Archive for the ‘Teacher Training’ category

Yoga Classes Remaining = 0

June 7, 2008

Wow…I don’t even know where to start. It’s hard to believe that this whole experience is coming to an end. There were times throughout the training where I felt as though I was so far in, yet had so far to go (hence the Yoga Haze) and that I would never finish. Each day played out exactly the same that I got lost among the yoga and the dialogue and the studying in the nine weeks, but now that we are done, I’m daring to say that it all kind of flew by.

 

During our last six classes of Teacher Training we had some of the best, most experienced teachers lead us through class. On Tuesday morning, Emmy taught us for the final time, and she was followed by Jason Winn on Tuesday afternoon. Jason was certified in 1997 and has been teaching the Beginners’ Series since then. He also is certified to lead the Advanced Series – a flow of 84 advanced postures. His teaching style is different than any of the other teachers we have had throughout training. He demands that his students work their hardest, yet he does so in a calm, almost passive aggressive way. During one of our savasanas he told us that making friends or developing relationships with our students is never a good idea; we are there to teach and instruct, not be anyone’s friend. He taught so effectively that without a doubt I had my best class on Tuesday afternoon up until that point. I maintained my focus, which I feel largely depends on the teacher, and my strength, balance, and flexibility all seemed to work together.

 

Jim Kallett, a senior teacher from San Diego, flew all night to be able to teach us on Wednesday morning. Towards the end of class he compared the training to running the Boston Marathon. While both extremely challenging, I think that this training is the most difficult experience I have ever had – even more so than running Boston. I’ve thought about this comparison quite a bit throughout Teacher Training, and one aspect of the Boston Marathon that comes to mind is the fans. During the marathon, there were times when I didn’t think I would be able to take another step forward but the crowds and spectators kept me going. Here at Teacher Training, I have felt solely responsible for keeping myself going. There are no crowds cheering. There are no spectators. We take instruction from the staff and follow directions precisely. I’ve found that I have had to depend on myself to keep me going more so here than during the marathon.

 

Of course we couldn’t escape Teacher Training without Craig teaching us one last time. During the Wednesday afternoon class, instead of holding both sets of awkward pose for a ridiculously, ungodly, painful amount of time, he had us stay in the first set (second part) for as long as possible. When we fell out we fell out, we just had to sit down. The last student standing ended up holding the pose for a total of 3:28. My legs hurt and shake just thinking about that! For his awkward pose prize, he then got to take the podium and teach the second set to all of us…Craig included! The guy who won was so out of breath but managed to deliver a solid dialogue for awkward. This by far was one of the best moments of Teacher Training. We that student took the podium, we could feel how close we all were to becoming teachers.

 

As expected, Rajashree taught our final morning class and Bikram taught the last class of Teacher Training. I know for a fact that I have never worked as hard in a yoga class as I did in those two classes – I knew I had to finish strong. I think my adrenaline was running the entire time because I did not feel weak or exhausted until the very end of each class; I wasn’t temped in the least to come out of postures early. When I realized the kind of balance and concentration I was able to maintain, I was frustrated with myself for not working that hard in every class. Then after about a split second I came to my senses, realizing that in almost every posture in Rajashree and Bikram’s class I was saying to myself this is my last set of (or second to last set of) triangle pose, tree pose, bow pose, camel pose, etc. of Teacher Training. That sort of mentality would never have worked in the midst of Week 5. When class ended everyone ran around the room hugging each other and giving congratulations. We returned quickly to our mats for the final savasana, and the overwhelming feelings I had were relief and accomplishment. I don’t know how I – how all of us – took two classes a day for the past nine weeks straight, but however we managed, we completed this journey. Now, as the staff has told us, the real journey begins.

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4 Classes Down, 4 To Go…

June 4, 2008

In the final week that is. I think in total we have done about 93 classes and have four to go! Emmy is back for the final week of training, and she has taught us this morning and yesterday morning. She seems disturbed and annoyed with how inflexible our hamstrings are – not much improvement from the second week when she was here she tells us. GREEEAAAAT. Although I’m not too concerned with the inflexibility of my hamstrings at this point (again, I’m just trusting this process) ending the training with a bit of improvement wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing either!

 

Speaking of improvement, the postures in which I thought I would have improved over the course of nine weeks I think I have regressed. For example, I was convinced I would be able to lock out my right leg in standing bow which is far from happening. I also thought my hamstrings would just become more and more flexible; I never considered that they would shorten entirely and leave me wondering whether I actually have those muscles. Spine twisting is the one process that I have noticed a large improvement, and one that I never really think too much about. I can just feel myself twisting further and being able to grab more of my thigh.

 

I can’t believe this nine week training is coming to a close. When high school, college, summer camp, vacations, even big one-day events end, I’m always sad and nostalgic – not for this. I don’t doubt that when I go home I will miss certain aspects of training, although I’m wondering which one: Double yoga classes? 4 a.m. lectures? Feeling sweaty all day every day? Hmmm… But in all seriousness I think that I will miss the energy of practicing in a room with 300 people all working towards becoming teachers. I have gotten the impression that most people here do what to teach once we graduate, so to practice among that desire every day, twice a day is pretty powerful.

 

As for right now, we have fewer than 72 hours until we graduate and that moment cannot come any sooner!

Yoga Haze

June 2, 2008

From about the middle of week 6 up until now, I have been in the thickest yoga haze of my life. All we do is eat, sleep, breathe, dream, think, and talk yoga. Each day is exactly the same – class, lunch, posture clinic, class, dinner, lecture – so the days blend together and create this yoga fog. Everything is yoga. For a while I felt as though I was so far into this experience, yet the end still seemed beyond reach, hence the “yoga haze” that manifested. Only now I finally can catch a glimpse of the end, probably because we only have one week, eight classes, four week days remaining – however you want to look at it!

