Sunday, April 27, 2008

All shook up

The participants are so helpful and caring here. I’m still struggling with names, but people you don’t even know are honestly pulling for you. They know exactly what you are experiencing and really, really want you to succeed. I can see where they say you make lifelong friends here. I stop and think that there were 3oo people in the world that decided to undertake this challenge and each and every day, regardless of the language you speak or your country of origin, these people are pulling for you. It’s funny, at one point in week 2 we had a voice coach speak and she had people come up on stage and talk. When I got up I said that I had decided to seek out struggling people so I could give them a kind word and a touch because a couple of people had done that for me and I could not believe the difference it made. Now, if an instance where I struggle arises (which seems to be getting further and further apart), it seems that from somewhere I’ll get a simple touch on the arm or leg from some direction that refocuses my efforts. It’s really cool that people responded in that fashion! I wonder if people are touching each other like that all over the yoga room? I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that after my last cramping episode, Patrice noticed how zapped I was at breakfast and gave me a little coin about the size of a quarter. It was a very sweet gesture as the coin had an angel on one side and the words “you’re never alone” on the other side. It seemed like I held it in my clinched fist for several hours after she had given it to me. She said several days later at dinner that I should feel free to pass it on and that is exactly what I intend on doing the next time I see someone experiencing what I was going through! Thanks Patrice!

Mary read my blog and said that the toilet in their room was not the way that I had described the one in our room. While studying dialogue I noticed she was indeed correct in her observation and we called guest services. The one in our room was fixed and now works great. I do not want to give Mexico a bad reputation when it comes to “the flush”. Speaking of the toilet, my stomach seems to have settled down quite a bit and while I don’t want to put the whammy on myself, I feel as if I may be over the hump in this regard.

We took Craig’s class again on Saturday morning and everyone sort of had a look of dread and fear on their faces as he entered the room to begin class. They were already anticipating his extra long rendition of awkward pose and his military like pace. I told Mary and Patrice last night at dinner that Craig can’t break me in this posture. I actually held his awkward for the entire time on the first set and fell out just prior to him saying change on the second. He seems to hold the second part of the pose the longest and as people fall out he then “strongly encourages” you to get back in the posture and keep your hands up. He’ll wait and wait and wait before he moves on. It seems like it takes forever and at some point before we leave here I would like to take the opportunity to ask him exactly what his thinking is behind the way he teaches this posture. In all honestly, awkward is the only pose I have ever felt like I could do half way decent even from the time I first stared to practice. My thighs are quite strong and I’m hoping to be able to hold this posture for him a number of times by the completion of our training here.

I’m going to try to get ahead here this weekend with postures and we still have the second half of our anatomy test to complete on Monday, so again anatomy and memorization are on the schedule for Sunday. I would like to have 3 more postures down and know the anatomy fairly well. Incidentally, I only missed 2 questions on the first half so I have a bit of a cushion here on the second part. I did however struggle this week during lectures so I have to study a bit harder. Memorizing the dialogue has been a bit tough and I want to emphasize to anyone who is looking into Bikram’s teacher training what a different experience you will have should you be well versed in the dialogue prior to your arrival. I’m still attempting to find the learning method I respond best to. I am quite fortunate that my “delivery” is something that I don’t have to worry too much about. It’s getting it into my head where I struggle. Everyone who has commented on my dialogue seems to think I have done just great, but when you are standing up there, seconds feel like hours and you are just certain you have missed huge chunks of the dialogue. They say it gets easier and again I am putting faith in the process and have decided to let it go and not get myself all work up. I feel like I’m in high school again and feel quite uncomfortable with the whole “learning process”.

I ate like a horse again this weekend both at dinner on Saturday evening as well as breakfast on Sunday morning. I drank a lot of fluids as well and hope that it works out better for me this week than it did on the second weekend heading into week 3! We shall see what the future holds but for now I actually feel pretty good. I slept very heavy last night (Saturday) and woke up somewhat in a daze with a bit of a sore body that was relieved a bit after a hot shower and a shave. I can’t tell you how good shaving feels after “letting yourself go” for several days. At home I shave in the shower and can’t wait to have the warm water soften my beard and then glide the blade over my skin to clean away the facial hair and leave my skin as soft as a babies bottom! It’s weird to describe shaving like that but it feels quite odd when your regular routine gets disturbed. Standing in front of a mirror and shaving after your shower is just not as good when it comes to getting a smooth, clean shave. Perhaps I’ll talk to our maid tomorrow. We had a chat with her last week and after we tipped her she brought us in some clothesline and pins from her house to hang our wet laundry on out on the balcony. It works great! Perhaps she has a mirror for my shower as well. For now, I’m just letting the gray grow and if I really feel I need a shave I use my electric!

I was informed at breakfast this morning that another defection has taken place. A girl just suddenly disappeared without word. She just packed her bags and left without talking to anyone. Someone who knew her but was not rooming with her was the first to discover what had happened. I can’t imagine many more people bolting as this starts the fourth week of our training here, but you never know what people are thinking. Everyone here has their own demons to grapple with and they can be extremely frightening and at the same time rather convincing. While I feel for her and hope everything works out for her, I simply cannot get to involved in the drama of another person’s experience. I have enough of my own to handle without overloading which it seems is always just one fragile moment away.

I was just talking to Robin on the phone here Sunday night (19:15) and we experienced for the second time during my stay here another earthquake. This felt as if it lasted much longer than the first one we experienced but seemed to me to be about the same in it’s intensity. I was also told that an early morning tremor hit Saturday around 3:00 am, which I did not feel. Here’s the official word:

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A moderate earthquake has rattled Mexico, but no major injuries or damages have been reported. The U.S. Geological Center has given the quake a preliminary magnitude of 5.8. It was centered 96 miles (154 kilometers) north of Acapulco. Sunday's quake caused office buildings to sway and sent many frightened residents into the streets of the capital, Mexico City.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Well, here’s a rundown of the third week of teacher training 2008 as viewed through he eyes of attendee Frank DiNuzzo. It’s been a wild week and I’ve not had much time to post.

