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

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