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! 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The First Two Weeks

Week One:
Greetings from Las Vegas! Being confronted with endless slot machines as soon as deplaning at McCarren International, and again at The Las Vegas Hilton was a bit of a shock - Las Vegas so far has certainly met my expectations in its vastness and vulgarity in just about everything. The hotel has about 3000 rooms, a sprawling ground floor casino, and several 'themed' restaurants which I have yet to brave. The first week came and went in a flash - lots of orientation meetings, a welcome buffet dinner provided by the hotel and of course the delivery of our first posture - Half Moon Pose -  in front of the entire 300 trainees and Bikram himself, a bit nerve wracking to say the least! It's been really interesting to hear where everyone is from and there is quite the global representation - Thailand, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, Germany, UK, Japan, India, New Zealand, Nepal and just about every corner of the US. My lovely room mate, Tricia, is actually from Hawaii and a diver master so that's a pretty cool match.

"Take it easy, Honey". That's what we were told at the beginning of week one and for good reason. There is a tendency for everyone to push themselves too much in the first week before allowing themselves to acclimatize to the conditions and before getting over possible jet-lag and the like. The heat in the yoga room is gradually being cranked to where it should be. Initially the room was not hot enough, but that changed by the end of week one and soon we were cookin'! The humidity is the room has remained low and has been dry enough to cause some people nose bleeds, including Bikram. I just picked up an aloe and saline nasal spray at Whole Foods so I'm hoping that will help. I'm finding the carpet on the yoga room floor a real challenge with postures like Triangle. There is zero traction so this pose can be a tough one to hold correctly without your feet slowly sliding out from under you. Saturday afternoon and sunday we have off, which gives us time to get laundry done, grocery shop, sleep and of course drill down on learning the dialogue. There is a great pool and deck here which provides a nice place to read and relax. Hopefully October will be warm enough to sit outside and get some fresh air.
So week one down and we've covered all the bases re: Blood, Sweat and Tears. Yes, tears. This practice can unearth some deep emotional responses at unexpected moments - it could be as a response to the beautiful reading by Rajashree (Bikram's wife) of "The Invitation" by Oriah Mountain Dreamer or simply the gut wrench of leaving loved ones at home. I've fallen victim to both.
Highlight of the week: Discovering the hotel spa and gym complete with steam rooms and hot tubs! The air is so dry here, both inside and out, that this place will become my sanctuary!

Week Two:
The yoga so far for me, whilst being enjoyable, has been mostly exploratory - getting used to a routine, the room, new instructors, new yoga buddies. The second week my practice started off well but by thursday I had a really tough time just staying in the room! I sat out a couple of postures for the first time in years and just tried to remain calm. It appeared that as a result of Bikram complaining to the hotel staff about the lack of sufficient heat, they decided to crank the underfloor heating maximum. It made the room almost unbearable and the floor series especially became a real challenge. It was like lying on a hot plate and a couple of people even had some minor scorching on their hands and feet. Several people had to be assisted out of the room, thankfully making it in time to vomit in the sick bins provided at either exits. We even had a screamer - which is probably how most of us felt in our heads. Wow. Hot indeed. During the evening lecture, Bikram announced that the underfloor heat was going to be shut down and allowed us to have an early night - this was such great news as the last three nights he'd kept us up past 2:30 am.

I'm hoping I'll be able to keep up to date on this blog. The hotel does not have free wifi but internet access can be obtained for about $14 a day. I should to be able to connect at least once a week this way. The upside of this is that I won't be wasting time frivolously online (read:Facebook!) when I could be studying, but I do miss logging on to check emails, read the news and feel generally connected to the outside world.

Week three begins the posture clinics so I'm trying various techniques to learn the dialogue - recording audio of each posture and playing it back ad nauseum seems to be working...we'll see.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Almost packed and ready to go!

I'm glad that I Scuba dive. Glad because I've accumulated such an enormous pile of 'stuff' I'm bringing with me to training that it necessitated hauling my oversized dive bag out of storage for the job. Some of the bulkier items include yoga mats, a foldable canoe seat (for posture clinics), tubs of whole food powders and protein powders, a kettle, lots of T's, tanks and 'layers' and of course piles of yoga clothes. At last count, I've squirreled away 14 yoga tops and 9 shorts (thanks Leslie!). I'm thinking some of these will get pitched along the way when they start to get a little funky. And they will.

In the meantime, its back to studying the dialogue and running around town for last minute appointments.

So, here is where I'll be living for the next nine weeks. The Las Vegas Hilton - in all its understated glory! And yes, dear God, that IS Barry Manilow billboarded on the side. He has had a long running gig at the Hilton so if I start singing "...her name is Lola, she was a showgirl.." someone shoot me!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Is it really a week away??

A week tomorrow I board a plane to Vegas. I've been waking up early these last few days asking myself "what the hell are you doing? Would it not be better just to focus on your practice and stay here in Toronto?" Those thoughts pass and are replaced with utter excitement blushed with nervous anticipation. I've bought a ticket for one massive roller coaster ride and I'm fastening my seat belt!

So why Bikram Yoga you ask? Well, here’s the thing about Bikram Yoga: toss out your perceptions of yoga being a spiritual, relaxing opportunity to stretch with moments of chanting, incense burning and quiet meditation. What you are entering with a Bikram class is a room heated to at least 105 degrees for a 90 minute workout that is about as challenging a workout as you can get. There is a cardiovascular component to Bikram Yoga too which is atypical of many other yoga disciplines. The intense heat conditions and works all the internal organs and focusses the mind to work synergistically with the body. Bikram himself starts his class saying ‘Welcome to Bikram’s Torture Chamber’. It can often feel like that, but the compounding effects of Bikram Yoga are very rewarding and it's why I love it. I've had a perpetual gym membership for 20 years and I see no reason why Bikram Yoga cannot be anything less than a commitment for at least as long, or better yet as a lifetime journey. To teach would be adding another dimension for me - to guide and inspire others to reap the wonderful health benefits.  

Anyway, in case your wondering what my day will look like here it is. My biggest fear at the moment is wondering how to deal with the sleep deprivation. 11:30 pm often extends to anywhere from mid-night to 4 am. Its all part of the process I'm told. Embrace it!

Monday - Friday
8:30am - 10:00am • Bikram's Basic Yoga Class
10:00am - 12:15pm • Lunch Break
12:15pm - 4:00pm • Posture Clinic/Lectures
5:00pm - 6:30pm • Bikram's Basic Yoga Class
6:30pm - 9:00pm • Dinner break
9:00pm - 11:30pm? • Posture Clinic/Lecture/movies
8:00am - 9:30am • Bikram's Basic Yoga Class
Day of Rest

Monday, September 7, 2009

Counting down the days....

So Labour Day is over and the reality that the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training begins in less than a month is hitting hard. I'm both nervous and excited at the same time. I'm also still trying to get my head around the fact that I'll be in Las Vegas far longer than I'm sure I'd like. It seems like such an incongruous venue for yogis-in-training but then again this is Bikram Choudhury we are talking about. Bikram, the 'Bad Boy of Yoga' who hails from Beverly Hills where he collects Bentleys and Rolls Royces, has been criticized for copyrighting his 26 posture yoga series and tightly franchising new studios - entrepreneurial moves that have earned his method the dubious term the 'McYoga' of yoga disciplines. He has, never the less, developed a worldwide cult following and I for one can say that his series simply works and has made a such a positive impact on my life. 
I can't wait for all to begin!