Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Week Nine - The Final Countdown!

Week nine and everyone was pretty pumped that this was it - and we were going home! I deliberately did not shop for groceries last weekend as I still had quite a lot of credit on my hotel gift card so I planned to eat in the hotel for the last week. I did use a chunk of credit to treat myself to a much needed massage at the Hilton Spa last weekend. We had one final posture clinic monday afternoon where some of us had the opportunity to string a few postures together and be critiqued. Whilst I did not go, it was still very useful to hear the feedback for the others who stepped up. We had some good lectures this week, Bikram started the long process of dissecting each posture illustrated with volunteers who wanted corrections or feedback. It took several afternoon & evening lecture sessions to cover all 26+2 postures partly because Bikram inevitably would go off on a tangent about something that may or may not have related to the posture in question. The man loves to talk! Also this week Craig Villani joined us for a few days to answer a lot of questions about teaching in general. Craig has been Bikram's right hand man teaching and directing the training program for the last 10 years or so and it was a shame we could not have benefitted earlier from his vast  experience. He is an eloquent and inspiring speaker and also led a couple of great classes. Both Emmy Cleaves and Rajashree were back in town to lead another class each and answer questions during our final lecture session friday afternoon.

On our last friday night, which we had free, four of us splurged at the better Italian restaurant at the hotel. I ordered a celebratory glass of red wine too - I mean how was I supposed to enjoy braised short ribs without vino? After nine weeks of abstinence, it sure tasted like nectar of the Gods! Aside from a couple of mornings of craving bacon, it was also my first foray into eating red meat again. Strangely enough, I did not really miss it. On the final saturday there was an optional morning class - I slept in, then rest of the day was ours. I decided to get a pedicure at The Hilton to save time  - wow, $95 for a pedicure?? - you'd think they might have gold plated my toes for that price. The graduation ceremony started at 3pm saturday. It was a long affair with lectures, a class demonstration and the certificate awards for each one of us. It was really nice to see everyone glammed up for the night! The graduation dinner wrapped up around 9pm. I had a lot of packing to do as I had a cab picking me up at 5:15am next day, so I headed back to my room...exhausted! As I headed down to the lobby at 5am sunday, I was amazed to see Bikram and his posse sitting in the Fortuna cafe. Well, he does subsist on very little sleep so no surprise really. He was probably up all night. I gave him a big hug - it seemed as if he was hanging out to see us all off. After all, there was going to be a big exodus of yogis leaving The Hilton over the course of the next few hours.

Touching down in Toronto was fantastic! I was so incredibly glad to be home and appreciative of all the small things in life that are taken for granted. I did get up the next morning to take fellow trainee Richard Brown's first class downtown. He had taken the red eye from Vegas just hours before teaching - brave soul, and he did so well! In fact there were 3 of us from training there to support him. My first class was scheduled for the friday of that week. The circle is complete! It was a bit of a blur as I was both nervous and excited. I have yet to teach again, having been in New York for the holidays, but I am excited to get back on the podium all in good time in 2010.

I will post again at some point with my progress and post some practical tips for any would-be trainees thinking of sequestering themselves away for 9 weeks of incredible self discovery. My only advise right now is that if you are thinking of training, take your time, don't rush into it. Practice for another six months, or more. This is a life long endeavor hopefully so the longer you practice before the teacher training, the more 'layers' of experience you can draw upon during the training itself. Until then, namaste. And Lock The Knee!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Week Eight

Week eight wrapped up our posture clinics. There were just two postures left to deliver and most of us were done by wednesday. Now I have to study the two breathing excercises that bookend all 26 postures and start timing the whole series to fit the standard 90 minute class. Its seems a pretty daunting task right now. We are still having clinics but they seem a lot more relaxed and fun now. Senior teacher Elizabeth Marshall from Lawrence, Kansas was with us again this week for one clinic and was so incredibly helpful. She was with us week 3 so I was glad to see her back. We had a couple of really great classes this week notably with Dom, our brilliant resident British Bulldog and full time staffer/MC/entertainer. Also Lisa Ingle gave another great class saturday am - I've never laughed so hard during a class with some of her stories - she is such a live wire! We were treated to a pre-class fashion show modeled by the staff to show off the latest items of yoga wear available in the Bikram boutique here at the Hilton. Also, this week was US thanksgiving so we were given the afternoon off and a wonderful Thanksgiving buffet dinner. It was really nice for everyone to get together and several people got up to entertain us afterwards with their amazing musical talents - all impromptu - alot of fun! All in all it was quite an entertaining week. Just as well as many of us are feeling truly fatigued and ready to get home. Week nine, our final week, is about to begin.....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Week Seven

