Monday, November 15, 2010

Last chance -- twist (Week 8)

Week 8 was the first week that went by slowly. I've written a lot about how time here seems to be on warp speed, but not this week. The difference is due to a shift in my perspective. It now feels like I've been here a very long time and that I've gotten everything I can out of the training. The incidents from week 7 also changed the atmosphere around here. Things went from being fun and celebratory, to somewhat gloomy. I wouldn't trade the experience for the world and feel I made the right decision in coming to training, but I'm ready to go home and start the next leg of the journey.

We finished posture clinics this week. I delivered Head to Knee with Stretching and Spinal Twist -- the only two poses I didn't have memorized before I came here. I wasn't as confident with them and stumbled more than usual, but made it through just fine. I am so relieved that posture clinics are over! It was difficult to sit for hours and hours on the floor each day listening to people recite the same words over and over again. Now I need to spend some time on my own reviewing everything and starting to string postures together. Only a week to go before I teach my first class! Yikes!

This weekend I spent a lot of money on yoga outfits for my new job as a Bikram Yoga teacher. Now, I had already bought tons of yoga gear prior to this weekend and even before I got to training, so I definitely didn't need anything. But as I blogged about back in the spring, I've got a yoga wear shopping addiction! As soon as I see new styles and colours, I need to have them! While I've been at Teacher Training, several vendors have been onsite and I've bought items from each and every one of them. I've bought so much that I might just have to buy another suitcase to carry it all home. The good thing is I now have different stuff to teach versus practice in. We were told to keep our teaching and practice outfits separate -- which was simply an excuse for me to buy more and more and more and more!

Week 9 is about posture clinics with Bikram, where he'll go through each of the 26 postures and two breathing exercises and explain in detail their proper form and benefits. And of course we still have our daily doubles! I'm crossing my fingers that late nights are a thing of the past, but I wouldn't be surprised if another one is thrown our way before graduation. Speaking of graduation, it's on Saturday afternoon. Not sure how the event will unfold, as the details for most things at Teacher Training are sketchy, including the timing in this case. All I know is that the ceremony is followed by a dinner and I'm catching a cab to the airport at 9am the next day.

I can't wait to be home! I'm sure I'll miss Teacher Training and all the friends I've made here within a couple of days of settling back into my routine, but right now I'm so excited to go home! I'm really looking forward to seeing my niece and nephews, sleeping in my own bed, drinking wine, eating chicken shawarma, driving my car, and -- most important of all -- being on my own schedule. No more signing in four to six times a day! Absolute freedom!

Only a few days to go... I'll see you on the other side!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Welcome to Bikram's Torture Chamber (Week 7)

Week 7 was the hardest week of Teacher Training. Every trainee here would agree. We were pushed beyond our limits both physically and mentally.

The week started off on a high point. I did a bonus class on Sunday morning at Jim Kallett's studio in Old Town. The fabulous Jo from London, England taught. She had led my posture clinic the Friday before and I was able to see in her teaching many of the things she spoke about in the clinic. She was verbatim dialogue but was really able to inject her own personality and style into the class. She called me out by name several times to offer me corrections and commend me on my postures. It felt really good to have that individual attention again. I've missed practicing in a studio!

The advanced seminar took place this week, which meant an extra 200 people were practicing in the hot tent. It also meant that Bikram taught the morning classes, as he led the advanced seminar immediately afterward. I practiced beside the podium on Monday and it was a killer class that ran past the two-hour mark. I had to start rationing water two-thirds of the way through the class to ensure I didn't run out. The class exhausted me and I experienced pain and discomfort in the classes that followed. I retreated to my old spot out of Bikram's line of sight for the rest of the week.

We had double posture clinics every day this week with the exception of Friday. So in total, we spent over 25 hours sitting and listening to people deliver postures. I got through five postures: Bow, Fixed Firm, Half Tortoise, Camel, and Rabbit. I continued to have strong posture clinics and was given a couple challenges that pushed me out of my comfort zone. After Camel, I was asked to deliver the first three sets of Pranayama. I admitted to not knowing any of the dialogue but was encouraged to give it a try anyway. Amazingly, the words came out of my mouth and it felt comfortable and effortless. It gave me a boost of confidence, especially since my first class is only a couple weeks away. For Rabbit, I was given lots of distractions -- all of my demonstrators did something to throw me off. I handled it relatively well and was forced to veer away from the dialogue to offer corrections. My homework for the next posture is to not be so distracted by the distractions. Hmmm... we'll see how that goes.

The rules of posture clinic became stricter this week. On Wednesday we were told we could no longer clap and cheer for our group members before or after they delivered their postures. This really changed the mood of the clinics -- they went from fun and celebratory to serious and gloomy. The reason for the change is that in real life your students won't clap for you after you teach a class. While I agree with that, this isn't real life -- it's the yoga bubble where we should support and encourage each other while we can. In Wednesday's posture clinic there was a tense and emotional situation that actually brought several trainees -- including myself -- to tears. I won't get into details, but it created a negative vibe that carried through to the end of the week.

Friday morning's class pushed many trainees over the edge. Some things were said in the class that were rather contentious. People reacted by shouting and getting up and leaving. I chose to lie down, close my eyes, and bring myself to a happier place. After class people were incensed. It had already been a very difficult week and many felt this was done purposely as a test. Just before the evening class, we were told we had the night off. The crowd roared with excitement. It was a good way to end a week where many of us came to appreciate why they call it "Bikram's Torture Chamber."

I spent the weekend with Heather, Jane, Jana, Jayna and Bettina -- the Fabulous 5! We headed over to Fashion Valley Mall for some much needed retail therapy Friday night and then did our usual laundry and grocery run on Saturday. Saturday evening we checked out the Gaslamp Quarter and had a fabulous dinner at the Red Pearl Kitchen. The Gaslamp is by far my favourite part of San Diego and I'm sorry it took me eight weeks to discover it! Sunday we went to Ecinitas, which is a coastal beach city in northern San Diego. We had lunch at a local Mexican eatery and then sat on the beach and enjoyed the crisp, clean ocean air. I'm so thankful for my weekends and the company of my new friends. It's what keeps me going and what I'll miss most.

Week 8 is here and I have only 14 days left in San Diego! It's scary to think of going home. I've been here so long that I can hardly remember where I came from. I'm ready to start the next chapter of this incredible journey though and am certain this experience will inspire many more positive changes in my life.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hold it there, freeze (Week 6)

Another week past in the blink of an eye. We are officially two-thirds the way through training and the remaining three weeks will undoubtedly be over before we know it. I'm enjoying this experience more than I ever thought possible and am starting to think that my breakdown will happen once I leave the yoga bubble and have to integrate back into the real world. I'm trying to hold on to each moment as much as I can. Just like in Cobra pose, I want to "hold it there, freeze."

Week 6 was all about posture clinics. We had them everyday and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, twice a day. I delivered four postures: Wind Removing, Cobra, Locust, and Full Locust. The latter was my best yet -- I finally achieved the right balance between dialogue and energy. Felt great!

Spending so much time in posture clinic meant that my group really bonded. We're quite an eclectic bunch -- each of us coming from different places and stages in our lives. The one thing that unites us is our love for Bikram Yoga and our desire to share the yoga with others through teaching. Regardless of where we are with the dialogue, we support and cheer each other on and it's amazing to see how close we've become over the past several weeks.
Group 3! Best group ever! (I'm on the bottom row, second from the left.)

