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

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