My outgoing email does not seem to be going out properly. I seem to be receiving everyone’s email correctly, but no one is getting responses from me. Please forgive the “glitch” and I will be attempting to resolve the issue this weekend with the hotel staff. Several people have been having the same issue and hopefully it’s easily corrected.

Class # 22 (Monday am) was a very good class for me. I had eaten over the weekend as well as rehydrated and felt great throughout the entire class.

I have decided to do a couple of classes on Sunday so I will have performed 100 total during my time here. People sort of look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I mention it but I think after a couple of more weeks I certainly will be strong enough physically to do it. Giving up the day off mentally is the challenge although I feel better the following day when I perform the yoga. Monday morning classes after the day of inactivity usually results in some stiffness…

No water for class #23. I brought water, but left it outside in the cubbyhole provided for us to store our items while we are participating in class. My mind started to panic at first: what if I need some, what will I do? How will I get it out there? What will the person next to me think if I just grab their water? Now there’s an amusing image, picture in your mind’s eye the person next to you suddenly leaping wild-eyed in your direction about two-thirds into class and grabbing your water bottle like some sort of ravenous squirrel who just found his first nut of the spring! Anyway, it was uneventful and I completed the class without water just as Craig challenged us to do. He actually did not make it a challenge, but he did mentioned it and I felt I was up to giving it a try on that particular day and after all, what was the worst that could happen?

Martha taught class #25 and it was great. She said at the start that she was very proud of Patrice and knew that Herb and Laiki were very proud of us as well. She gave us a nice intro referring to us as the Bloomington 3. I felt pretty rough afterwards as I had some stomach issues I was still dealing with and think I need to up my intake of water in order to compensate. Martha was also the evaluator in my second posture clinic and I was somewhat relieved to have someone I know evaluate me early in the process. I felt somewhat prepared and she gave me a kind review. I have since started to struggle with the dialogue but know that it will come eventually and the tough part is getting up in front of your peers and freezing or stumbling on the words as you give your directions for the posture…

Cramps struck again after class #27 and just like the first week, they were pretty bad. I had 2 people holding me down and Craig, the chief instructor, had his elbow in my right glute to help settle my leg down. More electrolytes and fluids were in store for me for the rest of the evening. Mary & Carla have become like sisters, especially in times like these and I feel Mary would knock someone down if they screwed with me when I was in this condition! I try to look out for them, but physically I seem to be the one who needs the attention and while I don’t want to intimate that they are having a walk in the park, neither of them has had to be carried from the room in a stupor like I have had to be on two separate occasions. The nurse (Leigh) saw me later that day and thinks I may be getting too much liquid. They made me drink a 2-liter “potion” of sea salt, limes, apple juice and water that evening and honestly, it made me feel like a different human being.

I would like to make the assistants the focus of my anger, distress, fear, and several other rather strong emotional releases, but have been unable to detect a single instance when they were not at the ready to render aid with a brilliant smile and a kind word. They just shine like some sort of giant beacon to distressed sailors. Someone actually used that analogy and said during class this week that calm water never made a good sailor and while that may be true, surely rough water has taken it’s share of victims!

Speaking of rough water taking victims, it has been called to my attention that 3 people have abandoned their goal of obtaining a certificate to teach Bikram yoga since the beginning of our training here. I’m sure they had their reasons and I’m also sure they were valid ones, but I sometimes think about the guy who gave his sister a kidney some time ago and the fellow who blew out his knee 2 weeks before training started or the gal with lupus or the ones (plural) with asthma or the one that brought her son here and gets up at 4:30 every morning to study dialogue so she can have some time with him in the evenings. They are all still here and pressing on and it’s inspirational to be a part of.

A chunk of he-man fell off of me today after class #31. When class was over the instructor, Sarah (who happens to be the same gal I mentioned earlier regarding having her leg removed from my grasp with the jaws of life during my first “cramping episode”) talked about teaching from the heart and teaching with love in order to heal others and that while we may have thought that we were “signing up” for something else, this is what we were actually preparing ourselves to do. They started playing the Beatle’s song “All you need is love” and with all due respect to everyone who has ever told me that they love me, as well as everyone I’ve ever told that I love, I don’t believe I have every really been emotionally affected by the word love until today. I stayed there, on my mat, after class and cried for about 30 minutes and find myself weeping again some 3 hours later as I type these words. Imagine a sculptor placing an exacting blow with his hammer and chisel to knock off exactly what needed to be removed from the marble at the exact time it needed to be removed. What is left from the block is the beauty that is the art. It was a profound experience that in and of itself was worth everything I’ve spent, as well as everything I’ve endured for the last 3 weeks. Physically, I will gladly pay the price again over the next 6 weeks if I can have 2 more just like it. I have a lot of he-man baggage that I’ve been unsuccessful in unloading while left to my own devices. I said from the beginning that one of my goals here was that I wanted to be a better man when this was over and for the first time since my arrival, I feel as if I’m better not just physically, but emotionally as well as spiritually.

I wish my dad were still alive so I could share this with him. He was and still is the most courageous man I’ve ever had the opportunity to engage. I would have been so much further ahead in life in a great number of areas had I just submitted a little bit to his wisdom. But I thought it showed weakness. I don’t know what it is about us Italian men, but we think signs of weakness are not to be tolerated. Maybe it’s men in general or maybe it was just the way that I was, I don’t know, but I was always attempting to be the tough one, stoic and unbending. I now have come to realize that there are many different types of “tough guys”. I want to be tough like him. My way was the wrong way dad and I’d give everything I own to be able to tell you that to your face. Sorry it took me so long to truly understand what you were talking about.

Mom, thanks for everything you planted inside me so many years ago. This new spurt of growth promises to take me in directions I’ve never dreamed possible. I love you very much and thank you for all of you efforts over the years. I’m glad your still here to share this with me and I can’t wait to talk with you when I get home.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Viva la Mexico

I forgot to mention that there has been a convention of bankers here this weekend and a note slipped under our door advised us that the “festivities” would be going on until 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning. I’m on the first floor facing the ocean and the courtyard just below our balcony is where the live bands have been setting up. I was actually so tired Friday night that the music did not prevent me from sleeping. I fell asleep in my clothes, on top of the covers and don’t think I ever even rolled over. I stayed up studying last night so I can not honestly say whether all of the fireworks would have woken me up, but man were they loud! Viva la Mexico! Under different circumstances I would have a Margarita with them and just stay up but that first class comes awfully early in the morning and I’m glad the “festivities” ends on Sunday.