On Friday evening we had a dress up Bikram Yoga class to celebrate Halloween. With little time to prepare and a lack of imagination, I simply wore a black and orange yoga outfit. Other trainees, however, went all out. There were the Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Miss Piggy, and the usual suspects -- devils, witches, and zombies. Even Bikram dressed up! Kudos to the trainees who kept their costumes on throughout the class! Later that evening we had a pizza party and danced to Bikram's Lounge CD. A fun time was had by all.

Halloween dress up class.
Bikram's Halloween Costume
Halloween dance party!
One last thing that helped make Week 6 memorable is that I got my teaching schedule for when I return. I'm teaching seven classes my first week back! I wasn't expecting so many classes, but am thrilled that I'll be able to get up on the podium that many times. I'll be feeling my groove long before Christmas rolls around.

66 classes down and 33 to go. What an amazing ride!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Now the class begins (Week 5)

Five weeks down and four more to go! Wednesday officially marked the halfway point of the Fall 2010 Bikram Yoga Teacher Training session.

Bikram was back this week and with his return came three very late nights. On Monday, he kept us up till 3:45 am watching four or five episodes of Mahabharat, an Indian TV series produced in the 1980s. I wasn't able to keep my eyes open for a full episode, as I drifted in and out of consciousness. Every time I'd wake up though, the same scene would be on the screen:
Krishna, the guy on the right, would be talking incessantly. Apparently this went on for an entire episode and the next day I couldn't get his voice out of my head. The other episodes contained very low-quality battle scenes. The production reminds me a lot of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy TV series with its hilariously cheesy special effects.

On Tuesday night, there was an optional movie, which I opted to skip. It was great to go to bed right after posture clinic. Wednesday and Thursday we stayed up till 3am watching Koi... Mil Gaya and its sequel Krrish. They are science fiction films starring Hrithik Roshan as the superhero... and superhero is he ever! It sure is a pleasure to wake up and see this image on the screen:
I managed to watch up to the intermission of the first film but didn't see anything beyond the opening credits of the second. I was out cold, as were many of my fellow trainees. It's very challenging to do two classes a day, sit through lectures and posture clinics, and then read subtitles till the wee hours of the morning. Luckily I'm able to sleep just about anywhere these days and in all kinds of awkward positions.

In posture clinics this week, I got through Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, Tree, and Toe Stand. Feedback on my delivery continued to be positive and I felt I was able to let go of my perfectionism. Having little sleep helps you to get out of your head to a certain degree. I was given more bodies to work with for Tree and Toe Stand, which I enjoyed. Even though I was struggling to find the words in Toe Stand at one point, I felt like I was teaching a real class. I saw everyone and was able to recognize that people's ability to do the postures varies. Some people can do them flawlessly, while others only go into the first or second parts. Bikram Yoga is a beginner's yoga, so I need to get use to the idea that my students' practice will be all over the map.
Delivering Tree and Toe Stand Pose to a larger group of "students."
Next week we move to the floor series, which is where the real yoga begins! It actually says this in the dialogue after the standing series: "That was the warming up exercise, now the class begins." In many ways, where we are with the dialogue mirrors where I am with my own practice. Up to this point, I've been warming up -- having to sit out postures or even entire series of postures. This week I saw a transformation in my body. I was able to do both the morning and evening classes fully and with a lot of strength. I have no soreness and my body feels limber and strong. I'm still stiff in the morning, but in the afternoon I open up like a flower petal blooming. My back bends are deeper and I can now easily touch my head to my feet in Stretching Pose. I hope things continue in this direction through the end of training.

My mood transformed quite a bit too this week. I felt much more reclusive than previous weeks, wanting to spend my free time alone. I've also been thinking a lot about changes I need to make when I get home and am unsure of which direction things will go. I'm hoping for a certain level of clarity by the time I board the plane back to Toronto. I know what I'm going through is important and while my thoughts are often difficult to digest, I'm trusting that they are part of the transformational experience that teacher training often yields.

I reviewed my notes from the first day of training and I had wrote that weeks 3, 4, and 5 are "breakdown weeks." I've personally not had a breakdown and continue to see this training as one of the best things I could have done at this stage in my life. Not sure what the next four weeks will hold, but I know I'm exactly where I'm suppose to be.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What's cookin'?

Doing doubles everyday at Teacher Training requires a healthy and plentiful diet. Each Bikram Yoga class burns between 600 and 1,000 calories, which gives me a license to EAT, EAT, EAT! Many trainees lose their appetite, but that hasn't happened to me. Instead, this self-proclaimed foodie has become even more food obsessed. When I'm in the hot tent, I fantasize about what I'll eat after class and many of my dreams at night are food related. I simply can't eat enough!

While I LOVE TO EAT, I don't care much for cooking. At home I eat many of my meals out, but that's changed since I arrived here. Since food wasn't included as part of the tuition and I'm trying to stick to a budget, I've discovered the joy of cooking... in a hotel room.

Our suites are equipped with a tiny fridge, which every week I manage to fill beyond capacity. I've also bought several small appliances -- George Foreman grill, kettle, rice cooker. Below are some of the meals I've prepared.
Grilled chicken breast with a side of couscous.
Grilled salmon burger topped with avocado and salsa.
Brown rice with tomato, avocado, seaweed, and egg, with a soy sauce glaze.
Grilled chicken burger, avocado, rice.
Smoked turkey and cheddar cheese wraps -- a typical lunch.
In between meals, I'm constantly snacking on trail mix, energy bars, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and chocolate -- lots and lots of chocolate. The eating truly never ends!

Would love to hear your suggestions for other meal options I can prepare. I still have four weeks of Teacher Training to go!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Learning to let go (Week 4)

Week four started and ended with Triangle. Trikanasana, or Triangle Pose, is the pinnacle of the standing series and also comes at the halfway point in the 90-minute Bikram Yoga class.

As I mentioned last week, my homework was to deliver Standing Bow Pulling Pose while performing Triangle, which I did on Monday. I belted out the dialogue without missing a beat and was praised by my evaluators for pulling the whole thing off while still watching the bodies in front of me. I was given more karma homework after that.

Here I am delivering Standing Bow Pulling Pose while in Triangle.
I delivered Triangle Pose on Friday afternoon, which means I'm officially halfway through the dialogue. There are still another 16 postures in the series, but those that follow are much shorter. We're descending the mountain!

Feedback on my delivery of Balancing Stick, Standing Separate Leg Stretching, and Triangle has been consistent: I need to let more of my personality come through. I'm holding back and not giving it everything I have. Last night I had an "Ah-ha" moment when it finally occurred to me what I need to do differently. Up to this point, I've delivered the dialogue verbatim and haven't fumbled even when distractions or challenges have been thrown my way. So I thought I was rocking it. Dom Emley, who led our Friday evening yoga class, taught with so much passion that he inspired all of us to give 150%. That's when I realized that I don't need to be perfect, I need to be passionate!

When I think back, the classes I've enjoyed most over the two years I've been doing this yoga have been taught by teachers who have had genuine passion and enthusiasm for teaching. Many don't say the dialogue verbatim and instead inject their own voice and personality into the class. If I want my students to work hard and actually look forward to coming to yoga, I need to follow this example.

So my goal for week five is to let go and allow my true self to come out. It's actually a lot harder than you'd think, well for me anyway. All my life I've been super competitive and a perfectionist. I need to abandon these tendencies, at least when I'm teaching Bikram Yoga. I'm also realizing that my strive to be perfect is taking the fun out of posture clinics and will eventually burn me out. Diane Ducharme, a senior Bikram Yoga teacher, asked us the following question: "Do you want to be a perfect teacher or do you want to be a great teacher?" I think I know the answer to that one.

