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!