Martha showed up today and it was good to see a familiar face from home. For those that do not know, Martha Williams operates the Bikram Studio on Lyndale in Minneapolis. Someone told me that part of her session here would be teaching and being critiqued by Craig afterwards on her performance. Now, throughout my life I have always seemed to be the last to know extracurricular stuff like this and I don’t even know if it’s true, but it’s somehow comforting to know that even she is being analyzed in this setting and no one gets a free pass. I have a funny feeling she’s not quite as concerned about memorization as am I! I look forward to taking some of her classes in this new atmosphere. It really is cool to have such a variety of teachers to listen to and learn from. Everyone has a different style and it seems to me that those who allow their own personality to shine through and connect with people are the teachers that have the best classes. I hope to accomplish that someday as an instructor.

More anatomy and dialogue studies are on the agenda for today as I prepare for an anatomy test tomorrow. After studying a bit last night I have concluded that I will do well tomorrow on the test and should not allow myself to get to overly concerned. I’m a couple of postures ahead with the dialogue but the faster we begin to perform them the quicker I will need to keep memorizing. I see some late nights in my future but I think study buddies will be plentiful as many are scrambling to stay ahead of the curve. Even the ones I thought I had a grasp on have disappeared from the forefront of my memory as the whirlwind that is teacher training sucks me into its vortex. I’ve put my faith in the process and have let go of all of the day-to-day concerns about the minutia. Upon reflection, letting go and relaxing a bit is something I need to work on in all aspects of my life.

I ate well again today and had a nap in between bouts of medication and memorization. The cold seems to have settled in my chest and I now sound worse than I actually feel. I have some deep sounding pipes at the moment and my voice wears out rather quickly, but a couple of classes should clear my congestion up. Naturally, it’s worse first thing in the morning after being on my back all night but after the first class things loosen up. I’m hoping to have cleared this hurdle by midweek and other than the way I sound, I actually feel pretty good.

I had a hamburger today at a restaurant and I imagine had someone been watching me they would have described me eating this burger like your dog does when you sneak something to him under the table. A little bit of a head jerk, then some lip smacking, then that tongue that cleans like your car’s windshield wipers. Actually, it wasn’t that bad, but I could not get over how good that meat tasted to me. I was actually asked earlier in the week if I had been having any unusual cravings and my answer was a quick no. This of course as I was sopping up the Kikkoman’s soy sauce I had put onto my broccoli with a croissant as if it were liquid gold. I’m eating what sounds good and what my body craves. My guess is that I have lost about 10 pounds so far. I just have to continue to eat and drink enough so I don’t repeat the cramping episode I encountered earlier in week one. I didn’t quite eat the volume of food I did last Sunday but still feel as if I ate enough. Good sleeps tonight without the live band outside my window and week 3 will commence in 7 hours and 30 minutes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Groundhog day

The days are starting to bleed together sort of like the movie Groundhog Day. We were told that it would seem exactly like that because of the same scheduling for most events. One gal forgot it was her husband’s birthday today. She said she had no idea what day it was. I only new it as Thursday and had the class count down to 3 remaining for the week, two on Friday and one on Saturday morning. Thursday evening’s class was the first that Bikram did not teach himself. He said he was wearing out his throat and one of the gals who helped put me back together last week named Julia taught the class. Bikram leaves tomorrow and will be gone apparently until May 5th. Hey, that’s Cinco de Mayo! I wonder if it’s as big a holiday here as it has become in the states? I guess it really doesn’t matter since drinking & smoking are strictly forbidden here. I think several people may have gotten busted with one, the other or both and Bikram reminded everyone that we all signed a clause stating that we agreed to be sent home immediately, at Bikram’s discretion, for either of these infractions. Anyway, Bikram said he would be returning and would spend the entire last month of training with us “whipping us into shape”. It’s great to have so much access to him during this session of teacher training.

Here’s an odd sensation, not shaving as much as I’m used to. I actually went all week last week without shaving my head. That has to be the first time in 15 years that I went longer than 3 days. I normally shave my head every other day, but due to time constraints I’ve just let it go a bit longer. In addition to time there is also the “freshly shaven skin irritation” factor that goes along with doing so many classes in a single day. I was surprised at just how gray I have become. I haven’t seen hair on my head in quite some time! Oh my!

Mary looks great by the way. I’d like for her to tell her own story, but oddly enough I was looking at her on Thursday and at the same time I was about to tell her that I thought she was losing some weight, she said the exact same thing about me. The smile that has always adorned her face seems to have returned and it pleased me to no end to see the “twinkle” back in her eye. I think she was struggling for a bit, as were we all, but she seems to be on an up cycle and it’s great to witness! She gave me a knuckle bump before this morning’s class. Go Mary, Go Mary, Go Mary!

Anatomy tests & dialogue review starts on Monday and people seem to be on edge. I did well in front of Bikram but we have 22 more to perform and apparently they start coming at us pretty fast. Put your crash helmet on and tighten your seat belt! Everyone’s walking around mumbling dialogue or huddled in a corner working together. This weekend will be full of studying, especially for me, as I am not as familiar with anatomy as some others here. The thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone, right? We were given a heads up as to what sort of questions would be asked, but you still have to remember the correct answers. The shin bone’s connected to the ankle bone, right? Mary and Carla, as well as my roommate, all seemed to be at relative ease with the terminology. We’ll see how I do next week.