Bikram was away again this week and so we had Dr. P for anatomy lectures every evening. We went through a whole bunch of systems: cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and endocrine. Lots and lots of information, but Dr. P was able to hold my attention the entire time. I took pages and pages of notes, which I'll need to review before Monday's final exam.

Speaking of Monday, Bikram will be making his triumph return and will be staying with us until the end of training. This means many, many late nights. The one thing I've enjoyed over the past two weeks is feeling healthy and alert enough to participate in everything going on around me. I've actually felt like I have a firm handle on this training thing. I'll be singing a different tune this week, as the late nights are extremely taxing. So in addition to letting go and being myself, I need to go with the flow and trust the process. Lots of challenges to work through this week. But like the saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And that's why I'm here!

Bring on week five!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Solid, Concrete, One Piece, Lamppost, Unbroken (Week 3)

The third week of Teacher Training was the best one yet. Bikram is away until the beginning of week 5, which means we were dismissed by 11:30 each night. Never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep! It's amazing what it does for your mental and physical well-being.

This week was all about posture clinics and anatomy lectures and of course yoga -- a double daily dosage of it.

As I mentioned in previous posts, there are a total of 16 posture clinic groups, each made up of 24 people. The composition of the groups is based on last name, so I'm in group 3. Two groups are put together for each session and the pairings change each time. Two or three "judges" also sit in each posture clinic to provide feedback. They are typically visiting teachers or staff members.

This week I delivered three postures: Awkward (all three parts in one go), Eagle, and Standing Head to Knee. I was the first one to do Awkward and the judges were impressed with both my dialogue and delivery. My homework was to work on being more "dramatic" in order to step outside my comfort zone. I dialled it up for Eagle and once again managed to impress the judges (a new set this time), who asked how much of the dialogue I knew. I admitted to knowing all but the last two postures and so my homework for this one was karma-focused: Help another student who is struggling with the dialogue.

As an aside, the vast majority of people arrive at Teacher Training not knowing any dialogue. Memorization is no easy task -- I put in a lot of effort beforehand to get as far as I did. It's paying off now, as I don't have to cram it all in and can focus on my delivery instead. Many of my fellow trainees are struggling, though. Some are ESL or don't have any public speaking experience, which adds to the pressure. I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can help others.

Back to posture clinics: Standing Forehead to Knee is my favourite posture to say, given all the exclamatory sentences. Each time we move to a new posture, there are a handful of keeners in my group who want to go first -- I am part of this crew. I really wanted to get this posture out of the way before the weekend and with only 45 minutes left in posture clinic, I knew I had little time to spare. So I rushed past the others and gave my best delivery yet. I punched all the bold phrases -- "YOU DON'T HAVE THE KNEE!" I was rocking the dialogue when one of the judges jumped in and tried to distract me. She started doing the pose and falling out, huffing and puffing along the way. I ignored her and continued with my delivery -- "Solid, Concrete, One Piece, Lamppost, Unbroken." The judges couldn't identify anything I need to work on, so instead presented me with a challenge: Deliver the next posture, Standing Bow Pulling Pose, while performing Triangle. Now saying the dialogue on its own in front of a group of 50 people is hard enough, but doing it while performing a different posture altogether is INSANE! A challenge I readily accept!

Other students have been asked to step outside of the room and scream the dialogue from the hallway (to work on projection), or to say the dialogue while doing jumping jacks (to energize them), or to hold water bottles in their hands (to focus their nervous energy). The tactics have been on the outrageous side, but they work! We've gone through four postures and already I can see marked differences in people's ability to delivery the dialogue. It's amazing to witness the transformation.
Trainee delivering Awkward Pose while performing jumping jacks.
Time outside of the hot tent and posture clinics has been spent in anatomy lectures this week. The material is being taught by Dr. Jim Preddy, or "Dr. P" as he's affectionately referred to in the Bikram Yoga community. Dr. P, an ER physician from Las Vegas, started teaching anatomy at Teacher Training in the spring, after he performed some miracles on Brandy Lyn (2010 Bishnu Ghosh Champion). He is an awesome teacher and has the power to make a relatively boring subject come alive. He is also very entertaining, especially when he's answering superfluous questions posed by trainees who like to hear the sound of their own voice. Another interesting tidbit about Dr. P: He use to be a cheerleader for UNLV.

So far we've covered the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems. Much of the material has been over my head (cranial bones?), but Dr. P keeps assuring us that the tests are very easy. Our primary focus should be on learning the dialogue. Still, I find myself a bit concerned about anatomy. We have our first test on Monday, so I'm devoting most of my Sunday to colouring my anatomy colouring book.

Dr. P. His t-shirt says "98% Chimp."
The yoga classes have been great this week. The temperature in the hot tent has fluctuated quite a bit, with some rather cool classes followed by a couple of real scorchers. All classes have been 90 minutes and my practice is strong again, like it was back home. I'm able to do the classes without falling asleep or having to sit out entire series of postures. It feels great. Of course all of this will change when Bikram returns in a week.

This is me, getting into Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose.

We completed 32 classes in 20 days and are one-third the way through training. Six weeks and 66 classes to go!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

With your smiling, happy face (Week 2)

Week two has come and gone and while I have a few battle wounds to show for it, I still have my smiling, happy face. Training is going better than I expected (even though I was told not to have any expectations) and I'm surprised by how much I'm truly enjoying this experience. Scary that two weeks have already past. I really do want time to slow down so I can take everything in.

Monday was the hottest day on record in San Diego, with temperatures soaring past 40 degrees -- and that's outside the tent! Inside the tent was a whole other story. While I don't know the exact temperature, my guess is that it was approaching 50 degrees, with the humidity close to 100% (the humidity is around 90% most days). As soon as I entered the hot tent, the sweat began to pour. You can only imagine what happened once class started. People went down fast and quick and over 100 people had to leave the tent. I managed to stay, having come prepared with an arsenal of liquid refreshments that I drank before, after, and during most postures. It's a survival game here, so you need to do whatever it takes to make it through.

Inside the hot tent on the hottest day on record in San Diego. Temperatures soared!
This week the amazing Emmy Cleaves joined us. Emmy taught all of our morning classes, gave two lectures, and led two posture clinics. She is in her mid-80s and has been practicing the yoga since 1973, making her Bikram's most senior teacher. I found Emmy to be an absolute delight and enjoyed every single class she led, hanging on her every word. She's completely opposite to Bikram. He has more of a tough love approach, while Emmy is like a kind and caring grandmother. Among her many words of wisdom was not to go at 100% in the two classes we are taking daily while in training. We will simply burnout. She said that more flexible people should work harder in the morning classes, while those who are stronger, should give more in the evening classes. I fall into the latter camp and I find that I have much more energy and flexibility in the evening. My morning classes are very challenging -- I can hardly move and am so tired most days from only having had three or four hours sleep the night before. Emmy gave me justification for being a bit lax in the morning. Speaking of morning classes, my neighbouring yogi told me that I started snoring at the start of yesterday's class! Embarrassing, but it shows just how tired I am. I can sleep at the drop of a hat these days.

