started swaying and my right foot was slipping out from under me. I thought 'the jerk next to me is pulling the matt over!' but it turned out to another earthquake! Between the Stan incident and Bikram yelling 'earthquake, earthquake!' in the middle of class, it was a pretty eventful day. It was not over yet either, as Bikram kept us up until 1am watching a movie about a king who ruled by being honest and strong. The movie was great but the staying up late was not and I wasn't happy getting up at 6am the next morning.

Wednesday: Hell day. I have been having stomach problems this week which have resulted in getting dehydrated. I was really struggling through the earthquake class on Tuesday night, no energy and muscles shaking when I was trying to do the postures. Wednesday I could not do anything in the morning class, I lay on my matt for about 1/2 the class hoping that somehow my strength would return by the evening class. After class I had to lay on the floor of my hotel room with a towel on my forehead, my head was just pounding and suddenly I realized - duh I am dehydrated! It's so hard because even though I have gotten the hang of drinking 5L, I really needed electrolytes and all the water and sweating was just washing out the nutrients my body needed. I started drinking pedialyte but the evening class was still no good, I lay on my back for most of it while Bikram yelled so it wasn't the best scene.

After drinking more pedialyte and feeling much better I just have to say: it's amazing what water can do. I haven't drank any caffeine the entire time here and we're averaging 6hrs of sleep a night, working out 4 hours a day and attending lectures and seminars, doing public speaking and the rest of it. Water and deep breathing is having a direct correlation on my energy levels here, even more than food or sleep and it is really showing my how important it is to your body. You know they say that you get hunger pains when you don't drink enough water, along with headaches, loss of concentration and muscle fatigue? All completely true and I am amazed by how powerful water is and the influence it has on our body. As an aside, I also have a completely new appreciation for ice. I don't normally need my drinks that cold but let me tell you, whoever invented ice is a miracle worker. I was dying, on my back in Monday's class when a girl offered me her water bottle which contained ice. I took a drink and immediately the icy cold goodness washed down my throat into my chest and down my stomach, I feel a path of coolness going through my body and I instantly calmed down. Amazing. I have bought a huge orange cooler water bottle from walmart that I wouldn't be caught dead with at home but will happy tote around here just because I can fit a bunch of ice in it!

Wednesday was another late night lecture from Bikram, all about what is yoga and how it came to be, very mystical and interesting. It wasn't a good day for me though because I was feeling really crap about not taking care of myself and not having enough energy for class. Seeing everyone else doing the postures while I was forced to lay on the ground sucked and I had to take a step back and reevaluate my practice. Yes I know how to do the postures mostly correctly, thanks to the wonderful teachers in Richmond. Yet like I told my friends before I left, I am not a yoga teacher yet. IE I don't have the hardcore body that they all dance around the room with and so I really need to push it and just start building and toning those muscles. It's gonna be a tough job but I will do it and we'll see where it gets me in a few weeks.

The up side is that I have really been working on controlling my breathing while I've had to lie for a bunch of postures in class. When you lie in savasana your mind instantly starts thinking of a million other things you would rather be doing than yoga and then your thoughts turn to panic and how much your body is hurting, how weird it feels and then you are just in a vicious cycle of internally complaining to yourself while simultaneously wanting to run for the door. The hardest pose is to hold still. I had a new mantra that seemed to work and it was have patience. They told us that before and it really made sense and worked for me, calmed me down and allowed things to happen in my body the way they should.

Thursday: A much better day. We had some really inspirational speakers which had an effect on the positive energy of my evening class. I was also feeling much better from the pedialyte. I also think I'm a bit of a weekend person and was feeling really positive at the prospect of week 2 almost being finished. We had another late night lecture but I'm starting to get used to a lack of sleep. I'm telling you all you need is a positive attitude, lots of hydration and correct breathing and you can feel awesome through anything.

Friday: Another good day, I was finally able to do both classes to my edge. We had more anatomy and lectures from Emmy on muscle and joint alignment in the poses, as well as a posture clinic where she showed us the correct way to do poses we were having problems with. I went up for half moon and she said mine was fine, I will be able to push down further as the weeks progress. After I went up on stage quite a few people told me good job, which was so nice! We were actually done at 11pm as Bikram has left town for a few days, which was a blessing and I got to go to sleep at the civilized hour of midnight!

Saturday: A great class, I am starting to master my mind and breathing and just committed to killing the class. I felt like I was asleep in half the postures but did every single one with tons of energy and actually smiled in most of them. Saturday morning class is even earlier than the morning classes in the week and could be seen as a hell class but today it was great, I was able to monitor my progress in all the poses and I was feeling flexible so I stretched all the tight parts of my body out, enjoying every second of it. They say that soon we will be in heaven in each pose, rather than dying and straining our muscles and when they say these things you don't believe them but I finally realized that once my body becomes a bit stronger the real yoga will begin.