Flu like symptoms struck this morning (Friday). It felt like someone tried to put a cigarette out on the back of my throat. Now, after this evenings class, I’m a bit achy and stuffed up. I took some alka-seltzer tonight from the gift shop and plan on making that trip to the market tomorrow and getting some additional supplies to beat it down. Vitamin C does not seen to be enough. I talked to several others who have been afflicted by the same symptoms. I’m glad it comes at the weekend so I have a bit of time to recover and rest up for next week. Speaking of next week, the end of the week will be the 1/3 mark in our training. Seems like it’s taking forever, yet at the same time flying by at a record pace! Quite a bit of it is still a blur and I’ve been advised that it will seem like that for a while after the training has come to a conclusion.

Saturday’s class went well. I can see where people would not like Craig and his teaching methods due to the fact that he is a disciplinarian. Everyone move together, keep your arms up, put the water down and get back into the posture. Someone told me that people were getting together at a restaurant tonight to have a bitch session and I was invited. I don’t want to have anything to do with it! As a matter of fact, I wish Craig would stand right next to me and bark at everything that did not conform to the proper execution of the postures. Much of this crap is all in your mind and if you can break habits or patterns that are holding you back, you open up a whole new dynamic. Of course at some point during the intensity, I may attempt to rip one of his ears off, but if I followed his instructions, I think I will be better off in the long run. Killer Awkward pose! Get back in the posture; get back in the posture, arms up, arms up. You, tattoos, third row, get back in the posture! Arms up! I’m waiting for everyone to get back into the posture, then and only then, I’ll count everyone out together. It’s almost like a punishment for those of us doing it properly. You have to stay in it longer and wait for all of the wandering minds to refocus again. Have you ever seen the movie “Raging Bull” where Jake Lamotta (DiNiro) tells Sugar Ray Robinson “you never put me down Ray, I never went down” after taking a particularly brutal beating at the close of their last fight? You never got me down Craig, I never went down! He seems to relate everything to movies. As I was walking away from the practice area the first week after dealing with the cramps I had a little hitch in my gitty up. I heard him tell somebody over my shoulder, now that guy’s right out of Roller ball! It was the only thing that made me smile that evening. I vow to set down some of my crutches and attempt to notice some of my patterns that may be holding me back regardless of how uncomfortable it may make me. I guess I don’t have to set them all down at one time, but I start working towards that this very moment. Care to follow suit?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

California dreaming

Stayed up late last night blogging (until about 1:30 am) and woke up at my regular time, 6:30. I waited for my roommate to finish in the shower, as is our routine and went in for my morning constitutional. Let me start by saying the toilets stink here as far as water pressure and flushing action is concerned. We have each commented on it several times. In fact, so does the drainage for the shower. My guess, of course, is the plumbing but you have to flush the toilet 3 or 4 times in order to remove any trace of your presence and with how my stomach has been feeling, that’s a lot of standing and waiting and flushing. By the way, my stomach feels much better today. I’m hoping that closes the chapter on that sad story and if not I’m going to address it at the store this weekend!

Anyway, as I sat there and flushed, and again forgive me for that image, I start to hear an extremely loud rumbling coming from the pipes located directly under me. It sounded like when air gets into the pipes and for a moment I thought water was going to come shooting up out of the porcelain and I was going to look like a cartoon character sitting on a stream of water as it rocketed towards the heavens! Then the toilet started to shake and just as quickly everything stopped. I said to my roommate, man these toilets really do suck! It was only later as I began to hear reports from others about their beds shaking and the like that it dawned on me; we had just experienced an earthquake! Now I’m actually familiar with them from my time in California having experienced several and would put this one on a scale of about 3.5, but have yet to hear anything “official”. I had forgotten that the same fault line in California runs all of the way down South America and earthquakes are as commonplace here as they are there!

Here's the official word! "The quake was centered 25 miles north of Acapulco, seismologists said. Mexico's National Seismological Services put the magnitude as 6.1, while the U.S. Geological Survey said it measured at 5.5."

The first hurdle

I recited dialogue for Bikram on Monday afternoon. I got up on stage in front of the rest of the crew (300 trainees) and I introduced myself as Frank and said that I practiced at the Bloomington studio in Minnesota. Bikram immediately asked if that’s where the Mall of America was. He got so excited talking about when he was there and what he bought and what a grand time he had! He’ll do that to people and then when he’s done he’ll immediately request that you “start please”! He stopped me about half way through the dialogue and said he was going to buy me a leather jacket the next time he came to the MOA for reciting the dialogue so well. I actually changed places with a girl who was supposed to go in front of me. She said she thought she was going to pee her pants and would feel much better if she could go after me. I just tapped her on the leg and took her place in line. I really wasn’t nervous at all and had been reminding myself that all of the words were in my head and would come out perfect if I just relaxed. And so it was!

Bikram’s 1st lecture was Monday night. Indian stories about gods and “what is yoga”? Deep subject that knocked a number of people out by the time he wound things up. He found out that the auditorium was actually a movie theater and got quite excited. He made us watch his 60-minute interview. I had never viewed it and so it was entertaining. Stayed up until about 1:00 am watching an Indian movie with about 20 others + Bikram. Apparently he sleeps very little and likes to do stuff after midnight. He keeps the staff up until all hours of the night. I’m not sure I’ll attempt that again unless it’s a Friday night though. 6:30 comes awfully quick after 2 yoga classes and 6 hours of lecturing!

Here’s my current schedule. 6:30 wake up. Class starts at 8:30 sharp. I swim in a salt-water swimming pool after class to cool down, usually at about 10:30, then dry off and eat breakfast at the buffet. Lectures start at 12:15 so a quick shower cleans me up and these will go until about 4:00. The second class starts at 5:00 sharp. Dinner break is next and lasts from about 7:15 until 9:00, then lectures again until 12:00 or whenever Bikram wants to calls it quits.

Emmy’s class on Monday morning was great (class #11). It was, for me anyway, very relaxed and calm. I performed every posture to my fullest possible expression. She teaches a very common sense type of class. The words she uses just seem to make sense and I thought that if I were attempting to explain to some one in plain English exactly how to do a posture, I would explain it the way she was. We were told that we would be having her for morning classes and lectures until Friday when she was scheduled to leave. I have not heard word as to when she would be returning, if at all. I certainly hope so! We have also been fortunate enough to have Bikram teach every evening class since we started here. Apparently this is a bit of a departure from what he normally does and we are thrilled that he is still here and leading class! I think he may be leaving this weekend and I’m not sure when he’s scheduled to return. Now starts the parade of “guest instructors” and as I stated earlier I’m really looking forward to that.