 

Bikram has been teaching us most afternoons since he returned back from India. Lately he has been calling several people up to his podium who have remarkable postures and having them demonstrate in front of the 300+ people in class. In addition to seeing a great posture, we also get a slightly longer water break, so I don’t mind when he does that. 😉  His classes still are never easy by any stretch of the imagination. This past week the heat has seemed more intense; I’m not sure if the room actually is warmer, or if it’s just me. In any event, classes have certainly not been getting any easier the deeper we get into training. As far as lectures go, we haven’t had any 4 a.m.-ers lately, that certainly doesn’t mean we won’t, but for the past week he has not kept us past 2 a.m. once.

 

Posture clinic wrapped up in the beginning of week 8. Since we finished so early, we’ve had a chance to take some time to have some mock classes. With these, we break up into our posture clinic groups and one person acts as the teacher by giving the dialogue, essentially teaching, for three or four postures in a row. The staff and other instructors keep telling us that we are so lucky to have the time to do this because most times during teacher training, regular posture clinic does not end until right before the graduation. When I’ve been the teacher for these mock classes, it definitely feels a lot more like teaching, probably because we’re not getting judged or graded on our memorization and delivery, and I’m surprised at how much dialogue I have retained from earlier postures, even from the first few weeks of training.

 

I expect that in this coming week – THE FINAL WEEK – we will have quite a bit of lectures from Bikram. I also know that we will see a demonstration of the advanced series which is a flow series of 84 “advanced” postures. I’ve been saying the dialogue in my sleep, as everyone said I would, and I’m ready to teach! Good thing my first class is two days after I get home…!

Late Night Lectures

May 19, 2008

About two weeks ago, we received news that the son of Bikram’s guru passed away. We found out after the Monday morning yoga class when Craig announced the news, and due to his death, Bikram requested that we have the rest of the day off to honor his friend. Bikram was away when we all received the news, but arrived here in Acapulco two days later. He told us that he was so happy to be back with us and to have our support. Bikram had lost his childhood friend, and I believe he was only in his early 60’s when he died, so I imagine it was a tremendous loss for Bikram and his family.

 

When Bikram returned to training, his lectures really began. In addition to posture clinic, I had heard from many of my teachers that Bikram’s lectures are what take up a tremendous amount of time at training. They weren’t lying. When Bikram is here, we continue to have posture clinic in the afternoon between lunch and the 5:00 p.m. yoga class, but at 9:00 p.m. we report to the lecture hall and never quite know what time we will be let out. The week of Bikram’s return he combined lecturing with old Bengali movies; he lectured until about midnight and after a short break started the movies. The latest we stayed in the lecture hall was until about 4:15 a.m. – last Friday night. The other two nights he kept us well past 2:00 a.m. By the time Friday night rolled around most of us trainees figured that brining a pillow was a smart idea, and as soon as the lights went down most of us started snoozing.

 

During and a few days after the “4 A.M. Lecture” (as I am calling it) I was beyond mad. The staff continues to tell us to “trust the process,” and I felt extremely fed up with whatever this process entailed. As the week went by and after bitching and moaning to my fellow trainees, we all seemed to come to the conclusion that everything in this “process” of Teacher Training is to push us to our limits – physically, mentally, emotionally – maybe even spiritually. If the classes aren’t breaking us down physically, maybe these lectures will test us mentally and emotionally; I know they did for me. By trusting the process, we have to accept that we have no control over what’s happening to us and simply ride the wave – the ups, downs, and plateaus – of Teacher Training. The way I feel is that the sooner we let go of that control, the sooner we are able to enjoy or at least willingly accept what we are experiencing. This is not to say, however, that I am looking forward to the late night/early morning lectures that are most likely going to take place this week when Bikram returns from India after the funeral, I think I simply am more accepting of them.

Posture Clinic, Posture Clinic, and More Posture Clinic

May 6, 2008

Week 4 consisted of endless hours of the infamous part of Teacher Training: POSTURE CLINIC. This is the time when the trainees stand up in front of already certified Bikram Yoga instructors – some are full time Teacher Training staff members while other are visiting teachers – and recite the dialogue for whichever posture we are on that day. While the trainee is reciting from memory, three other students demonstrate the posture, simulating the students in the class that the person reciting will be teaching. After the student recites the dialogue, the certified instructors give feedback. Tone of voice, voice pitch, energy, connection to students, speed, verbatim dialogue, inflection, and confidence are all things that we are told to work on.

 

While these posture clinic sessions are not held with the entire Teacher Training group – we are split up into eight groups of about 40-50 people – standing up in front of a group of people to say something from memory can be extremely nerve racking. A few times for me, I have known the dialogue precisely but blanked on a line when my turn came to give the dialogue. The instructors that give us feedback have emphasized the importance and necessity of using repetition when this happens because if a teacher blanks in an actual class, she has to say something.

 

Sometimes I feel like studying the dialogue for posture clinic is just like cramming for a big test: We know the information for the exam and then forget it immediately after. This, however, is not quite true. Many teachers have urged us to repeat the dialogue to ourselves before we go to bed for the postures that we have already recited; to be honest, I surprised myself with how much I remember. Sitting through posture clinic helps drill the dialogue into our brains, no doubt about that, because when we are not reciting or demonstrating, we are sitting and listening.

 

This week we will for sure continue with posture clinic, and hopefully get through the majority of the dialogue.

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.