We had a nice long lunch with a good group, went to walmart then studied for our anatomy test on Monday. ALL my friends went to a fab Mexican restaurant in town tonight but I am feeling a sore throat and cold coming on. I know I will not shut up if I got out for dinner and I can't afford to get sick or lose my voice since posture clinic really starts this week. It's late but I'm gonna chill and probably watch a movie. My knees, shoulder, back and neck muscles hurt and I am feeling really spaced out from meditating and taking in so much info over the week. People last weekend were experiencing the same spacey feeling, someone likened it to feeling high and someone else pointed out the Sanskrit word of cannabis means 'bliss' hehehe!

I miss you guys lots but I'm really getting immersed here so I'm finding it hard to write every day. If we got more sleep I would be fine but I might have to switch the updates to the weekend! We are also not supposed to be doing blogs since they don't want info about the course to get misappropriated in the public domain. I completely agree and respect their view but also I want to connect with you guys so I'll keep writing more about my personal journey than the course itself and also I don't have much negative to say about things here. It's the biggest challenge I've taken on and inconceivably hard at times but I am having the best time and loving (mostly!) every second of it.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Earthquakes and Cults

The weekend was great, we got to spend time hanging out and enjoying the hotel and stocking up on food, water and electrolytes. I have been drinking gatorade when water isn't enough to stay hydrated and it's a bit sugary but is working fine. I am just adding a little bit of powder to my water for the class so it's not too strong. It's all about really slowing down and taking care of yourself here. I find if I'm too lazy to drink that last L of water during lecture of if I can't eat anything and just let it go I suffer so I'm really learning to just listen to my body and give it what it needs.

I was woken up this morning at 1am by an earthquake! My body was shaking back and forth, my bed was shaking, the hotel was shaking, it was pretty scary! I found myself just naturally going into the deep breathing from yoga to calm down which is kind of hilarious, I guess Bikram really is starting to make us waterproof, fireproof, earthquake proof and whatever else proof like he keeps saying. It ended up being a 4.5 so it wasn't that strong or long-lasting but it's the first earthquake I've ever been in and it was a crazy way to start a Monday!

This morning we had the pleasure to meet Emmy Cleaves, she is Bikram's most senior teacher and has been teaching for over 35 years. She looks like a grandma but she's really tough, she is Eastern European and she was very strict in the morning class. It was a really good class though because she stressed precision in all of the postures and she made corrections we had not heard before which helped me get the most out of each posture. Afterwards we were jamming into one of the elevators and she stepped in, everyone in the elevator thanked her for the great class and she said 'yes, now you know what the expectations are and I don't want to be screaming in any more classes' so she really kept her tough act up.

For lecture things got switched up as we started the anatomy part of the training. Dr. T is a chiropractor from New York who taught us about the spine. I learned some interesting things about nerves and the spinal cord and how the messages between the two can get thrown off if the spine is misaligned. He told us that he's cured ulcers by manipulating the spine so all kinds of weird things can happen. He's teaching us the body basics right now then hopefully will get into how everything is effected by yoga. We have to take 2 exams but he's making sure to let us know what things to study.

We did some more posture clinic and here are some more funny things Bikram told people:
1. You're personality is too shallow like a little shrimp jumping on top of the water
2. I hope not everyone in Victoria dress like you, like a butcher! (to a girl wearing a long white skirt with larger pockets
3. Oh no, please stop, it was like 6 month's constipation! (To a girl going really slow through the dialogue)
4. I don't want girls here, I want balls here! (Trying to get someone to be more forceful)
5. I can use you as a Valium (To another slow guy). Yes it's kind of silly that we keep track of these things but they capture how funny Bikram is and a big part of it is that he's trying to keep us entertained while we listen to so many people say the same thing.

The evening class was taught by Bikram and it was pretty stifling. I am really starting to feel a lot better now though and I keep pushing myself to do both sets of one further posture each day. So far it is working out well and I can feel myself getting stronger. Bikram was also really happy, he said we were new people from last Monday and even 1000% better since Friday. He talked a little bit near the end about the fact that we don't own our bodies, it is out of our control how they look and when they will be taken from us. They are basically a home our soul is living in and it's our job to take care of them, we don't have a right to treat them badly or let them go to waste. That's why he is so against tattoos and he mentioned that God (a higher power) owns our bodies and our souls and the only thing we own are our minds so we need to be in control of them and make sure we keep them sharp and don't waste them.

I thought what a beautiful thing to say - that it's our privilege to inhabit our bodies and take care of them and I felt pretty emotional for the first time since coming here. I have been seeing people bawling right and left through their classes and I admit I let a couple of tears go. It was a good emotional release of some things I have been keeping in and I have been able to let go of them after a long time. I'm happy for the experience and the weird thing is that as soon as I felt the sadness and let go of it, my legs got really tingly below the knees, through the calves and especially on top of my legs. My arms were also tingly too and I think it was fresh blood flowing to them. It shows how much of an effect holding onto old emotions or feelings has on the body and how much it can hold us back and I was pretty amazed.

