Archive for April 2008

Visiting Teachers Arrive

April 27, 2008

Week 3 started out with several visiting Bikram Yoga teachers arriving at training. These teachers are not part of the staff that helps run the training, but they are all certified Bikram instructors who have gone through what we are going through anywhere from six months to 13 years ago. The best part of having these instructors here is that they teach the yoga classes. Each day, each class, we have no idea who’s teaching. I feel incredibly lucky to be taking classes from such experienced, intelligent teachers; hearing how each one delivers the same dialogue is helping me learn effective ways to encourage and push students when I finish the training.


Speaking of finishing training…


The other day Craig, the Director of Teacher Training, said that in just over six weeks, many of us will be teaching our first class. Six weeks! The teachers and staff here are always telling us to stay present in the moment which is sort of easy to do given I am so far away from home without much to think about except yoga, more yoga, and even more yoga. But when my mind does start to wander, I realize that I’m going to have to apply everything that I’m learning and actually teach a 90 minute yoga class. Ahhh! I have been a student of this for about a year and a half, and I’m learning that a huge amount of knowledge, courage, nerves, energy (not to mention some strength, balance, and flexibility 😉 ) go into teaching a class. Standing up in front of Bikram to say the dialogue for Half Moon posture isn’t seeming so bad…


This week of yoga itself was much more challenging than Week 2, but in a good way. Week 1 was simply disastrous. To recap, nausea, dizziness, inflexibility, and anxiety got the best of me in every class. Week 2 was a breeze in comparison. I was working hard, although maybe still holding back a bit, but for some reason I never got too hot, and I never felt too exhausted after class. Yoga this week has been far more physically draining. We are no longer supposed to take it easy in class, so I’ve been pushing pretty hard and really trying to stay in the postures for the full amount of time. Maybe I want to work my hardest for each visiting teacher, I don’t know. I’m also finding that I’m able to stand much more still in between postures than I was at home. For example, in Balancing Stick Pose (the posture that simulates a heart attack so we don’t have the real thing!) I always used to have to bend down, get my head below my heart, and take a drink of water. Now I just stand there. A lot of the time I am seeing stars and spots like crazy, but I just try to breathe through it.


The best instruction this week came from Diane, a senior teacher from West Roxbury, Massachusetts, in the Thursday evening class. She came in and declared her guidelines and rules for the class she was about to teach: Breathe. Breathing was mandatory, everything else we should give our best shot. Kelly, my studio owner in Waltham, Massachusetts, titled her own blog in regards to breathing. Looks like these Massachusetts yoga teachers have the right idea. 🙂


Week #2 Down

April 20, 2008

Twenty one classes in 14 days…I am beat. But beat in a good way. This week was a world of improvement from Week #1. My nerves settled down, I got used to practicing with 300 people, we got a taste of having some new instructors, and I figured out how much I need to eat and drink to have enough energy but not a full stomach.


The highlight of the week really was having Emmy with us at training. I think that all of the trainees could just tell that she has had decades of experience with this yoga, and the things she said – the little bits of information and advice she inserted in her dialogue – made me trust her knowledge and respect her and her instruction.


During the Friday morning class which was Emmy’s last day teaching us, she ended class by asking us to spread this yoga throughout the world. She asked us to imagine a world full of healthy people, and that by teaching yoga, we will be able to help more people around the world achieve physical and mental health. The entire class gave Emmy a standing ovation after the final breathing exercise, and I felt so genuinely blessed to have been given knowledge and advice by her. She vocalized the main reasons why I am here at this training: I want to be able to help people through this yoga. Sure, Acapulco doesn’t hurt, meeting people from all around the world is always a plus, and living in a different country on my own for the first time is pretty exciting, but the reasons I want to teach yoga reach beyond nine weeks at a resort. The practice has been such a positive addition to my life that the decision to go through the teacher training was one that I made in the hopes that I will be able to help other make it a positive addition to their lives as well. I felt like Emmy completely understood and expects that when we all become teachers.

A Week of Emmy

April 18, 2008

Emmy Cleaves, a Principal Teacher of Bikram Yoga, arrived at training this Monday. Emmy is somewhere in her 80’s but does not look a day older than 65. She is originally from Latvia and survived one of the concentration camps during World War II. She has been teaching yoga with Bikram since the 1970’s, and her classes have been some of my favorite thus far through training.


Her teaching style is quite different than Bikram’s; she strays from the dialogue but still gets the important points across about each posture. I have really enjoyed the information she includes in her classes as well. For example, today she talked about fast twitch and slow twitch muscles, and how practicing Bikram Yoga can actually convert some fast twitch muscles into slow twitch muscles which will help maintain strength and endurance throughout the class as well as the nine week training. She speaks in a serious Latvian accent (I’m guessing what she has in a Latvian accent although hers is the first I have ever heard) and her personality and teaching style seem to make everyone student push to his and her limits. It’s like we don’t want to disappoint her, and when she goes off on a subject of medical benefits of Bikram Yoga while we are in Triangle Pose, we all remain in Triangle Pose until she tells us to come up.