Classes #12 - #16 were my best classes yet! I made a lot of improvement in several postures. My knees ache a bit but I do not feel like I’m hurting myself. Actually I feel like I’m improving myself! Just wanted to add that so everyone didn’t think I walked off into the ocean after the rough start I had. I know you’re a couple of days behind the actual events, so I just wanted to state that things are great and my body, as well as my mind and spirit are adapting and beginning to relax into the whole deal.

My strategy to offer a friendly smile and a kind word is a smashing success! I’ve noticed people actually gravitating towards me for a taste of positive energy. One gal told me tonight she likes practicing beside me because she always seems to have a good class when she does. It seems that when you’re a bit down all you need is a little bump to get you back on track, or at least that’s all that I needed. I think people’s true colors are beginning to show. What I mean by that is that negative people are beginning to see only the bad in everything that happens. I’ve decided that there really isn’t anything that is going to throw me off course and so it really doesn’t matter what happens next. Bring it! I’m overflowing right now with positive energy so people can have whatever they can handle! I’m sure I’ll be drawing upon their energy at another time here in the not to distant future. I’m also sure there will be several more ups & downs, they just have not materialized yet...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The clock says...

It’s 4:30 in the afternoon here and I feel like I got a bit done today as far as preparation for next week goes without taxing myself to much. A nap is definitely still on the agenda. Maybe I’ll start to adventure after the first few weeks. We will see. I was able to find just about everything I needed with one exception. Beef Jerky! Of course it’s possible that we Americans have so much beef we have to make things up to do with it. The Mexicans probably think I’m crazy, but just know this; I crave beef jerky! I hope to find some soon.

I forgot to mention Bikram’s wife Rajashree. She has taught all of the morning classes and Bikram the evening ones. She’s practically an angel with her beauty, her grace, her melodically hypnotizing voice and apparently a doctor as well (but she doesn’t like to be introduced as such). That’s when she’s speaking in a formal setting or lecturing. In class she can be as hard as Bikram! It’s incredible how she can push you. She doesn’t really push you as much as she encourages you right over the edge of the cliff in a fashion that just breaks down any compulsion to resist. I’m looking forward to the long list of teachers we will be exposed to here in the next 2 months.

A fellow named Craig taught class Saturday and as I mentioned before, it was my best class so far. It’s funny, but he has the reputation of being a bit of a dink and teaching a difficult class, but I have to say he taught exactly what I needed that day and I thought it was a great class. He preached relaxation, breath, unison and energy. I know to breathe, as does everyone, but I may have been attempting to suck up every square inch of air in the room through my gaping mouth. This was, I believe leading to an irritated throat and continued collapses throughout class. I needed to hear it on that particular day, at that particular time, to reacquaint myself with the concept. Lesson #11: control your breathing, control your mind and control your life in every situation!

Emmy will be teaching this coming week and she is Bikram’s most senior instructor. We are all excited but also attempting to find places to hide from her in the studio. Unlikely that a single one of us will avoid her perceptive eyes! In case some don’t know, she’s 83 years old and has lived an incredible life. For those at the studio, please ask Herb & Laiki for more details regarding this truly remarkable woman. I can’t wait to spend some time with her in class.

I also forgot to mention Mary and Carla did an exceptional job delivering their dialogue. I must admit that I was still cramping at the time Carla went up and they made me drink more electrolytes and told me to quickly go to the cafĂ© and get a sandwich since the extra time needed to put me back together after class precluded me from getting something to eat that evening. When I got back Carla had already performed her dialogue and was in line as a demonstrator. I promise to get some photos of her in the next phase of dialogue. I love her spirit. It’s beautiful, radiant and glowing! I hope she can sense it because I definitely can see it.

I enjoyed my breakfast quite a bit this morning. I relaxed and stayed at the buffet for about an hour. Shrimp soup, an omelet, steamed vegetables, a V8 and more of that cactus/spinach/pineapple juice. Walked around and took more photos of the grounds as well. The temperature is supposed to start breaking the 100-degree mark this week. It’s also the end of the season, so it’s my understanding that this place is going to be pretty empty. It will sort of be like being in an ashram where we will be the only people around and yoga training will be what is done. I won’t be able to amuse myself with the looks of “outsiders” in line for the buffet anymore. I’m sure something else will “tickle me” and I’ll fill you in…

My roommates name is Todd and he’s from Winnipeg, Canada. We are quite a bit different but have been getting along in grand fashion and I see no problems with the arrangements. Remember, my specialty is the meet & greet! We are still getting used to each other’s idiosyncrasies and giving each other enough space to adjust and cohabitate for the next 8 weeks. Hey! I just said 8 weeks, not 9! I’m looking at it in 2-week increments. Next week and it will be 25% over. The end will be here soon enough and so I don’t actually wish for a speedy conclusion as I am hoping to wring every drop of information out of this experience.

One of my buddies, at least we have quickly become friends, broke a rule yesterday. The terms and the punishment were stated unequivocally, well in advance. Forget to sign in up to 5 minutes prior to any session or class regardless of your actual attendance and a make up class is required on the very next Sunday. I myself was a half an hour early for one lecture but almost forgot to sign in. Patrice forgot to sign in for Saturday’s class and had to do a makeup class on Sunday. I made it a point to meet her there prior to the class and give her a hug. She asked me what I was doing there and I said the only reason I was there was to show her support. I remember thinking I would have broken down and cried when I got the phone call and it had to of had the impact of a hammer. Looking forward to a day off and then being told you will not be having one would crush my spirit and I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure that I gave comfort in any way possible, even if it was only a quick smile and a touch.