After class we had more posture clinic and it was the same old, Bikram let us go early though, at 11pm so I am looking forward to studying for a bit then getting some sleep! As we were leaving we were all crowding up the stairs and someone came up behind me and scrunched my shoulders a couple of times and I said 'thanks' before I turned around, thinking someone was being nice and giving me a massage, or it was one of my friends saying hi. Then when I turned around it was Bikram!!! He looked at me then put his hand on my cheek and smiled at me and then people started trying to talk to him and he was gone. It was so nice though, I totally wasn't expecting him to do that and it was such a kind gesture that it kind of stunned me.
He's an interesting guru and I'll fill you in on more details of his life soon but basically since he was born he has had the gift to tell the truth and also predict things that would come true. He was also telling us the other day that people who try to harm him instead get injured and he tries to stop them from trying to hurt him but if they don't listen bad things happen to them. It's hard to distinguish what is exaggerated with him, and he warned us Indian people exaggerate, but when you see him talking to the students who are giving the dialogue, he can pick out things about a person that you would not know by looking at them. I'll try to write more examples of this later.

When he was really young he started copying the yoga moves that his brother was doing at the yoga studio and he was so young and gifted that his guru, who was teaching the yoga classes, started training him and eventually passed on his own mission to Bikram - to heal as many people as possible with yoga. He's a bit of a phenomenon and lots of people have been asking me if Bikram's is a cult. I have been really wary of stuff like that but so far haven't found any purple koolaid or pledging your life to a crazy cause. Yes he wants you to pledge to take care of yourself for life with his yoga but if it doesn't work for us we wouldn't all be here and he's not brainwashing us into anything but actually encouraging us to express our own personalities and be less shy and live our life the way that is best for us. The teachers don't give us answers when we ask questions like 'well what should I do' because they want us to find the answers ourselves within us.

So far I don't get a creepy vibe but rather a feeling of someone wanting to help and having people's health in mind, kind of like a coach or teacher. As much as we are learning discipline we are really involved in a process here and I don't feel like I'm being manipulated to think harmful things or forced to act in ways I wouldn't around people I am close to. I'm actually looking forward to coming back and trying to get my yoga classes to a similar intensity! The bottom line is that after being here, half of us could walk away and never become yoga teachers and just be thankful for an experience where we were able to lose some weight and become more mentally focused while taking time to gain clarity on our own lives. Anyways, your opinions are also welcome as everyone's ideas are different and I would love to hear what you think!

x Ju

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Calmness and Compassion

I just got back from the evening class with Bikram and it was intense. Basically the problem here is lack of sleep and I have been suffering all day. In the morning class I was able to do all the postures but could not push myself like yesterday and afterwards, even though I jumped in the ocean, my muscles were really sore. I put on some heating rub which felt amazing (another example of heat healing injuries!). At breakfast though I felt really ill and drained and also in a bit of a bad mood, I felt some negativity at the end of the class coming out of the area of my lower stomach (I know that sounds weird but when you're twisting around in a hot room you get to feel which parts of your body are holding back because of negative emotion). Two people asked me if I was ok as I guess I was kind of sitting at the table with my eyes crossed and weaving a bit, but it was all good, just feeling a bit of weird stuff coming up which is normal. I need to drink more water as I have been slacking off a bit on the 5 L - it's a lot!!!

We had posture clinic and it was so boring, people still getting up on the stage and saying half moon pose. They won't let us out of the room to practice other postures or do anything else because they want us to hear the first pose so many times we can say it in our sleep (over 300 to be precise). The reason for this is that when we get back home to teach, we will not have taught a full class so we won't have said half moon for 8 weeks, we'll need it really stuck in our heads to bust it out.

Speaking of posture clinic, my friends and I have been keeping track of the top 5 rudest (and most hilarious) comments that Bikram has made when people get up on the stage in front of everyone -
1. Asking some girl to turn around so he could see if she peed her pants from nervousness, then asking her if she's 'Hunchback from Notre Dame' because her shoulders sloped forward
2. 'I like your pant' - said to our friend Bernie when he got up wearing his pyjama pants yesterday
3. 'Did your dress come from kitchen napkin?' - to a girl wearing kind of a revealing dress
4. 'Don't blame me when you look like beef jerky!' - a girl who he told to stay out of the sun
5. 'You have strong accent, you sound like you have something in your mouth, so you put something in for real and it get rid of accent. Here take this and put it in your mouth, then say dialogue' - hands a chinese girl a tootsie pop which he had already opened and tasted. The hilarious thing is that when she put it in her mouth and held it in her cheek it really got rid of her accent! He made the next chinese girl do the same thing, with the same lollipop.