Emmy Cleaves instructing a fellow trainee on how to do Triangle Pose properly.
On Tuesday we finished delivering Half Moon in front of Bikram (in record time!) and broke up into our dialogue clinics. We met in our smaller groups for the first time on Wednesday evening -- a day I was feeling dizzy and nauseous. I thought I might have to visit the nurse, but decided to wait to see if my condition worsened. I went to posture clinic and even though I felt awful, I volunteered to be among the first to deliver Backward Bending/Hands to Feet Pose in front of Jim Kallett. Jim is another senior Bikram Yoga teacher and I believe he actually edited the teacher's dialogue. I was shaking when I went up to deliver the pose, both from my nerves as well as whatever aliment was afflicting me at the time. I managed to get the whole thing out, only stumbling once. Jim's feedback was positive. He said I did a good job and that I'll be very good by the end of training, as I gain mastery over the dialogue. So neither Bikram nor Jim have identified any areas I need to work on... yet! Amazingly, I felt better after delivering the dialogue. My dizzy spell slowly faded.

Thursday evening we watched another Bollywood movie, but first Bikram introduced us to his friend Bappi Lahiri who was visiting. Bappi is a Bollywood music director and pioneered the use of disco music in Indian cinema. He's a pretty big deal, so it was great to have him speak to us. We listened to some of his music and the crowd went wild -- everyone was dancing and singing (see the video Heather took). The energy in the lecture tent was electrifying. The film we eventually watched was called Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness) and starred my favourite Bollywood actor, Hrithik Roshan. The movie was the best we've seen so far, but ohmygoodness are these Bollywood flicks long! They are so long that just when you think they are over, the word "Intermission" flashes across the screen and a whole second part begins, with a new plot and everything! This particular movie was 211 minutes. That's a long time to sit in the world's most uncomfortable chair, even though I've invested in many pillows and other props to make it more tolerable. Needless to say the next day I was a zombie, as were the other 376 trainees.

Teacher trainees dance and celebrate in the lecture tent.
Because I was so sleep deprived on Friday, I found it hard to follow Bikram's afternoon lecture, which ran over three hours. Apparently it was his best lecture to date, but I was unable to focus. I questioned my ability to do the evening class and was fully prepared to sit the whole thing out. Before class began, another trainee squeezed his mat between me and my neighbour. I was irritated and explained to him in a rather harsh tone that I had arrived early to ensure I got a good spot on my assigned line. (Our posture clinic groups need to shift the line we practice on daily to ensure we move around the room.) He asked me to please move my mat over to accommodate him. I did so begrudgingly. The class began and despite thinking I wouldn't be able to do it, I had a fairly strong practice. During first savasana I looked over at the guy who had squeezed in beside me and saw his little cooler with his assortment of beverages and his thermometer to gauge the temperature and I started to feel bad for lashing out at him. A few floor postures in, he turned to me and apologized and I told him that I had been the instigator and that I was sorry. It felt great to find common ground and that feeling helped me finish the class very strong. The positive energy continued when staff announced we had the night off! Just what the doctor ordered: sleep!

Since this training began, I haven't felt I made a mistake in coming here. I imagined I'd have regrets and moments of despair and, in speaking to others, these thoughts are commonplace. I'm sure my time will come as the pressure and intensity of the training builds. Having a good handle on the dialogue has helped take a load off my mind, so too does rooming on my own. Although these two things also alienate me from the other trainees. So there's good and bad in everything, as I'm learning. More on this some other time. For now, I'm proceeding into week 3 with my smiling, happy face!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Too good is no good (Week 1)

Week one of Bikram Yoga Teacher Training is officially over. We did 10 classes, watched two late night Bollywood flicks, and listened to over 250 people deliver Half Moon pose in front of Bikram. The week went by in a flash and I'm hoping that the remaining eight weeks aren't that quick. I want to enjoy every single moment of this experience, as the opportunity to focus 100% of my time and energy on my single greatest passion won't come around again for a while.

Our morning classes this week were led by Rajashree, Rich, Brandy Lyn (2010 Bishnu Ghosh Champion), Antonia, and Emma. All of our evening classes were led by Bikram, with the exception of Thursday, when Jim taught. A couple of Bikram-led classes have run past the two-hour mark, but not because he's holding us in postures or making us do triple sets. Instead he's been telling us stories and correcting "Miss Red & Black" or telling "Miss Yellow" that she's stingy with the inches. He's absolutely hilarious and I've enjoyed his classes very much. What an entertainer!

Morning classes have been challenging for me. My body is incredibly stiff and sleep deprivation makes it impossible for me to muster up the energy to do class at my usual ability. Evening classes, on the other hand, have been fantastic. I have so much strength and flexibility -- I feel like a super yogi! It's hard to believe sometimes that it's still the same day when I compare my performance in the morning versus evening classes.

I practiced in the front row all week, but to the far right of the room, so Bikram and the other teachers haven't spotted me yet. It's funny how we are creatures of habit -- everyday, twice a day, I practice next to the same group of trainees. We have declared that section of the hot tent ours and don't want to venture to new areas. This will all change come week three, when we rotate around the room with our posture clinic groups. Speaking of posture clinics, I'm in Group 3! Can't wait to start delivering the next set of postures!

The first week went relatively smooth. The aspect I struggled most with were the late nights. I'd feel myself getting riled up when Bikram would announce that it's a movie night and it actually impeded my ability to pay attention to the movie. It's almost as though I was rebelling. I will need to find a way to work through these feelings, as they will take away from the training and turn me down a path I'd rather avoid. Would appreciate any advice from those who have gone before me!

To wrap up, I'd like to talk about the title of this blog post: "Too good is no good." It's something that Bikram said over and over again this week as people delivered Half Moon. What I took from it is that you have to find a way of doing things -- whether that's teaching a class, practicing yoga, raising a family, and so forth -- that's sustainable. You can't always strive for perfection and deliver at 200% because you'll burn out. You have to find a good balance. Always try your best, but perform at a level that you can maintain long-term. I've always been an all or nothing person and tend to overwork myself to the point of sheer exhaustion. So this was the most valuable lesson that I learned in week one.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Early days

Today's day four of Bikram Yoga boot camp. There are close to 400 of us in this training session, which is the biggest class ever!

Yesterday we started delivering Half Moon pose in front of Bikram. This is where each one of us gets on stage in front of the entire audience of our peers as well as Bikram and recites the nearly two minute posture while three people perform it. I decided I wanted to get it out of the way early, as the exercise is known to last two or three weeks. I was 39th. As each person went before me and I inched my way to the front of the line, my anxiety level began to skyrocket. I had to give myself a little pep talk to put it all in perspective. I learned Half Moon pose back in May -- I know it as well as my own name. I also use to present at conferences in front of similar sized audiences back in my grad school days, so public speaking isn't foreign to me. Plus, Bikram himself told us that missing lines and stumbling is to be expected. The point of the exercise is for him to get to know us.

When it was my turn, I climbed on stage, grabbed the microphone, introduced myself, and belted out the dialogue. I got the entire thing out without stumbling, although my voice and hands were shaking beyond control. After I finished, I looked at Bikram for feedback. He smiled, said "wow" and then "next," signaling the next person in line to come forward. What a relief! I was fully expecting him to tear into me, but I must have said the dialogue to his satisfaction. So happy that's over with. Now I get to spend the next several days listening to everyone else recite the posture.

We've been moving at a pretty quick pace. Yesterday we must have gotten through nearly 100 people delivering Half Moon. Bikram seemed to be in a great mood and gave people very constructive feedback. Guess I'd better start reviewing the other 25 postures, as posture clinics may start sooner than we think.

While we've only done four Bikram Yoga classes so far, my body is very sore. I could barely do most of the postures in the standing series this morning because of the aches and pains. I did open up in the floor series and am now feeling much better. The classes are very different from back home. And because the room hasn't reached its full temperature yet, I'm not sweating as much as I typically do. All in good time I'm sure. It's still early days after all.

