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!


  1. Loved this post. I too have had a couple of lash-outs at other students, followed by humble apologies. Much better than letting the resentment build. Probably my inner alpha bitch will always growl when someone gets too close to my mat, but I don't always have to bite.
    Again, great blog. Thanks, Chrissy.

  2. That is so interesting about the time differences on people who are strong or flexible. I've always wondered why some people do so great in the morning and why I prefer the afternoon. It really does make so much sense though! :)

  3. What is the exact point to watching the movies? Are they mandatory?

  4. Hi Nikki! The movies are not optional. They are part of the training. It's important for us to understand Indian culture, which is where yoga was founded. Bollywood movies help in that regard (some anyway). Bikram also wants us to stay up late with him on occasion so that we can see just what we are capable of when pushed beyond our comfort zones. It's all part of the process, which has worked phenomenally well. I'm just going with it and hoping to learn something new about myself in the end.