Emmy has also given us some interesting lectures this week during the daytime lecture block, specifically one about pain. She explained that oftentimes when athletes from different sports come to Bikram Yoga for the first time, they think they are experiencing so much pain in their bodies when they first begin when really, what they are experiencing is just different sensations that they have never felt before. During hands to feet pose, where we stretch our bodies down to the ground and the goal of the posture is to eventually touch our heads to our feet, I often am guilty of complaining to myself about the pain in my hamstrings. After Emmy’s lecture on pain I really tried to label what I was feeling as more of a sensation and to be honest, I actually enjoyed the posture and maybe stretched a little further.


Some of the other interesting “pain” points she touched on were that real pain is actually important for our survival but yet distraction makes us not even feel pain. Obviously ignoring serious pain is not a good idea, but recognizing that the feelings that we are quick to label as pain may not actually be that bad for us.


On a different note, I am feeling much more like myself this week in yoga class. Don’t get me wrong, it is still extremely challenging, but I have not felt nauseous or dizzy once, and I’m actually starting to push myself a bit. I think last week my nerves just got the best of me and the nauseous and dizzy feelings were caused by stress and anxiety. (I’m knocking on wood right now…)


Only three more yoga classes for the week…woohoo!

The First Weekend of Teacher Training

April 14, 2008

Twenty four hours have passed since our last yoga class and it feels like a week! Basically the weekends at Teacher Training go like this: A killer yoga class at 8 a.m. on Saturday followed by brunch and then free time! In the Saturday class you can feel everyone working his and her hardest because when class ends, we know we have the rest of the weekend to ourselves.


In the weekends to come I have a feeling that every second will be taken up by studying the dialogue. Yesterday, however, I went off the hotel grounds and into Acapulco for a little bit of shopping. It felt great to get away from the hotel just for a few hours.


I did decide to dedicate a few hours today (Sunday) to studying the dialogue. The weather here is so beautiful that I sat in one of the swimming pools and just read over and recited the dialogue. I don’t think that many of the people on vacation at the hotel spoke English (at least the ones swimming near where I was studying) so they probably wondered about this crazy person mumbling disjointed sentences moving ever so slightly into yoga positions glancing at several pieces of paper stapled together.


I’m hoping that my nausea subsides this week and I’m actually able to push and challenge myself in class this week. I definitely feel anxious about it which is not a good start. My mantra for now whenever I feel nervous has to be “it’s just yoga, it’s just yoga, it’s just yoga…”

Week One Wrap-Up

April 13, 2008

10 classes down, 89 to go…


Or maybe it’s 88, but who’s counting?


This past week has been probably the most challenging week of my life. Before I came to Teacher Training, I wondered how it would compare to running a marathon. While the two things – running 26.2 miles and doing 99 yoga classes in nine weeks – are hardly comparable, I was curious just the same. The first week of teacher training alone is, hands down, far more difficult than running a marathon…even Boston. While I mean to take nothing away from Heartbreak Hill and the pain it inflicts, Teacher Training is a whole different story. So far in yoga class I have felt nausea, stomach cramps, tingling in my hands, tingling in my feet, numbness in my feet, dizziness, headaches, and obviously HOT. The Bikram Yoga staff tells us that all of these feelings, as well as others, are so normal for Teacher Training – especially in the first week.


The very first class with Bikram was extremely difficult. I think that my nerves and anxiety had a lot to do with the intensity and difficulty; however, the room was hotter than I have ever experienced. Little by little throughout the week he seemed to get easier (well not easier, maybe less hard is a more accurate way of putting it) or maybe I just am getting accustomed to his teaching style. This past week, Bikram taught all of the afternoon classes and his wife Rajashree taught all of the morning classes. They have extremely different styles; Bikram is far more intense in an in-your-face kind of way while Rajashree’s class is a bit more calm. Calm does not necessarily mean easier, and I can still feel that she remains energized throughout the entire 90 minutes.


Yoga classes in the first week have been very frustrating. I find myself getting nauseous before the standing series is completed which makes the floor postures all the more difficult. I want to push and challenge myself, but not at the risk of throwing up in the yoga room. (On a side note, the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training staff has little blue buckets lining the exit of the hot yoga room in anticipation for people who can’t make it to the bathroom, so they pretty much know what to expect).


The other part of Teacher Training that has been taking up a large chunk of time this week is posture clinic. Posture clinic is when we actually recite the dialogue from memory while other students perform the posture. As we get further into the training, I believe we will be breaking into smaller groups for posture clinic; however, for now, every single person has to say the dialogue for the first pose, half moon pose, in front of Bikram and in front of the rest of the trainees. We have been doing this twice a day for at least two hours at a time since Monday and we still are not finished. To be honest, this part of the program is tedious and boring. On the positive side, I’m sure none of us will ever forget the dialogue for half moon pose which, Bikram says, is the most challenging dialogue to learn. I successfully said the dialogue this past Tuesday – I wanted to get it over with early in the week – and no matter how well I knew it, I was shaking like crazy when I got up on stage. Thankfully I made it through sounding confident and engaged…according to Bikram. Basically what he does is listens to the speaker give the dialogue and then critiques it – the style, tone of voice, how the speaker interacts with the “students.”