11am.... time for lunch. Until next time!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

California dreaming

Safe and sound in San Diego. Just came back from a full day of shopping with Heather and Bettina. We started off at The Container Store, then hit the local Walmart, followed by Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Ralphs. I bought a lot of stuff! The first question the customs officer asked me after I told him I was going on a nine-week yoga "retreat" was how much the entire gig was costing me. After I revealed the price tag, he let me through without any further questioning. I'm definitely contributing to the American economy, and today was no exception.

The Town & Country Resort is pretty decent. I'm in a gorgeous room right now, which I need to move out of tomorrow. The room I'll call home for nine weeks is in the east part of the hotel complex, and I've been told it isn't as nice as my current digs. Below is a picture from the outside. It's a room of my own and as long as it has a bed and a bathroom, it'll serve me just fine.
My hotel room from the outside. Haven't seen the actual room yet, but the exterior is quite inviting.
The Bikram Yoga "Village" is located at the north end of the resort. It consists of a large tent where we'll practice yoga twice a day Monday to Friday as well as on Saturday mornings -- 11 classes a week. (I bought enough electrolyte supplements today to sustain a small army.) I took a quick peek at the hot room yesterday (which wasn't hot at the time) and it's massive -- 14 rows and probably 40 mats can fit across each. The carpet is black and feels soft to the touch. (The Bell Boy asked if we were going to be doing races in the room -- he thought the lines were tracks!) Immediately beside the practice tent is a second tent, where we'll likely watch Bollywood flicks till the wee hours of the morning. Our first Bikram Yoga class is on Monday afternoon, which I believe will be led by Bikram himself. I can't wait!
View of the practice and lecture tents from the Royal Palm Tower.
I've met a handful of other teacher trainees and more and more (and more and more) keep arriving. A couple people recognize me from reading my blog, which is nice. Looks like we'll have a great group. And this training is apparently the biggest one ever!

A few other things worthy of mention:

It's very cold at night and in the mornings here, while it heats up pretty good during the day. (Sort of reminds me of San Francisco.) Unfortunately I didn't pack for the cooler temperatures, so it looks like I'll have an excuse to go shopping at Fashion Valley -- the best mall in San Diego and only a two-minute walk from the hotel.

Meals aren't included as part of our tuition, but we do get a discount at all restaurants on the hotel property. One of the restaurants will feature a Bikram night every Sunday, where they will offer light, healthy specials.There is also a Ralphs within walking distance. (Major grocery chain in California; I'm already part of their Loyalty program!)

I've been in San Diego for less than 24 hours, but I'm already feeling very much at home. Stay tuned to find out how the next nine weeks unfold!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Packing for Teacher Training: A Photo Essay

All my clothes laid out on my coffee table. I wanted to cut this amount in half, but only managed to put back six items.
The shoes I'm bringing. Notice none require that I wear socks! It's California after all.

All my clothing, shoes, and toiletries inside my XL duffel bag. I can barely lift it. Hoping it's under 50lbs! Otherwise I'll have to dish out $75.
Kitchen items that are coming along on the journey. Last minute I put back the Brita as my luggage was over capacity. I'll pick one up in San Diego.

Kitchen items all packed in my carry-on.

All ready to go and still a day to spare! Yay!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mass yoga!

My Bikram Yoga studio partnered with Living Social this past weekend and offered 20 yoga classes for $20 – a 91% discount! Over 3,600 people took advantage of this amazing offer, which means that my studio is now one of Toronto’s hottest spots – both literally and metaphorically!

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I took a class that was filled beyond capacity. My studio normally fits 40 comfortably, but there were 56 people in the class and 28 were brand new to the yoga. Mats were on top of each other and it was impossible to lift my arms over my head sideways in any of the postures without hitting my neighbours.

As I began practicing, I realized this was a very different class. I was still doing Bikram Yoga, but the energy in the room was unlike anything I had experienced before. The teacher positioned me front and centre so that the newbies could follow my lead. I felt strong and energetic. I was able to execute some of the harder postures that I normally struggle with effortlessly.

This made me think about what it’ll be like to practice in a room with over 300 teacher trainees in San Diego in a couple weeks. The experience will be even more heightened, because I will be practicing alongside people who are as passionate about the yoga as I am. I’m sure the energy and excitement will be extraordinary – at least for the first few classes (before sleep deprivation and dehydration set in).

The brimming classes at my yoga studio are likely to continue for a while, so there’ll be more opportunities for me to get use to practicing with lots and lots of people very, very close to me. Hopefully the studio’s popularity lasts until after I return from Teacher Training – I can only imagine what it’d be like to teach a class that full!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dialogue Dilemma

I set a goal for myself that I want to accomplish before I board the plane to San Diego next month. I want to know the dialogue fully and completely. The reason for this is twofold:
  1. Every single person who has gone to training before me has recommended doing so.
  2. I want to sleep! Sleep deprivation is guaranteed at TT, but is worse if you need to stay up studying dialogue for the next day’s posture clinic.
I’ve made pretty good progress towards my goal. This morning while I was getting ready for work I was able to learn Rabbit Pose. That means I have only two more to go! BUT, with the exception of the first six poses (up to Standing Bow), I’m not able to recite any of them effortlessly. I have to think very carefully about each line, which means instead of 10-second postures, most of mine are about three minutes!

Up to now, I haven’t had much opportunity to practice in front of live bodies. Last week two teachers at my studio made me say Half Moon Pose in front of my studio owner while they did the posture. I was super nervous, but did it without making any mistakes. It was just longer than 60 seconds. Now every time I go into the studio, they make me say another posture. Nerve racking, but good experience for me.

Getting my head around the dialogue has been incredibly challenging. You see, I’m an editor, so it’s very hard for me to not correct the grammar. It’s actually affected my professional life. I’m more likely to overlook shoddy grammar these days at work and many of the emails I write are short and directive – just like Bikram’s dialogue.

Probably the most challenging aspect of learning the dialogue is the inconsistencies in language. For example, in the standing series, all of the postures start and end just a little bit different. Same deal with the floor series. My solution to this dilemma is just to focus on the “meat” of the posture and not worry too much about beginnings and endings. I figure I’ll have time at TT for that.

There are also slight variances in the use of certain words – for example, “the” versus “your.” There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it and as much as I try, I can’t get it right. Ultimately these nuances may not make too much of a difference when I’m actually a teacher, but I’ve been told they are important in posture clinics.

For those of you who are learning the dialogue, take solace in the fact that the floor series postures are much, much easier than the standing series. I have learned these very quickly – all within the last week.

I’m really looking forward to actually using the dialogue in posture clinics and eventually, in the future, when I’m a teacher, in my classes. As much as I find it challenging to learn, I enjoy saying it and see its value.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The balancing series

Last week I was feeling really bad. I thought a flu was coming on as I had several of the classic symptoms: nausea, sore muscles, cramping, headache. But it somehow felt different. Like I was off balance. And Bikram Yoga, which usually cures all my ailments, was actually making me feel worse. Halfway through class I'd get dizzy and nauseous and my feet, hands, and calf muscles would start cramping. By the end of class, I'd have a pounding headache and my muscles would spasm for hours after. I was also highly irritable and was having trouble concentrating and focusing on simple tasks.

After a few days of this, I hopped onto Google and started doing some research. All the symptoms I was experiencing pointed to one thing: an electrolyte imbalance.

The condition is not uncommon among Bikram Yoga enthusiasts, as we lose excessive amounts of fluid during class. But I wasn't dehydrated: I typically drink 2.5 litres of water before I practice, a litre during, and another litre after. Plus I take an Emergen-C after each class and often treat myself to a coconut or vitamin water. So no dehydration issues. Quite the contrary: All that water combined with all that sweating was flushing out the minerals my body needs to maintain balance; hence, the imbalance.