I can't really explain Bikram in one post, he is really mean but incredibly energetic and motivating and several people have described him simply as a force of nature. I think of him as the element of fire - ancient, if you play with it you could get burned, but it invigorates, ignites and comforts you like nothing else. He swears alot and he is one of the most hilarious and obnoxious people I have met but when he smiles, which is frequently, it is completely geniune, peaceful and full of joy and you know you are dealing with a great person. I still get scared when he walks up through the room to teach class though!

Speaking of his class, this evening we were again taught by Bikram. I was feeling really exhausted, stressed and just unsure where I stood with the dialogue and even Bikram himself. I tried to go in the back but they made us move our mats up and I saw a friend who gave me a thought - I am doing ok - to get by the class with. Well I actually ended up having an excellent class! I really killed myself in all the postures and I actually pushed myself so hard on the left side of triangle and the pose afterwards that I fell down onto my mat. This sounds weird but my left side is really weak, I used to be a pitcher in softball for at least 10 years and the pitching motion always twisted my left knee. I also did something to the ligaments in my left shoulder while sliding into second base, I had to wear a sling for a month and as a result, I find it really hard to work out my left side. Once I get deep enough into my practice to open up the old injuries and start reforming the deeper muscles, it is so painful to work those muscles and so embarassing that they are so weak, I subconsciously ease off. In Richmond I would never dare to push the muscles so hard that I would fall over, no one falls over in class and I would just be too embarassed of what the other people in the room would think of me. But that's exactly what my left side needs, to be worked really hard and built up again and pull my whole spine into realignment, then I can build up my right side even more. So I was able to break through that fear and under the conditions we are in, it was huge for me.

By the end of the class I was just spent and had to lie down for the last two poses, it was the first time I needed to run out when the class was over, I almost pushed my way through the lineup to the door, then fairly ran over the pukers and up the 3 flights of stairs to get to fresh air. I just crashed on my mat on the grass, under a palm tree and drifted off for a few minutes.
I started thinking about my thoughts in the class and what I had learned so far this week. I would say the two main things are calmness and compassion. Like most people, I am a bit of a stress case and I sometimes get anxiety. I really wanted to master that and of course it is the first thing you have to overcome when working out in a stifling hot room. I have learned that the way to stay calm is to think positive thoughts to counteract the scared feelings that come up. Like I said, pineapples and ocean got me through the last class and today I needed to keep my breathing calm and deep or else I would overheat so I imagined every breath I took in was cool air and every breath I exhaled was taking away any bad feelings or illness in my body. I was able to keep breathing in (which is the hard part, most people hold their breath after exhaling when they are scared) while enjoying the heat after I breathed out, because it was healing me. So my meditation is getting deeper which is great. Apparently by the end bikram will be screaming in our face and we won't bat an eyelash, can't wait!

The other thing I learned was compassion. A few people here have really been getting on my nerves, people who are total yoga elitists and come across as condescending and also people with negative energy who drain you. For instance while I was in line for saying my posture yesterday, the guy beside me was totally negative, he actually said he was glad he was going after me because he would look good. The guy has no idea who I am and I know it was meant to be a joke, but it was a really weird thing to say, especially to a toatally stressed, freaked out person. Also every time I tried to make a joke or comment about how nerve-wracking it was he had a subtle put down to say back. Most of the people I have methere would have pointed out that it is normal then said something positive. Anyways, my friend also got the same vibe from him and when I saw the same guy walk into class today I looked at him and suddenly the negative feeling and frustration I had felt about him before melted away when I saw that his face was all scrunched up and he just didn't look happy. I realized we're all in the same situation and it's his way of dealing with it and he's not intentionally being negative or rude. He's working through some stuff too and he's doing the best he can, I actually felt bad for him that he was holding some negativity inside but maybe he's here because he's unhappy, who knows?

Anyways it was interesting how having a little compassion and putting yourself in someone else's shoes suddenly changes your perception and allows you to relate and empathize with even your worst enemy. I suddenly became able to listen more to Bikram too and feel less intimidated by him!

I opened my eyes after my short nap and felt really dizzy and dehydrated, I saw a few black dots in the sky but after some water I felt awesome! I am feeling pretty proud of myself right now and I was using my friends' idea of thinking in the class- I'm doing ok - and discovered I was actually saying I'm doing great! So my practice is not so bad and I also resolved some issues I have with Bikram. I wasn't sure how to take his critique of my dialogue. Granted, no one was perfect and even the best people he still had suggestions for but I was striving for perfection myself and it was hard to take the correction from him to speed it up. However I suddenly had some clarity and realized what he was really saying - I have the potential to teach a perfect class. That's a pretty cool compliment as he only told a couple of people (my roomate included) that they gave a perfect dialogue. So I was not one of the best at my first try but if I work hard I will be one of the best and seeing it this way made all the difference.