The simple things can mean so much at a time like this and perhaps that’s lesson #19: Remember to reach out to others in their time of need, even if it’s just a simple gesture. While it may seem like nothing to you, it means the world to them. Everyone knows that, but sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own little worlds that we forget to express our true feelings. Tell people you miss them, you love them, you forgive them. I resolve to work on that and hug more people just because. I also struggle with forgiveness and come from a long line of Italian grudge holders. I now vow to break that cycle. Do you think that’s a bit too mushy? Maybe so, but I honestly have a stream of these types of thoughts pouring from my mind. Perhaps it’s the first step in reconnecting with my own humanity. Here’s one thing I know for sure. Yoga rocks! Good luck to everyone who has decided to undertake a 30-day challenge. It will change your outlook on a number of issues! You can do it and I’m pulling for you…

I ate like a horse this evening. Mass quantities of food. Roast beef, octopus, scallops, shrimp, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber salad, pizza and some ice cream. I’m glad to see I have gotten my appetite back if only for the weekend. I hope I still fit into my shorts when I get up tomorrow! I also hope all of my intestinal issues have been resolved and liquid does not start to violently shoot out of every orifice in my body. Please forgive the image I just planted, but many people have been struggling with this issue and it can be quite a concern especially when you start to get that little “gurgle” from your stomach in the middle of class! I must say however that today was the best I’ve felt since my arrival here and the start of two a days. I anxiously await the next evolution of this training and appreciate all of the positive thoughts sent our way by everyone following along with this blog.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

When we last...

New episodes of the old television series Batman used to start like that. When we last left our yogi Frank he was talking about his 5th class and what happened afterwards. Well, classes #6 as well as #7 were pretty rough. My calf muscles and several little muscles that run along each side of the shinbone were really sore from all of the cramping. Try tightening your bicep like a bodybuilder and then hold it for 30 minutes! The next day your muscle says, are you crazy? We need to heal! And so it was and still is for me. Classes #8 and #9 were better as far as recover goes, but not so much with regards to the temperature of the room and my ability to perform the entire class. Lightheaded and dizzy are the main words that come to mind. I actually started to get loopy on the very first posture.

I have to tell you though; there are people who have congregated here from all over the world. You name the place and someone is from close by. Everyone seems genuinely willing to help each other through the experience. I think in a weaker moment though, I must confess that I actually did put a hex on someone who did a really weak triangle and made everyone else hold it until he corrected it. Either that or Bikram got tired of pointing it out. Honestly, I could have put the whammy on myself because my triangle had completely broken down and I can’t understand if Bikram is yelling at me or not! It very well could have been me causing everyone distress and I never knew it. Hope that wasn’t the case and I hope my mojo for hexes is weak!

I also have noticed that some of “The beautiful” people are starting to break down as well. They say everyone will hit the wall; it’s just a matter of when. I hate to say I find pleasure in this, but it was pointed out today that many people are the “rock stars” of their studios but here everyone is the same. Just like starting over again at some point. I am making it a point, now that I have regained my senses, to ask everyone how they are feeling when I meet them. I am also attempting to not take the same spot twice in the studio. I want to experience every square inch of the room and not allow my mind to say one place is better than another. Just like at home, it’s all a state of mind! I’m also attempting not to gravitate towards any specific group of people (i.e. those my own age). I want to experience everyone from everywhere to better round out the experience. I don't see that as much of an issue as meet & greets are one of my specialties! Quite a few people are older or the same age as I am, but most are considerably younger.

Saturday’s class was the best so far! Made it through every posture without going down once. I wouldn’t allow it to be filmed and sent back home for dissection, but good nonetheless. We have the rest of Saturday as well as all day Sunday off. Sleep is on the agenda along with replenishing food supplies and a little relaxation. One of the pools here is filled with salt water and I spent some time in it yesterday. Sort of like an Epsom salt bath but outside where you can talk to others and commiserate. Quite nice actually! It’s a real slick setup. Tomorrow I’ll be going around and taking more pictures of the grounds and people.


We were warned about bouts of constipation as well as diarrhea upon our arrival and were told that it was not uncommon, even in the states, to be hit by wacky intestinal issues as well as flu like symptoms due to anxiety and stress as well as the detoxification that is going on with all of the yoga being practiced. They also stated that not enough water was a sure fire cause of some of the constipation, which was affecting me. After my little boxing match with my nemesis (and current lightweight champion of the world I might add) Mr. Muscle Cramp, I decided to up the water intake. I had been drinking 1 gallon of water per day prior to this training and now I’m drinking 2 gallons. I actually now think that may not even be enough. I’m a heavy sweater and the rule of thumb seems to be, drink until you are peeing regularly. I feel like a ripe melon ready to burst! It’s hard to eat as well. The temperature is high, you just got out of a class that was grueling and you have an hour and a half to eat and rest. Now slap a giant plate of steaming veggies in front of your face and see if my reaction is the natural reaction. NO THANKS! You have to eat though and not just eat but eat for two. That’s two yoga classes a day! We had a chance to go to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club today to get stuff like raisins and nuts and things.

We are provided a brunch buffet and they are working on perhaps changing it to a dinner buffet but I’m telling you that I’m not sure how much difference it will make except for the weekends. You think, buffet provided! I’ll just stay there for several hours and chow down! Sweet! It doesn’t work that way. One thing that makes me smile though is that I sometimes catch a look of horror from one of the other guests when they realize that 300 starving and confused people are descending on this buffet line like the swarm of locust upon Egypt in the Old Testament! They have to be thinking, what in the world is going on here. The staff is great and they keep everything full, but there’s a line at every station 6/7 deep. I just smile, strike up a conversation with people and reach in and grab something. I brought a hard-boiled egg cooker but have quickly turned on hard-boiled eggs. The omelets are great but the egg whites make me want to hurl! I’m going with what my body craves (which seems mostly to be sleep) and will probably hold off on the eggs until the body says go. They have some sort of spinach/cactus juice combo here that has to be the drink of some Mayan god. It’s even better immediately after class.

By the way, I think I will be making entries into a journal on my computer and then posting them online Saturday and/or Sunday. It seems to be what the schedule allows.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What was that?