As I'm heading out to San Diego in September for Teacher Training, I was particularly motivated to find a solution… and fast! Some people recommended adding sea salt and lemon to my water, others told me to eat bananas (which I loathe) and other potassium-rich foods. I didn't think any of these were viable options for training. I mean I was symptomatic doing one class a day -- what would happen when I was doing doubles five days a week?

I paid a visit to my local health food shop and purchased a bottle of Essential Electrolytes. A Bikram Yoga Teacher Trainee before me had mentioned taking these during training and never falling ill. So I figured I had nothing to lose.

The bottle says to take one to three pills before and after “athletic or strenuous activity,” which I did that very day. The Bikram class that followed was a dream! I was full of energy, my head was clear, and no cramping or spasms during or after class. The next day I did a double -- both classes were a pure joy.

I think I've been suffering from an electrolyte imbalance for a while, but have just come to view my symptoms as the new normal. Sometimes when you feel bad for so long, you become numb to it and accept it as part of life.

I've found my solution to help me get through Teacher Training, well a part of it anyway. If only there was a pill I could take to help me memorize the dialogue!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Making a List, Checking it Twice

It's the summer time: Scorching days, warm nights, patios, beaches, tank tops, flip flops... It's the best time of the year! The only bad thing about summer is that it comes and goes so quickly. In a couple weeks we'll start to be bombarded with "Back to School" ads. This year, those ads will have relevance for me again as I'll be heading to yoga school in September!

Bikram Yoga Teacher Training is 60 days away. And while that still seems pretty far off, time will fly by (especially since it's summer). So this morning, I started my BKTT Packing List. Now, I'm not usually one to make such lists. Often you'll find me packing for a trip an hour before I'm suppose to be at the airport. But teacher training is a big deal for me, so I feel like I need to be uber prepared. That, and I'm just so darn excited about it; the more I can think about and plan for it, the better!

French Press, Brita, kettle, and water bottles top my list -- hydration! Then comes a can opener, cutting board, and knife -- food preparation! Followed by cleaning supplies and yoga gear. Oh and earplugs are somewhere down the middle -- need to protect myself from the Bollywood movies blaring at 3am.

My list is already two pages long and will likely continue to grow over the coming weeks. I'm very thankful to the bloggers from trainings past for their helpful tips on what to bring. (Check out Yoga Boot Camp for a very comprehensive list!)

Please feel free to share your lists... would love to know what others are planning to bring!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Let's resume the dialogue!

In May I travelled to Naples, Florida to visit my parents who live there half the year. Each day, I'd sit by the pool and study dialogue until noon and then head out to practice at Bikram Yoga Naples. I was able to get a good grasp of postures 1 to 4 (Half Moon to Eagle). The teachers at the studio down there were really dialogue driven. It helped reinforce what I was learning.

Five months before I would leave for training and I had a head start on the dialogue. I was thrilled!

Then life took over. When I got back, work was busy, my social calendar was full, and I no longer had the time to devote to the dialogue. So I put it on the back burner.

And now...

Teacher training is only two months away! My dialogue studying must take centre stage. I'll need to learn at least two postures a week if I want to know the dialogue fully by the time I board the plane to San Diego.

Yesterday, one of my teacher friends gave me his copy of the dialogue (bound and laminated!) that I can use to study. Starting tomorrow, I will concentrate and mediate and think very deeply about the dialogue. It'll be my one point of focus over the summer months.

I've found that studying the dialogue line by line and repeating it until it's committed to memory is most effective. I'm also going to record myself saying it and listen to it continuously on my iPod. Do you have any other tips or tricks to share?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Destination Bikram Yoga Teacher Training

After a two and a half month hiatus, I thought it was time to re-launch into the blogosphere. Not sure how committed I'll be to writing regular entries, but this does provide me a space to share my thoughts and feelings as I prepare for my nine-week stint as a Bikram Yoga Teacher Trainee this fall. Yup! It's official: Yesterday I mailed in my application. (See photo of me in the post office, holding said application just before I dropped it in the mail.)

While I had my paperwork in order a month ago, I held on to the application in case I changed my mind. My leave of absence from work was approved and I pretty much told everyone about my plans, but I still had reservations. A couple weeks ago and after months of rumours, the location of the training moved from Las Vegas to San Diego. To be honest, I found the idea of studying to be a yoga teacher in Las Vegas to be oxymoronic. San Diego on the other hand, is the perfect spot! So the decision was easy once the new location was announced. It just felt right for me to be going. And everything has since fallen into place. The stars are aligned!

Between now and September 19, I need to memorize the 26 postures that make up Bikram's beginning yoga class. While I don't "need" to go to training with the dialogue fully memorized, I want to. This is because I value my sleep (which will already be compromised at training) and can't imagine having to pull all-nighters at this point in my life. It might be a feasible solution for those who are younger, but I no longer fall into this category. My university days of staying up all night cramming for exams are ancient history. So over the next 11 weeks, I will be spending a lot of time immersed in Bikram's dialogue. People will think I'm crazy as they hear me muttering to myself, but it's all for good.

Very excited about what lies ahead. Leaving the comfort of my home and job to become a yoga teacher is one of the crazier things I'll have done. But I'm really looking forward to the experience and the changes in my life it's sure to inspire.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My 60-day yoga shopping spree

During my 60-day Bikram Yoga challenge, my social life has been non-existent. Before this, I'd go out a few times a week and would easily drop $50 each time. So you'd think that I've been able to save money (which would be very good given the cost of teacher training). But no, I've not saved a single penny. All the money I would have spent on food and alcohol over the last two months has gone into my ever-expanding yoga wardrobe.

Now, I've never been a fashionista. I'm a sensible girl (some might say frugal) and usually opt for function over fashion. For most of my life I had no particular affinity for shopping; however, over the past two months I've discovered the joys of retail therapy. While you won't find me buying designer shoes and handbags, you will find me eyeing new arrivals at Lululemon and on shaktiactivewear.com. They say the first step in overcoming a problem is admitting that there is one. Folks, I've got a yoga wear shopping addiction!

A new Hot Class Bra at Lululemon? I'll take one in black, lavender, fruity tootie, and lagoon please! I haven't even gotten home and I'm already fantasizing about getting the Hot Class Shorts in each matching colour so that I'll have full sets. Then I'll get an email from Shakti Activewear -- free shipping, one day only. They don't even have much inventory online, but I manage to spend $150 before the offer expires at midnight.

Now I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been able to expand beyond my comfort zone and feel "pretty in pink" in the hot room, but this is ridiculous. I use to have one drawer reserved for my workout wear -- now I have three. I have so many yoga outfits that I probably won't have to do laundry for a month while at teacher training.

But oh how I do love those outfits! I love putting them on and I love watching myself do Bikram's 26 asanas wearing them. Let's admit it -- Bikram Yoga does appeal to our narcissistic tendencies. I mean, where else are you encouraged to look in the mirror for a full 90 minutes? While at first watching yourself as you attempt the poses can be awkward, with time you come to appreciate the movements of your body and the progress you are making. Wearing cute outfits only serves to heighten the experience.

As my 60-day yoga challenge comes to an end so too must my 60-day yoga shopping spree. I need to start putting my money into my "Bikram Yoga Teacher Training Fund." After all, I can't think of a better place on earth to sport all those new yoga outfits!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Food glorious food!

One of my greatest passions is food. I simply love to eat and enjoy any occasion where good food is part of the mix.