It also made me think a lot about potential and achieving it. I feel that the qualities this yoga teaches - patience, strength, determination, love, compassion etc are all parameters that I attempt to live my life by so I'm feeling like it's a good thing for me to be here and yes it's only yoga but it's cool to find a niche of something I love that I will also be good at, it's cool when things click like that and I know that this will carry over into other aspects of my life, which I'm looking forward to.

Anyways, sorry to ramble on a lot, I am blaming it on a combination of lack of sleep, medidation and endorphins but it is nice to be able to capture some of the stuff that goes on here. Bikram gave us the night off tonight and I ate the best sandwich from the cafe then joined my friends downstairs for a few laughs. It's still already almost 12am so I will go to bed now, I have 8am class tomorrow then the rest of the weekend off!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't tell you guys how inspirational your comments are. I have a feeling of dread when lecture ends at 4pm and I have to go to my room to get ready for the 5pm yoga class so I log on quickly and your comments make my laugh, cry a little bit and somehow find the strength to perform my best. I think of all you guys during each tough part and you are my postive force which allows me to overcome even the most ridiculous challenge while still smiling - in other words you inspire me to be a better person, in or out of yoga! I'll have more time this weekend to write to you individually and find out what's going on back home! I can't believe the first week is almost over and I am feeling sad that there are only 8 weeks left, believe it or not, so something right is happening!

x Ju


I couldn't write yesterday at all because we left lecture at 2am!!!!!!!!!! The morning class was led by Rajashree, who told us we would be having an easy class since we all needed it. She said it was important that we all finish the class because we had too much anxiety and everyone was getting sick, or muscle cramps. She told us that our evening class would be led by Jim, a senior teacher and he would also give us a gentle class, however we would not find the same Jim or Rajashree next time we stepped into the yoga room.

I actually made it through the whole morning class without sitting down on my mat once. I have been putting all of my energy into the standing series (about 12 postures) and then completely running out of gas for the floor series. Our energy is supposed to be increasing over the weeks so I tried to spread it out a bit during the morning class by only doing one set of most of the poses. I did the second set on a few and hopefully I will be able to increase the poses I can do second set on. The great thing about being here is that the classes are so hard, if you can get into the postures correctly and push yourself a bit more each class, your practice will change dramatically. I don't see myself practicing in a 105 degree room with 70% humidity, in Mexico, normally so the room in Richmond will be a peice of cake compared to what's going on here. I left that class feeling really great about things, at least I have gotten a handle on where I am and although it's not as advanced as I hoped (everyone's facing this), I'm not lying on the floor for half the class either!

After class we had lecture with Bikram again, it was mostly posture clinic but he talked at the beginning a bit about how your life should be dedicated to helping others and then you will always be happy as you will have no expectations for receiving things yourself. You will always be happy and grateful for the things that do come into your life as a result of your karmic actions. Posture clinic was really hilarious again as he told some poor girl she really needs a lot of help on her personality since she was too spacy when she said the dialogue. Like I said, can't wait for my turn! Everyone is getting really tired of hearing the same pose over and over though and people were really struggling to stay away and feeling pretty bored.

The evening class came at 5pm and it was taught by Jim, who warned us at the beginning that he was not very good at teaching easy or slow classes but he would try. He encouraged us to get in the postures correctly and just listen to him. The problem is that by 5pm the room is as hot as a furnace and the humidity is so oppresive, as soon as you step in you just ask yourself - what am I doing here?? You want to turn around and run out but by then the class has started and they lock the door. Even if you try to get out they won't let you! That's one of the worst feelings, knowing you can't escape even if you need to! Jim's class started out fine and I did the whole standing series, but by the time we did Savasana I was dead and lay on my mat in the fetal position feeling awful!!! Everytime I lay on my back my eyes would roll back and close so the only way was to kind of turn on my side, face down and want to kill myself for the rest of the class, which really ticked by slowly. I used all my willpower not to run screaming to the back of the room and somehow ended up being able to lie there. I couldn't get comfortable no matter how I lay, it felt like blood was pumping to my fingers and legs but it was a really uncomfortable feeling. I know it was cells getting fresh blood and waking up but it just felt weird and really uncomfortable.

Anyways, I hauled myself up for the last breathing pose, you kneel on your knees and exhale with your stomach, it's a pose where the instructor is only clapping and you breathe along with the claps. Everyone was sitting up and the room was quiet except for the clapping and the breathing, unfortunately at that moment some guy who had gone to the back of the room chose the time to start hurling into a bucket. I seriously thought a lot of people were going to lose it right there, myself included. All you could hear was his heaves and it was so disgusting, especially since we were all feeling pretty ill already!!!!