Week seven was great. We had some fantastic classes with visiting teachers, notably John Salvatore from New York who is in Las Vegas playing the role of Bob Crewe in the Jersey Boys show. Such an animated and dynamic class - he loves an audience and clearly loves teaching this yoga. I will have to go to his class at Bikram Yoga Lower East Side in New York over the holidays. Diane Ducharme from Massachusetts has been with us a few weeks now and has been invaluable during posture clinics, she has also taught us a few classes during her stay with us. She has been dubbed 'The Queen of Dialogue' and can't stress enough how important it is to stick to the script, or prescription as she calls it, when teaching. I'm sorry to see her go. We've done 76 yoga classes to date - the end is definitely in sight! Week seven was light on the posture clinic front as we had several lectures with Jon Burras in the latter part of the week. Jon Burras is a yoga therapist who specializes in Intuitive Connective Tissue Bodywork - 'The Fascia Guy" as he is known. He spoke in depth about the body's connective tissue and how it reacts with the therapeutic practice of Bikram Yoga, He also opened up a very lively discussion on the laws of resistance and attraction and how we are all in control of our destinies. We are not victims of our genetics unless we choose to be, and that our own 'personal vibrations' draw positive and/or negative energy that shape our lives. We did not see too much of Bikram himself this week - do doubt he'll make up for lost time week 8!

On saturday morning we had our CPR training, got a bit of grocery shopping done in the afternoon and in the evening Brigette, Nickky and I walked 'The Strip' for nearly six hours - so much to see. The Bellagio is quite impressive but everything is all quite ridiculous at the same time! You can buy yourself a $7,000 bag at the Bellagio Hermes store whilst sucking back a $14 'souvenir' cocktail served in a plastic Eiffel Tower beaker purchased at the next door Paris Las Vegas. It was good to get out of The Hilton confines though! Sunday was very relaxing...desperately need a lie-in, followed by more study, then a blissful massage in the evening. Week eight just around the corner!

Week Six

Wow, week six was a tough one. There was a lot of dialogue to memorize in the early part of the week as we were having posture clinics twice a day and cranking through a good chunk of the floor series postures. The teachers holding the clinics are steadily pushing us out of our comfort zones by having us deliver the postures in some very bizarre ways. The concept of acting out a role or doing some crazy ass movements whilst 'teaching' can be very liberating! The clinics, depending on who is holding them, can be more like acting or drama sessions and are really entertaining sometimes. I was asked to repeat one dialogue in another accent, and all I could think of at that moment was my sister in law's North Carolina drawl. My 'Wind Removing Pose' suddenly became my 'Gone With The Wind Removing Pose'. Fun stuff! The not so fun aspects of this week having included a couple of very late nights with Bikram, which does nothing for my focus or energy levels the next day. Tuesday evening we had a lecture and movie that started after the evening posture clinic at 11:30 pm and wrapped up at 3 am. Thursday evening was the same but continued until 5 am, so I think I may have squeezed in an hour & forty five minutes of sleep that night! Despite the exhaustion, the yoga classes themselves have been going really well. The weekends still consist of laundry, shopping studying, eating and sleeping. I've not seen a lot of Las Vegas since I've been here. Hopefully there will be some time in the next couple of weeks to do that. On saturday I took a complete break from studying and just spent some time with friends and had sushi with my roomie in the evening. Sleep is king!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Week Five

Swimming pool fingers. Yes, the heat has been cranking nicely in the hot room and the sweat has been pouring. I love it. Classes have been nicely challenging and my body and mind have been strong. I really feel like I'm managing to achieve a greater depth in many of the postures where previously I thought I may have maxed out in. My knees seem to be feeling much better too, so all seems well on that front. I've even 'unearthed' some deep seated abs so that's a nice bonus. The constant study to memorize dialogue for the daily posture clinics (we've been spending about 5 1/2 hours a day this week doing this) has really been exhausting. The clinics are run by both visiting teachers and the regular senior Bikram Yoga teachers, so there has been a lot of valuable information, feedback and guidance given about our performances and delivery style. 

The beginning of week five marked the last of our sessions with Dr T and our second anatomy exam. I passed! The tests were were very straight forward and I felt like I was in school all over again. Before the exam we had an interesting lecture with Dr Mani Bhaumik, the brilliant laser physicist who was integral in the development of Lasik eye surgery and touched on the less traveled path of attempting to explain spirituality via his scientific genius. He is author of Code Name God.

Bikram himself has been 'laying low' this week. We did not have any lectures, or movies, with him this week and I think only three evening classes. The best class with him was on friday night when he decided that we'd all been working so hard and deserved the night off - no posture clinic! What a wave of joy that went through that room! Everyone was so pumped with the prospect that we all had a very energized class! The friday evening class was followed by an equally fantastic one led by Misha Soltis, 8am saturday morning. Misha has been a key teacher here and so inspirational and encouraging in our posture clinics. This was her fist class teaching all of us together in the hot room and I hope there will be many more. Truly motivating.