Growing up in a large Italian family, there was always an abundance of food around. And I learned from a young age the importance of food in bringing people together. Enjoying the aromas, tastes, and textures of food with others fosters intimacy, builds relationships, and creates memories that last a lifetime.

Each holiday, my extended family celebrates with food. As I mentioned above, I come from a large Italian family -- my mom is the oldest of 10 children and my dad is the youngest of seven. I have over 50 first cousins! Needless to say, holidays are a big deal -- "big" being the operative word. There are usually over 80 of us! Because no one can accommodate such a large group in their home, we go to a restaurant.

Yesterday for Easter, we went to Paese Ristorante. We've been here for the past five years and the food is simply delectable. Here's what was on the menu:

We started with caprese salad, deep fried jumbo shrimp and calamari, and mixed greens with orange and crumbled walnuts. (I admittedly got full on the shrimp, but kept going.) Next came ricotta gnocchi in a tomato basil sauce. This was followed by a choice of pan seared rainbow trout, grilled lamb chops, cornish hen, or veal scallopini. I opted for the cornish hen. Dessert was a roasted seasonal fruit crostata topped with hazelnut gelato.

While I was enjoying yesterday's feast, I was thinking a lot about how Bikram Yoga and food are a great complement to one another.

First, food provides the necessary fuel for me to be able to actually do Bikram Yoga. It's such an intense form of exercise that it's essential to have a well balanced diet. Most of the teachers I've spoken to have emphasized the importance of eating properly and not skipping meals while at Teacher Training. Your body is having to cope with a very demanding schedule that includes practicing twice a day -- so it needs to be well nourished to keep up.

Second, having a regular Bikram practice has meant that I can pretty much eat what I want without having to worry. People are often shocked at the amount I can eat. A fellow yogi recently asked what my diet consisted of and when I told him about my love of food, he said he thought I was a "two egg white for breakfast kind of girl." Bikram Yoga has kept me svelte despite my large appetite. And while I do eat a lot, I make healthy choices where I can, except of course at family gatherings!

Food and Bikram Yoga -- two of my greatest passions and the perfect pair!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yoga for the Type A Personality

Growing up my mother practiced yoga twice a week (she still does to this day). While I was exposed to yoga at a young age, I never really got it. I'd watch my mom stretching on the floor or doing a headstand in our living room and think she was a bit out there. My dad thought so too, as he chose more conventional forms of exercise -- running and weight lifting.

When I was in university, I became a huge gym buff. There was a period during grad school where I exercised for two solid years without missing a single day -- 730 days in a row! And I followed in my dad's footsteps -- opting for a daily regimen of cardio and weights. One spring I decided to sign up for a Hatha Yoga intro series. The classes were okay, but I never felt like I was working out, so I'd squeeze in some cardio before or after to compensate.

I continued to do yoga on and off (mostly off) during the next six years. I'd choose Ashtanga classes, which I found more vigorous -- all those sun salutations would elevate my heart rate and sometimes I'd even sweat. But I never had a consistent practice because I always left feeling like I hadn't done much.

Then I found Bikram Yoga and everything changed. It was by accident really. I moved downtown and was looking for a yoga studio in my neighbourhood. The Bikram Yoga Centre was the closest. It took me a while to actually get there. A few times I called to find out how long the classes were (I didn't know they were all 90 minutes) and no one ever answered, so I'd use that as an excuse not to go. When I did finally make it to my first class, I had no clue of what I was getting into. Everyone had beautifully sculpted bodies and were wearing next to nothing. I felt really out of place.

I made it through that first class and even managed to do all the poses. At the end, I felt like I'd just run a marathon. I was physically and emotionally spent. It was exhilarating! Completely different from any other yoga class I’d ever done. I could barely walk the next day -- awkward pose had given my thighs the workout of a lifetime. I went back a couple days later and bought a 20 class pass, which I went through in less than a month. Right after that, I bought a year membership and haven't looked back. I was hooked from day one.

So why am I recounting this story? Well, the reason why other forms of yoga never appealed to me is because they didn't mesh well with my personality. You see, I'm Type A -- I am competitive, achievement-oriented, and always looking for my next challenge. I don't want to waste my time performing actions that aren't going to produce results. And with Bikram Yoga, the results were immediate. Within weeks my body started to look and feel different. And no matter how many times I practice, the yoga is always challenging. Plus it demands a high-level of athleticism. Perfect for my personality.

I don’t think I’m alone. Many of the teachers at my studio have an intensity about them that is characteristic of a Type A personality. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you drawn to Bikram Yoga for similar reasons?

Wondering if you're a Type A? Take this short quiz to find out.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pretty in pink

Something bizarre has happened to me. It's occurred to me before, but it was blatantly obvious in this morning's Bikram yoga class. I was standing on my tippy toes in the second part of awkward when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. There I was, ballerina like, wearing my pink sunrise shorts and standing on my pink towel. Pink?

Let's go back a bit.

Growing up I was a bona fide tomboy. I spent my days digging in the backyard and making mud pies (much to my father's horror). While my younger sister only wanted to wear pink dresses and play princess, I wanted to wear my brown overalls and play cops and robbers. My mother tried to get me into dresses and would often give them to me for birthdays or Christmas. I refused to put them on and they'd hang in my closet until my sister was big enough to wear them.

When I was a teenager, I decided that black was the only colour I'd wear. Everyday -- head to toe -- in black. You'd open my closet and not a single garment of any other hue could be spotted. I even dyed my hair black and wore a dark shade of lipstick that looked almost black. This went on for years and years. And when I finally did introduce colour into my wardrobe, I stuck to browns, greys, blues, and greens.

This tradition of sporting dark colours continued until only recently. Most of my early yoga wear is black. Then I got a bit braver and added some blues -- dark at first, but eventually lighter shades. And then last summer, I bought my first pair of pink leopard print shorts and picked up a pink sports bra to go with them. I felt hugely self-conscious the first time I wore this outfit, but I got a lot of compliments and came to like the way I looked in it. So at Christmas, I bought myself a couple more pairs of pink shorts and eventually added pink towels and a pink mat to the mix. Pink has even started to pervade my attire outside the hot room.

Why this sudden change?

My theory is that Bikram yoga has opened up my mind to new possibilities. If someone were to have told me two years ago that I’d consider becoming a yoga teacher, I would have laughed. Me? A yoga teacher? It was so far removed from my reality at the time – I didn’t even work out let alone do yoga. But now it is my reality. It’s funny how something can enter your life that completely changes your perspective and trajectory. Bikram yoga has done that for me. It has forced me to step outside my comfort zone and look at my life in an entirely new way. It is redefining who I am, influencing my likes and dislikes, and evolving how I interact with and experience the world around me.

So the tomboy of yesterday now sees the world in colour. And the future has never looked brighter!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The 60-day versus 60-class debate

I'm currently doing a 60-day Bikram Yoga challenge. Over the weekend, I did a double and when one of the other students at the studio asked me why, I said so that I'd finish the challenge sooner. A teacher overheard and reminded me that it's called a 60-day challenge, not a 60-class challenge. And part of the challenge is to carve out 90 minutes each day during those 60 days to practice. According to Paul Askew, "If you do a double or triple one day, then good for you. Makes you stronger, but it does not count for 2 or 3 days." (See Oh My Bikram for more on this topic.) I'm a purist at heart, so I've had to recalibrate.