I was feeling really terrible after class. I thought I had made some progress this morning but to be forced to lie on your side in a ball for half the class was awful - plus it was an easy class by Jim! I staggered out of the room and just collapsed on the floor. The worst thing is that you have to go up 3 flights of stairs just to get out of the building into the fresh air and I could not make it! My legs felt weirdly heavy but like they were not attached to my body! When I stood up I actually saw people crawling across the floor to the shelves to pick up their belongings. As I was stumbling out the front door, this girl who was walking back in came up to me and said 'you did a really good job today'. I have no idea who she is but it put a huge smile on my face, it meant so much for someone to say that, right at that moment, especially someone I don't know!
I fell asleep for an hour after class and we went back for more posture clinic, after which we watched a Bollywood movie called Kahona Pyar Hei and it was pretty good but sooo long, we were not done until after 2am. It was a love story with lots of singing and dancing and it was new Bollywood so it was cool but the script went on forever.

Today we woke up and everyone was really slow-moving. We went to yoga class in the morning and it was led by Ulysses who is from Mexico. He was really great about telling us how to control our mind and focus and keep positive. He said the best way to keep going is to look in the mirror and you will never see a face contorted in pain looking back at you because you're confronting yourself in the mirror etc etc etc. I had a great class! I was able to finally tap into some positive energy in the class by replacing my scared or anxious thoughts with happy ones, even if they were random. I was thinking about eating some fresh pineapple when we were done, my mantra was 'pineapple' for the class, then 'swimming in the ocean' etc. It sounds really simple but it's hard to control your thoughts under intense pressure and it really helped me tap into the power of thinking that way!

The girl beside me was lying on her mat in a ball, bawling and I felt so bad for her, I think she was feeling really sick but her friends came by to give her cold water and help her up when it was all over. The best thing about the class was the end savasana when ulysses was telling us that he dedicated his energy, words, and the class to us so we could be strong and always know yoga. When I am less tired I will write more about the emotional and physical aspects that are involved in the room but needless to say, it was exactly what I needed to hear to allow myself to relax and open up and let the changes in my body occur.

After class we had posture clinic all day and Bikram ripped a whole bunch of people apart. Then the time finally came for me to give the dialogue! I was in a line of about 20 people before I got up there and I was so nervous I threw up before! (I also think the coffee I drank right after class didn't help) When I finally got up there I had to walk across the stage of the lecture hall, pick up the mic and introduce myself. Bikram was sitting on a big chair on the ground in front of the stage and there were 350 people looking at me! I introduced myself and people gave a round of applause which was so nice and I think my friends started it off. Then I had to turn around with the mic and lead 4 people on the stage through the posture. I was shaking so much it was ridiculous but somehow the words came out!!!! I finished the pose and then Bikram told me I needed to speed it up a bit and it would be a 100% perfect class. I can't tell you the relief at being done, and the funny thing is that after lecture about 5 people I have never met randomly came up and told me I did a good job! It was awesome.

We had the evening class at 5:30pm and in walked Bikram! I was so nervous because last time I got slaughtered in his class and I was feeling very afraid of him. However he promised a 90-minute class and he kept his promise, he didn't ramble or hold the poses ridiculously long. I somehow had a great class! I actually did every single pose, both sets and found myself pushing beyond what I had even been able to do at home! I have already seen new muscles coming up, especially in my legs and the pain is starting to pay off. Bikram got me on one pose, I was holding it a bit longer than others and he looked over and said 'aha, you have a good posture but your knee is still not locked, it's like you are making the money but robbing the bank!' Basically he told me the same thing a couple classes ago but I can't get my right leg locked, I'm sure it will come over time. It's weird when he talks to you because there are so many people in the room and he's leading them all, then he casually looks over and starts giving pout more targeted comments and when you look up and he's talking to you it's a bit like being put in a spotlight. I'm feeling really good right now though so I actually took it happily and realized he's telling the truth. The rest of the night we did more posture clinic and now it's almost 1am and I'm going to bed!
x Ju

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Tsunami

It's 12:30am right now and I have to get up at 6 to eat so I have to keep this short. This morning we had class with Rajashree and it was tough, I lay on the mat for about 1/2 of it. The humidity was driving me crazy and also I am always bad in the morning.

All day we listened to people saying the first pose on the stage, in front of Bikram. His comments were mostly constructive but some of them were ridiculous. There was a girl who had a bowed back and he asked her if she was the hunchback of notre dame!??? He also told one guy that the guy was a very good person, compassionate and caring, but if you put all of his qualities together and looked at him as a person he is a little bit abnormal. It is soooooooo funny to sit in the audience and hear that but if you have to stand up there and say it - watch out. I'll keep you posted about what he has to say about me & my friends.