Just got hit by the Bikram bus! Just completed 4 classes in a period of 48 hours. 94 more classes to go! 1st class I felt confident. 2nd class I felt confused, but completed the entire class. 3rd class I felt like some slipped a ruffie in my water! I feel like I fell off a moving train. Only thing to do is jump back up, dust myself off and start running to hop back on it. I’ve been told it get better after about the 2nd week. Let’s hope so. A good night’s sleep should help, we’ll see. This is without a doubt going to be one of the greatest physical, as well as emotional and spiritual challenges I’ve ever decided to undertake.

It dawns on me as I type these words that I had temporarily forfeited the rights to my digestive system, immune system and my heart & cardiovascular systems. In fact, every system in my body had been given over to “other masters”. I now begin the process of reclaiming my birthright. I want to regain control over the only domain that is truly mine. Exciting, terrifying, thrilling, taxing, exhilarating, exhausting and nerve racking all at the same time. It’s an emotional roller coaster the likes of which I’ve never ridden before. I feel as if I have a giant emotional obstruction stuck inside of me that at any moment might come bursting out sort of like the creature in the movie “Alien”. I’m sure I’ll have to come face to face with whatever demons lie inside at some point during this “healing process”. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later…

Come to find out that was not an emotional obstruction I felt, but an intense series of cramps about to strike my lower body and abs! I undoubtedly still have that “other” obstruction to deal with, but for now, an evening of body cramping is what was in store for me. I don’t know when the last time you had multiple areas of your body cramping (calves, shins, toes, hamstrings and abs), but it’s sort of like having a seizure. Remember in the movie “Forrest Gump” when Gump says, “something bit me” as he carried Bubba out if the jungle? Well, something bit me! It bit me over and over and over for about an hour and a half after class. It lasted into the evening with sudden bursts of cramping in single areas of my body, but after they poured electrolytes into me for about an hour, things started to settle down quite a bit.

This occurred after my 5th class and I sort of just laid there after class for about a half an hour wondering how I was going to get up. When I attempted to move, that’s when it hit me. I have yet to run into the one gal who was attending to me as I lay on the floor. She is a very sweet and compassionate female assistant of Bikram and I’m just wondering whether the grip I had on her thigh while in the throws of this “breakdown” left any bruises. To me it felt like they would need the “jaws of life” to remove her leg from my grasp. At that moment, I can honestly say that I could have cared less, but she calmly talked to me, asking me question about my food choices as I repeatedly cramped up. I can also honestly say that she helped quite a bit. So did the other female assistant who was pouring electrolytes down my throat. There was one other person present and I’ve given her a couple of hugs since. Carla helped to eventually get me back up on my feet and outside of the room. We have been looking out for each other in different ways since our arrival and I’m glad she noticed I had not made it out of the room. For the next several days I was sort of out of it and felt bad that Carla, Mary and I did not interact like we had been. I told them once I regained my senses that I had needed to recover and they were cool with everything, realizing apparently from the far away look in my eyes, that recovery was exactly what the doctor ordered as well as just a little distance! Nicely done ladies! I truly hope they realize I am also here for them should the need arise.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Today this journey starts in earnest. We are scheduled to meet the “guru” (Bikram Choudhury) at 10:00 for a lecture as well as to begin dialogue training and review. We were introduced to the entire teaching staff yesterday as well as the first single gathering of all of the trainees in a lecture hall that would match any college facility in it’s beauty and capacity. For any previous attendees, you will be “glad” to know that we apparently will no longer be sitting on a floor wet with the sweat of an entire class saturating our shorts, but on chairs so graciously provided by the hotel in our new setting! We were also informed that the dialogue training would be held in a number of additional meeting rooms where we still may be sitting on the floor, but that the yoga room will be used exclusively for practice! The facility is “state of the art”!

Bikram spoke for about 2 hours upon his introduction and was, as advertised, “quite colorful”. While I’m positive I would never wear some of the outfits he struts around in, there’s no doubt that this yoga has the ability to change your life regardless of what your malady is. He likes to drop names and tell stories about those that he has helped with his methods. Your initial reaction is to dismiss them as stories from a flamboyant entrepreneur or Hollywood movie type or snake oil salesman, but when one of those individuals that he has helped stands in front of you and confirms what is being said, it’s difficult to ignore. Of course, you don’t need much of a testimonial when you stop and think about the progress each and every one of us has made on a personal level while practicing and while there are many variations of the “success story”, everyone who has practiced this yoga over a period of time has one of their own!

One of those “success stories” was here today. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke in front of the class for about 15-20 minutes talking about how Bikram Yoga extended his career for what Kareem believes to be about 7 years. He said he started practicing Bikram Yoga after he was ready to retire, but then suddenly faced some difficulties in life (his house burned down and he also had a financial manager who evidently made some unwise decisions with his portfolio) and felt he needed to continue to play professional basketball. It was kind of cool to have him practice yoga with us on Tuesday! His son apparently has been practicing since he was about 5 years old. The word is he has a beautiful practice and wanted to come down as well but has some sort of testing going on back in the states where he is attending college to be a doctor.

They wasted little time getting people up in front of the room to start reciting their first posture in front of Bikram. Everyone who is “performing” stands on a stage in front of the entire group of 300 people with 5 demonstrators assisting and they actually go through the posture as you recite the dialogue. Bikram is sitting in a giant chair on the floor directly off the stage, front and center critiquing each person’s attempt. The first people were great! Very smooth and obviously well polished. I’m sure that’s going to change, as we only were able to get through about 20 people. They say it takes a week or so to get through everyone and Bikram insists on listening to everyone’s first posture. I think I’ll “volunteer” after a few more people go in front of me.

We also took our first class yesterday. The room was not as hot as I had expected it to be. Bikram said about 95 degrees, but I don’t know if I buy that. The humidity is extremely high down here and the sweat just pours out of my body. Even with the temperature that low, a number of people faded rather quickly! Bikram teaches a powerful class and of course it’s different than what you are used to in cadence, as well as the length of time different postures are held. I felt pretty good both during as well as after class and slept like a rock. I was actually surprised how good I felt the following morning! We’ll see just how long that lasts. We start 2 a days today and I’m sure it will start to have an affect!