I started this challenge on February 14 (for reasons related to the day that I won't get into here), which makes today day 40. I've done four doubles during this time. Because of all these doubles, I actually went back to count a couple classes I'd done before February 14. I realize now this is cheating. So using February 14 as my starting point, tonight's class will bring me to 44 classes. But I still have 20 more days ahead of me. And because I'll have to add one extra day for good measure, I'll officially finish my challenge on April 15 with 65 or so classes under my belt.

Can you believe I was late for work yesterday morning figuring all of this out?

Truth be told, I'm glad I still have another 20 days to go. I'm enjoying this challenge immensely and the journey's been incredible. While I struggled to get to class in the first 20 days, the 20 days since then have been a real joy. Practicing yoga is the highlight of my day. Friends and family have commented that I look happy and healthy. And it's true. My eyes seem brighter and my skin is glowing. My body feels amazing, my outlook is positive, and I'm sleeping like a baby.

It's also done wonders for my practice, as everyday I try to focus on something new. I've seen improvements in my standing bow and believe I'll be able to touch my forehead to my knee in standing head to knee for longer than two seconds by the end of this challenge. It's also given me confidence that I'll be able to survive teacher training, where you practice 96 classes in nine weeks. And hey, now I can check that box on the application that asks if you've ever practiced Bikram Yoga for 30 continuous days -- not once but twice!

Two-thirds of the way through my 60-day challenge and all is well. I look forward to what the next 20 days will bring!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Signs of Bikram devotion

The Bikram Yoga Centre always draws a large crowd on Monday evenings. It seems that everyone wants to detox after a weekend of transgressions. As the week progresses, fewer and fewer people come to the evening classes. By Thursday, I can actually stretch out my arms in Poorna - Salabhasana without hitting my neighbours. And by Friday, well, I have no neighbours!

Last night the studio was packed as usual and there was virtually no space in the change room before class. Jen, one of the regulars (who does come to the Friday class), was spotted amongst the crowd putting lotion on her knees. When asked, she said it was because she had developed sores on various parts of her body from the yoga. "Bikram Stigmata!" I exclaimed.

Bikram stigmata? Well, it's a term I only learned myself a few months ago (from Twitter no less). Apparently, those of us who practice the yoga a lot, develop calluses where our skin regularly comes into contact with our mats. I have them on the tops of my feet from fixed firm, my knees from camel, my chin from locust, and the middle of my back from... I don't know where exactly. Lying in savasana?



While they're not pretty, I am very fond of my Bikram stigmata and wear them proudly. In fact, you'll often find lifting up my pants or pulling off my socks to show them to people – my very own battle wounds from the yoga I love so much. A sign of my devotion to my practice.

Back to the packed change room last night. When the conversation of the stigmata came up, all the women present (and there were a lot) started comparing their marks and lesions. And those who didn't sport them, looked upon those of us who did in awe. Carol, who completed a 365-day challenge last October, told us she had to resort to wearing capris half-way through, as her knees were just too raw. Others talked about applying shea butter to help reduce the irritation or removing the towel over the mat during the offending poses to prevent the stigmata from worsening. We compared and we shared. It was a real Bikram bonding experience.

So the next time you're taking a class or in the change room, check out those around you to see if you can spot the signs of true Bikram devotion. If nothing else, it makes for great conversation.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

One of these things is not like the other

I did another double today, and even though the two classes had the exact same 26 asanas and two breathing exercises, they were very different. Not only was my body different, but so too were the teachers. This got me thinking about the teachers who have guided my Bikram practice over the last year and a half. While they were all trained by Bikram himself and were required to learn and deliver the dialogue in the same way, they bring something unique to their classes once they get home. Let's look at the teachers who led my classes in the last 24 hours:

Paul McQuillan (Friday, March 19 at 6:30 pm) -- Paul is an actor and brings a fair deal of theatrics to his teaching style. He's a great teacher to have if you're a first timer, as he's very encouraging and will demonstrate the poses. He's got some classic lines, and even though he says them every class, they never lose their entertainment value. For instance, he likes to point out all the sexual benefits of eagle pose and when rabbit pose comes around, he tells us how before he started doing yoga, he was only 5 foot 2. The absolute best thing about Paul's classes is the yoga chant he sings while we're lying in final savasana. It helps me meditate and absorb all the benefits of my practice, and brings the class to a peaceful end. I've never had another Bikram teacher do this before, so it definitely makes Paul's classes unique.

Richard Browne (Saturday, March 20 at 10:30 am) -- Richard is the newest teacher at my studio, having just come back from Las Vegas in December. He's a Bikram purist; his dialogue is verbatim what you learn while in teacher training. In fact, as I've started to learn the dialogue myself, I find his classes to be particularly helpful. Richard jumped into teaching full force and quickly established himself as one of the toughest teachers at the studio. He likes his classes to be hot and when his students complain about the heat, he responds with "there's no such thing as too hot!" I have a usual spot when I practice, which is in the hot part of the room. But when Richard's teaching, I move to the cool spot, by the windows. And so does everyone else! It's the only way we can make it through. Richard's passion for the yoga is unlike anything I've seen before. He delivers the dialogue in a strong and confident manner. If only he could turn on the air!

Carmen Diaz Pollak (Saturday, March 20 at 12:30 pm) -- Carmen hails from Chile and she's been at the studio for about a year. While I don't speak a word of Spanish, you'll often find me in her Spanglish class on Saturdays, where she teaches the first set of each pose in English and the second in Spanish. If you've never taken a Bikram class in another language, I highly recommend it. Not understanding the words can help you focus more on your practice. For a bit of Spanish flair, Carmen changes up the dialogue for the set up of hands to feet pose. She likes to say "move your hips right and left like rumba, salsa, cha cha cha..." And in balancing stick, instead of saying "your body looks like a T as in Tom," she says, "T like Tremendous!" Carmen has a warmth and energy about her that is very inspiring, and I find her classes to be calm and peaceful.

Each of these teachers (and all teachers for that matter) injects their own personality into their classes, making them their own. I often get asked if I ever get bored of Bikram Yoga, given that each class is exactly the same. My response is that each class isn't the same at all. When you combine the differences in my body and mood each day with the different approaches of each teacher, you realize that no two classes are ever the same. And that's what keeps the yoga interesting!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The cat's out of the bag!

I guess this blog is more widely read than I thought. When I arrived at the Bikram Yoga Centre last night, one of the studio's newest teachers (fall '09 graduate) berated me for having to find out about my plans to attend Teacher Training via my blog. Of course he did this in front of the other students and teachers -- so the cat's officially out of the bag: I'm going to be a Bikram Yoga teacher! This being public knowledge is both good and bad.

The good news is that I got lots of positive encouragement from the teachers, who said I'm totally ready and that my practice is very strong. One teacher, who actually taught me my first class a year and a half ago, said she was thinking about me the other day and how I'd make a good teacher. Funny thing is that they all agreed I'd be a really tough teacher, which I've always thought myself. I'm very focused and disciplined as a student, so I'd expect this to carry over to my teaching. No half-assing it in my class!

The bad news is that so many things still need to fall into place before I can pack my bags. For starters, time off from work is required. I don't have intentions to teach full-time, so I need to come back to something. Then there's the matter of location -- "Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in Las Vegas" sounds like an oxymoron to me. I'm hoping it will move somewhere tropical -- like Hawaii or Mexico or Costa Rica! I’ve been told it doesn't matter where you do the training; you'll be so engrossed in it that there's little time to explore your surroundings. Still, when I tell the story for years to come, I want to say it was somewhere other than Vegas.

Deep down I did want to share the news with a broader audience, so I'm glad it’s out in the open. I'm so grateful for the support I received from everyone last night. I left the studio feeling on top of the world! Fingers crossed that it works out!