The evening class at 5pm tonight was later called 'The Tsunami'. The reason was because there were literally bodies everywhere. Even Bikram had to tell people to leave the room because they had bad muscle cramps or were about to pass out. I lay on the mat for about 2/3 of the class, everytime I tried to get up for a pose I felt so dizzy and nauseas. I have never had to lie down that much before, not even when I was starting out!!! The other teachers in the class kept coming over and telling us to sit up if we could, etc.... it was soooooooooooooooo hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I felt like crying about 3 times and a secret thought came to me - what if I can't help it and I just quit?????? What if I just get on a plane home because I can't take any more? Seriously the conditions here are inhuman, I was really struggling.

At 9pm we started more lecture and Rajashree had to come to the front and tell us that as a group we need to relax, we're holding too much anxiety and emotion which is making us so weak. She said when you feel pain or scared you need to think of something else and it will go away. I had a burning feeling in the centre of my chest, near the solar plexus and when I asked a girl about it she said it was anxiety. At least I was not the only one. Although it's crazy and mean and hard, everyone also is really supportive and postive, they say we are the best in performing the dialogue in the history of teacher training and they also keep saying to take it easy. Bikram said he is feeling happy if we have to lie down because we need to throw up or feel dizzy, our toxins are coming out and we are adjusting to the hot room. You could never tell he felt that way in the room though!!! He just pushes everyone and holds the postures for so long.

The crazy thing is, after his classes I feel amazing, even if I was lying on the floor for most of it. A few hours after the class today I felt a wave of positive thought and my anxiety totally left. I just need to keep going and I hope my practice will get back to the point where I can at least stand up on my mat for the class!!!! Anyways, I'll keep you updated and I'm sure tomorrow is better as my anxiety is slowly fading and I'm feeling more energized. The thing I thought of the get my mind off feeling scared is how lucky I am to have my life, and be surrounded by my family and friends and everyone who is special to me and how great everyone is - so thanks everyone for the inspiration!!!!!!

x Ju

Monday, September 15, 2008

First Class

SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have slowly started to discover that I am going to get caught up in all this crazy yoga stuff and go through a period of temporary insanity while I am here. I remember saying before that I would not let it happen, but it seems that no one gets out alive without losing it a bit and emerging with a higher 'self' by the end of the 9 weeks.

Today felt like a long day. We woke up around 7am and studied dialogue until 9:30, then went to orientation Pt. 2 where Rajashree opened again and told us we need to make sure we're having fun during training because without fun, your life will always be missing something and that is passion, which will lead us to find out purposes/interests. I thought it was kind of an interesting thing to say and was grateful they are reminding us to enjoy ourselves since I'm sure it would be easy to get carried away with taking yourself too seriously. She also gave us a lecture about drinking enough water, we're supposed to have around 5L per day but maintain a balance between hydration and electrolytes, if we are dehydrated we need to lick some salt then drink water.

After about an hour Bikram came out. He was dressed in white shoes, pants, kind of a mesh dress shirt and also white baseball hat. His voice was a bit hoarse since I guess he has been giving a lot of lectures in the past week. He talked for 1.5 hrs and the main gist of his lecture was to tell us how lucky we are to be here, we have made a hard choice to put life on hold for 2 months but we're breaking boundaries of discrimination and committing to becoming more enlightened so that when others hurt us we can forgive them... it was a meandering lecture with a lot of funny examples and I think it was primarily for us to get to know him. He seemed to have a lot of energy and be old and young at the same time.

There were many funny parts of his speech but two stood out - he talked about the fact that he was now going to be with us for life - he's going to take care of our health and make sure we stay disciplined, honest and happy with his yoga and he also thinks we will be coming back as future teachers to conduct teacher trainings over the years. He got so worked up at this point that he was telling us even if we die, he would not let us go until we could do his postures 100% correctly. He said they don't let limpers with weak knees into heaven and we were yogis so not going to hell, he promised he would be jumping up and down on our coffin yelling 'lock the knee!!!' if we peaced out before his work was done. A little morbid, but it illustrated his point that he was not letting anything get in the way of making us strong yoga teachers.

The other example was a man from California who was ill with cardiovascular disease, his doctors told him to take some peace in a church for a few days as he would soon die. His family sent him to Bikram to get a few laughs and Bikram propped him against a pillar in the room to do the poses. The guy ended up living to be around 90 - 10 more years - but the funny part was seeing Bikram act out the guy doing standing bow while leaning against the pilllar. Then Bikram told his doctors that he took a fire engine, unhooked the hose and blasted the man's heart so the disease was gone. He has a pretty funny way of telling stories that is totally unique only to him.

After Bikram was finished we had lunch in the ballroom again and it was really nice, lots of beans, rice, veggies - healthy but filling stuff. Everyone was nervous because it had just been announced that after lunch posture clinic was going to start, with Bikram. Posture clinic is where you need to recite each posture verbatim and you get critiqued for it. In the second week we will be split into groups of 40 but for the first post, Half Moon, we are all saying it one at a time, on the stage, in front of Bikram and 350 other people!