I’m jumping around here a bit, but another aspect of this training that is so different from practicing at home is my appetite. At home when I finish a class I am ravenous. Here, practicing twice a day, I mainly just want fluids. I crave juices of all kinds, soda, Gatorade, water, water with EmergenC (electrolyte replenishments) and fresh, juicy fruit. The food that the hotel provides for us is a lunch buffet everyday and thank goodness they always have a huge spread of fresh pineapple, oranges, grapefruits, papayas, watermelon, and cantaloupe. The food in general is delicious and completely adequate; I just have been craving such different things here, at least in the first week.


I’m hoping that next week I will feel better in class and feel less tired in posture clinic. We shall see!

Doubles Begin!

April 10, 2008

The double classes begin! We started the day yesterday with the 8:30 a.m. class taught by Rajashree, Bikram’s wife. I felt quite sore from Monday afternoon’s 5 p.m. class with Bikram himself (more on that later) and I struggled to make it through yesterday morning’s class without leaving the room. Between Monday’s class and the first of the doubles, you would have though I had never practiced Bikram Yoga before. One of the most frustrating parts of that whole feeling was that the room was not overwhelmingly hot in the least, yet the class was doubly challenging. Countless times at the studio at home or in Ithaca the room has several degrees hotter.


The room itself is enormous; it comfortably fits over 300 bodies. The studio was built specifically for this training, and anyone who is staying at the Fairmont Hotel in Acapulco can take a class for free. A large podium sits at the front of the room with a comfortable armchair for Bikram (or whoever is teaching) to sit in. When teaching, the instructors were a microphone attached to a headset so to reach the far corners of the gigantic room. Beginning next week I believe we will have assigned places in class that rotate so everyone gets a chance to be in the front (or the back, depending on how one views that priviledge!) but for now, spaces are first come, first served.


Classes themselves are intense. At home, I usually make it through the entire 26 postures without sitting down and certainly without leaving the room. Everyone told me to come to teacher training with zero expectations about how I will perform, and that was fantastic advice. While teacher training classes are the same 26 postures, two breathing exercises, and dialogue as classes at home, something about them is just plain harder. Maybe it’s Bikram. Maybe it’s 300 people sweating on top of each other. Maybe it’s all mental…who knows. One thing I am certain of: surviving nine weeks of double Bikram Yoga classes is going to be one hell of a challenge. And today is only Day 3…

Hola Acapulco!

April 7, 2008

Over a month and a half has passed since I completed my 30-Day Challenge. Throughout the duration of the challenge, I had been planning on attending the Spring 2008 Bikram Yoga Teacher Training program. The Teacher Training is a nine-week intensive course of yoga, posture clinics, and lectures by Bikram. If students successfully memorize the 90-minute dialogue and complete the nine-week course, they are then certified Bikram Yoga instructors and are able to teach at any Bikram Yoga studio in the world. Originally, this spring’s Teacher Training was scheduled to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii. About three months ago, we learned that the plans for Hawaii fell through but that the training was not going to be canceled. Throughout my 30-Day Challenge, I knew that I was going to be traveling somewhere in the beginning of April, but I had no idea where. L.A.? Cancun? Those were just a few of the places that we were told Bikram was researching.


About three quarters of the way through the 30-Day Challenge, I received an e-mail from the Bikram Yoga Headquarters telling me and the other yogis who signed up for the training that Bikram and his staff had finally settled on a location for the spring Teacher Training: ACAPULCO, MEXICO.


Someone, please pinch me.


I arrived here in Acapulco yesterday afternoon around 1 p.m. I was greeted by a lazy, muggy breeze the second I stepped of the airplane reminding me that I was worlds away from home. Technically spring appeared on the calendar in late March, but in New England, any sign of real warmth usually does not set in until May. After a seven minute cab ride from the airport, we pulled up to my home for the next nine weeks. That’s when I began to feel like I was dreaming. As I waited in line to check into my room, a refreshing sea breeze blew through the hotel lobby. Luscious palm trees lined the view to the ocean beyond the lobby and two flamingos waded peacefully by one of the pools.


After checking in, I dropped my bags in my room which, by the way, looks out over some cliffs with smalls villas scattered on them, as well as the tops of those luscious palm trees and the roaring ocean. The first thing I knew I had to do was get down to the ocean. I hadn’t seen the Pacific for about six years, and the waves are more intense here than anywhere I have been on the east coast. While on the subject of the ocean, let me just mention the temperature: it is sublime. When the waves touched my feet for the first time, they felt cool enough to be refreshing, especially after a hot Bikram class, yet warm enough to welcome swimmers to get completely wet without any hesitation.


So when does the yoga start? While so far this entry may seem like quite the nine-week vacation, the real work begins tomorrow. I don’t know exactly what to expect; I do know that we practice the 90-minute Bikram series twice per day, once on Saturdays, and have Sundays completely off. In between classes we attend posture clinics where we actually learn how to become teachers. Then in the evenings, Bikram gives lectures.


I am still in awe of this magnificent place, and I am anxious to really begin this program.