Highlight of the week: Receiving a package from Nancy from New York. Bagels, a T-shirt and a really nice card. This 'yoga bubble' that we're in really makes you feel cut off from the outside world so getting a package is so great. I sometimes feel like I'm back in boarding school in England, sequestered away for weeks at a time. The only difference being that I had to make my own bed back then and I wasn't sweating quite so much! Anyway, hope all is well with you in the real world - we are just over half way through!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Week Four

This will only be a quick update as time is of the essence with an anatomy exam looming tomorrow and posture clinics demanding that we learn postures on a daily basis. Week four also marked our almost half way point - a scary thought with still many more posture dialogues to memorize and deliver. I'm finding that the most challenging aspect, no question about that. Bikram was also back this week and we only had one Bollywood movie to endure which was screened after an impromptu pizza night. Hungry yogis making short work of some 200 pizzas! Dom played dj for a while and it was good to see people relax and kick back for a couple of hours. 

Dr Frank Tripani leaves next week, now that the anatomy lectures are wrapped up, so I'm sure Bikram will want the opportunity to lecture us at length and screen yet more episodes of The Mahabharat. I'm expecting some late nights this week for sure. Right now I'm enjoying some great homemade salsa that a fellow trainee has made. Ahmad (sp?) is originally from Iran and owns a restaurant in Portland, Oregon. His salsa has garnered quite the reputation and I must say it IS fantastically delicious. Visions of the Seinfeld episode "I prepared it as I bathed." came briefly to mind as we have no 'kitchen' in our rooms, but its amazing how inventive one can be under such circumstances!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week Three

Our third week began with a class lead by Emmy Cleaves - Bikram's most senior and knowledgeable instructor who was with us for the entire week. What an amazing woman. Allegedly in her eighties, of Latvian heritage, she could easily pass for someone twenty years her junior. She has a sharp eye and is a stickler for precision and intention of purpose with every posture. She's amazingly flexible herself and lives by the motto "Motion is Lotion" - I love that!

The third week also saw the start of our anatomy classes with Dr Frank Tripani, who originally hails from New York and is the author of "Our Food Dilemma". Its been a interesting series of lectures and we'll have our first exam on monday, so yet more study this weekend! He has some strong opinions and warnings about the beef and poultry industry and genuinely cares about what we should and should not be eating. Heart health is also high on his agenda and he is a big proponent of including cold water Omega-3 fish oils in the diet.

Posture clinics began this week. Everyone has to deliver the dialogue for each pose, one at a time, in front of a group of about 35 with three 'demonstrators'. Its pretty nerve wracking and some of the postures are tricky to remember and deliver in a timely fashion. I'm afraid I kept my 'demonstrators' in a back bend far longer that they were happy with! I'm hoping this gets easier with practise - there is alot of dialogue to remember and not much time in the day to study it. This week our days have run from 7am to about 11pm - it will get more intense from next week as Bikram is back from his trip to Tokyo, so I'm sure we'll look at this week in retrospect as a 'soft' one! The yoga classes themselves have been great. I've adjusted well to the heat and so far I've had no real complaints from my body, other than a couple of tweaks in the knees later in the week, so I've backed off on toe stand for a bit. I was really worried about doing 2 classes a day, 11 in one week, but its not really been an issue. On the days when I felt fatigued and just not digging the idea of the second evening class, it turned out that the yoga was really what I needed. A testament that this practise really does energize you when you least feel like doing it! 

The weekends, after our saturday am class are so precious. There are of course essential errands to do like the laundry and food shopping and catching up with the outside world. Our trips to Whole Foods, Target and any other stores are becoming highlights! I've been lucky to hook up with some girls to do this with every weekend. Jacqueline, bless her, organizes the rental car and directions and I'm so grateful for that. This is not the easiest of cities to navigate and Vegas drivers have a certain 'style' on the road! Our hotel rooms are equipped with only one small fridge and no kitchen facilities. This makes fresh food storage a challenge and I constantly feel that I'm 'camping' in the room. Why we were not arranged to stay in a facility with a small kitchenette and a full size fridge is beyond me. The hotel food is pretty mediocre. I braved the breakfast buffet once - its a frightening display of large scale, institutional fodder patronized by an equally frightening range of clientele, some of whom are still hungover from a night of drinking and gambling! However, if one picks and chooses very carefully and goes early enough to avoid the hideous lineups, its not so bad. I'm not rushing to get back there any time soon though. I really miss my sunday mornings at home with eggs, decent coffee, croissant and The New York Times. Sigh.... Week 4, here we come!