Luckily when we returned for lecture it was announced that the posture clinic would begin tomorrow. Jim, the owener of a studio in San Diego and a very senior teacher, spoke for a while about meditiation. He pointed out that the next step in human evolution is taking place in our consciousness and that the more you concentrate by meditation, the more the world around you expands and the more you become aware of. Basically they are setting us up for success in the course by telling us what to expect and how great it will be when we 'turn the corner' and become more in control of our mind, body and emotions through practicing yoga. There was a lot said about Bikram's first class and the majority of people, including Bikram told us to take it really easy the first week. We're all getting used to a new kind of stress, a new location and most of all the hot room! We were told to forget everything we know about yoga and start from scratch while we have the opportunity to learn the correct way from the source, Bikram.

We got out of lecture and had about 1.5 hrs to change and rest before the first class! I can't tell you how nervous I was but I just listened to some music and thought of home and tried to remain calm and channel my energy into excitement, which I am actually getting better at! Speaking of home, you are all in my thoughts and thank you so much for your words of support! They put the biggest smile on my face before class when I got a chance to start my computer. I might not be as accessible as normal since there's a lot going on here but your messages give me strength!

Finally the time rolled around to go to the yoga studio - once we stepped into the building the heat was already elevated from the warm Mexico air and there was a huge line for signing in (their only way to keep track of us attending). We got into the room, which is massive, and everyone had to really squish in next to each other. I have never practiced so close to people and it was a bit weird, but I guess it's necessary. There is a huge throne at the front of the room which is at least 10 feet off the ground so there is no hiding from the teacher, which really sucks. I found that the heat in the room was not so bad, I have to admit I have suffered through some scorchers in Richmond, but the humidity was ridiculous. I literally felt like someone was pushing down on my body, it was quite stifling.

Bikram came in and took the stairs to his lounge and we all stood up. The first posture was Standing Deep Breathing and that is when it hit me how powerful the room was, when we were breathing it was all you could hear, even louder than Bikram over the mic system. The energy was so tangible that even though I was sweating buckets already, I felt energized and compelled to breathe even deeper, just to be a part of what was going on. They explained to us we would feel the energy and that it will pick us up when we are falling, like instead of crawling up a ladder and stepping on others, you crawl up the ladder and help the person behind you up, while the person in front of you has their hand out to you. I am proud to say I made it through the whole class fine, although I had to sit out second set of the floor bow because I had a cramp in my right calf. With all the talk of dehydration I panicked a bit but I was fine for the next pose. There were a lot of people going down though, when I first started out I could not see myself in the mirror but by the end I had a perfect view because everyone in front was lying down. However, it doesn't mean I am awesome or will breeze through, you have to hit a wall sometime so it's just a matter of when.

I felt a bit hungry in class so tomorrow morning I will make a protein shake and that will help. One big problem I forsee is that the carpet is brand new and really slippery. I'm used to a nice wooden floor in Richmond so when we did any feet apart poses my feet just slid until I was pretty much in the splits. For Triangle I had to use all my strength to flex my upper thighs which is good because they were being worked but bad because it hurt like hell!

It was funny to have the class taught by Bikram. It's what I have been waiting for and have essentially come here for so it was a big moment. He spoke really slowly and he kind of sounded like the Big Friendly Giant if you can imagine!! I know he was taking it very easy on us since the class took a full 2 hours and for some of the poses he didn't make us hold them the full time. He got us involved a lot by asking us the next line for a lot of the poses and got pretty excited when we were able to shout out the answers! He sang in between some of the postures to give us a rest too. I am sooooo scared of what is going to happen when we pick up the pace and he becomes mean but now is not the time to think about it and like they say, we will get through it! After the class we lay on our mats for Savasana and they played one of Bikram's songs, it was actually very soothing and relaxing but at that point it was enough and I wanted to run out of the room, I have never stayed in there for 2 hrs before! We went back to our room and ate and then went for a nice swim.

When we walked through the lobby we saw a gigantic party going on, there must be 200 people there yelling 'Viva Mexico', today is Mexico's Independence Day and they have dancing, mariachis and tons of food. We went down after the pool and ate corn soup with chilies, plantain chips, coconut candies and this amazing melted chocolate with cinnamon drink. We got into it a bit with the Mexican flags and noisemakers but now it's time for bed, I have to get up at 6:30am! The Mexican yoga teacher told us today that they celebrate holidays for 2 days in Mexico because they like to party so late so no one will go into work tomorrow. I can hear the band through my door right now as if it's in the room and am so grateful for earplugs. So tomorrow is 2 crazy yoga classes, then the big speech in front of Bikram! I am excited but still can't help but look forward to lying on the beach on Saturday to study. Hope everything is well at home and you're in my thoughts!

x Ju