As I just stated, the humidity is very high here and nothing dries very well. I imagine it’s going to be similar to when I was in high school and we had to redress for the second football practice of 2 a days with damp clothing. Now there’s something to look forward to!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ready, Set...

I was, as always, concerned about seating on the flight. The airlines charge extra now for where you sit on the plane and although I had requested an isle seat, the plane appeared to be full when I went online to preprint my boarding pass. I have always attempted to sit on the isle or bulkhead for the extra room they provide. I believe that an isle seat is now considered a “premium” seat and an additional charge is levied. Incidentally, for those who do not know (I just found out last week), you are now allowed only 1 carry on and 1 checked piece of luggage these days. Bummer! More additional charges! They charge $80 each way international, $25 for domestic. Because I booked my flight well ahead of time I was allowed to check 2 bags and that was enough for me.

I kept thinking I was at the wrong gate because there was no one waiting for the plane. I was practically alone there. This giant waiting area empty at 5:45 am, surely I must be at the wrong gate, on the wrong day, at the wrong time. I kept wondering around the stewardess trying to reassure myself that I was at the right place. It must have creeped her out because even after she told me that I was in the right spot, I was still pacing around her little area staring at my boarding pass and then repeatedly shifting my gaze between her eyes and the display behind her. I’m surprised she didn’t call security and have me dragged into some TSA interrogation cellar in the bowels of the airport to get to the bottom of my odd behavior. When you shave your head, you can get that sort of reaction from people!

Well, no need to worry. There were 23 people total on the flight! I had the entire row to myself. Could have stretched out across 3 seats and fallen asleep sideways for several hours. Patrice did exactly that! It was a very smooth flight, left on time and landed 30 minutes early. Patrice and I parted ways at the airport as she was staying at a different hotel for the night, so I await the arrival of Mary and Carla who are taking a later flight.

First thing I did prior to going to the room was wander over to the Bikram’s hospitality desk and ask about viewing the room we will be practicing in. They gave me directions and I walked around the corner about 50 yards and talked to someone positioned to greet people, and apparently at the same time, work on her tan. She was doing a good job on both fronts. As I walked inside I asked about the number of attendees and was told about the same as in previous years. 280 people were signed up as of last week and surely there would be more to bring the total to around 325. The entry way is a balcony of sorts that’s positioned 1 floor above and at the rear of the room.

The first thing that strikes you is an enormous banner of Bikram in his classic spine-twisting pose. It has to be 150 feet long and 60 feet high running above the entire length of the back or entry wall of the room. That wall is glass of course, for full viewing of the room and the activities going on inside and the room is massive. I mean huge! Maybe there will be a bit of elbow room unless they force everyone together. There certainly appears to be enough space in there! Sort of overwhelming when viewed empty. There are still workers wandering around performing tasks to complete whatever else needs to be done and I was asked not to go down the stairs to the lower level just yet. I’ve already considered offering U.S. dollars for someone to sabotage the heating system at regular intervals throughout the training!

Well, up to the room to unpack and settle in. I’ll be working on some pictures tonight and tomorrow while I have some free time. I’m not quite sure how to post them, but will work on making them available to everyone.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pre-game Butterflies

As I sit here in the comfortable surroundings of my apartment, I can’t help but wonder what changes are in store for us at the upcoming session of teacher training. The time is drawing near!

Throughout my life I have participated in a variety of athletic competitions and have found that I have always gotten anxious prior to the event. Most competitors will tell you that they feel this is evidence that they are “running on all cylinders” and are ready for whatever is about to face them in their chosen area of expertise. All one can do is honestly prepare the best they can, then visualize the expected results and at some point let go and believe that their preparation will carry them to their desired result.

Now, this is not a competition and I want to share something emailed to me today from one of Bikram’s assistants.

“Congratulations on your acceptance into the Bikram Yoga College of India’s Intensive Teacher Training Program, Class of Spring, 2008 in Acapulco, Mexico. I’m writing this from the property, and it is truly beautiful”.

“All we require is your presence, and a passionate commitment to your own transformation within the next nine weeks. Please enter into our new home with open eyes, open heart and open mind. You have chosen the path of service that leads to the promise of Self-realization, and for this you have my respect. Let yours be the hand that heals and helps, and let your expectations, as unwanted burdens, fall behind as you enter through the door”.

Let your expectations, as unwanted burdens; fall behind you as you enter through the door! Sort of goes against everything I wrote above, doesn’t it? That’s because this is yoga, not football or wrestling or any other organized sport we are familiar with participating in. Our “expectations” hold us back, both in our practice as well as in our lives and create suffering because they prevent us from seeing things as they really are. We create an illusion, like a lightly colored curtain does when it makes the sunshine appear to be a different color as it shines through our window. Pull back the curtain and you reveal the true brilliance and color of the suns rays. This is what we need to do in our everyday lives, pull back the “curtain of expectation” and see things as they really are.

And so it seems as if I’ve encountered one of my first challenges and I haven’t even gotten off of the couch yet! Just like we shouldn’t expect an individual class to go a certain way, or judge it afterwards as a good class or a bad class, I really should have no particular expectations entering this “transformation”. That’s quite a bit easier to write than to actually put into practice. I think we all know this, but just like I did above, we fall back into our familiar habits, our same old routines and this takes us in a direction we really did not intend on going.

I promise not to drone on about yoga philosophy and the like, but I just had this conversation with someone the other day regarding issues sure to pop up at training. I hate that teacher; she/he doesn’t do it like I’m used to. Hey! They’re in “my” spot, that person is touching me, crowding me, staring at me or sweating on me. Why do they insist on telling me to do it this way? I sure look fat compared to so and so! My postures sure do suck compared to plastic man over there. What in God’s name is that odor? Is it coming from me?

Funny thing is, it just dawned on me that these were the same thought and feelings I had when I first started to practice Bikram Yoga. I’ve said every one of them at one time or another and some of them I allowed to throw me off course for a while. I’m hoping that I’ve learned something over the last several years and vow not to allow those same things to derail me again.

Now there’s an interesting thought, it’s going to be like starting over again…