Saturday, May 31, 2008

11 pounds

Our group dinner was great last Sunday night. I was sorry that several people could not join us for a variety of reasons, but we all enjoyed each other’s company quite a bit. Everyone really gets along in grand fashion and I could see us all enjoying each other’s company outside of our current setting. We met at a little Italian restaurant not far from the hotel and spent several hours laughing and just relaxing and eating like you would back home. It was really very nice and only the second time I was off the hotel grounds in the last 8 weeks for anything other than groceries. I’m glad I did not blow it off because I was so tired!

Remember when I was talking about “the beast” and everyone having his or her own struggle to pass through? Well, Craig mentioned the same thing during a talk today. He gave credit to someone else for saying that if you truly understand the beast as well as the mind; you don’t actually have to fight it at a certain point. Instead of fighting, you can just kiss it on the cheek and it will go away. He said it was one of his favorite quotes and I am going to attempt to track down who said it and read up a wee bit more on exactly what was said. As with any discipline, more advanced practitioners can generally perform whatever they are doing with an ease and grace that makes it seem much simpler than it actually is. That’s the point though! In the beginning we “try to hard” and make it seem like a giant task when in fact relaxation is what is called for to effectively complete the task at hand. It actually doesn’t just look easy, it is easy and we are the ones that make it difficult! Bikram actually said the same thing to some one in class regarding triangle pose. He said the gentleman was trying too hard and that it was just as bad as not trying hard enough. I guess I find myself doing that quite often, especially in triangle, not to mention several other areas of my life. I need to observe and correct in a much more timely fashion and begin by letting go just a tad and not holding on quite so tight. You can’t control everything, can you? I guess a better question is, you can’t control anything, can you?

I thought we had great fun with Sheri in posture clinic Monday this last week. I felt it was a relaxed, friendly, positive and fun clinic. The tone seems to have changed to a happier, more encouraging environment around here and I noticed it immediately. She seems to frighten some people because of her direct and unyielding approach but I sort of liked it. I’ll bet she’s successful outside of yoga. While the staff seemed far more pleasant, my fellow trainees seemed to be steadily getting more and more angry. I’m not exactly sure why, but I can both see it on peoples faces as well as feel it in the air. I think a part of it is because people let their guard down once we were finished with dialogue in posture clinics and now we are required to perform dialogue in a “mock class” setting where each trainee is required to perform 3 postures in a row with the entire 16 person group as demonstrators instead of only 3 individuals. It didn’t really bother me that much, but people seemed to have had a rather violent and angry reaction to the change in the program. Granted, I probably could have done without what amounted to a third class every day, but the recitation of the dialogue seemed like no big deal to me. I had forgotten parts, chunks in fact, but just attempted to keep going just like one would have to do in an actual class. Perhaps it was because our studio directors sort of prepared us for this eventuality prior to our departure or because I really just started to relax a bit and have some fun. It seemed to me invaluable as we were afforded the opportunity to stand in front of a larger group of people and see what it feels like to direct a group “with the cameras rolling”. I actually hope we do some more!

There is a gentleman here from Scotland where apparently there are no studios. Someone told me that he had been performing his yoga with space heaters and a book prior to his arrival here. Craig referred to him as “Scotland” in several classes and had some fun with his accent and the nickname stuck. I must tell you though that I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and we were together in posture clinic the other day and I asked him to tell me what his real name was and that I no longer wished to refer to him as “Scotland”. He told me Steve and from now on that is the only way I will refer to him. He played several songs on the piano during the talent show as well as represented his group reciting the final posture dialogue in front of the 300 trainees and every teacher in the house. He did both like he had been doing them for years and that is what earned my respect. I guess I just didn’t know him very well and not that there is anything wrong with a nickname given out of affection, but in my mind, I feel he deserves much more due to his talent as well as his courage. Way to go Steve!

Speaking of the final posture clinic, as I said it was performed on stage, in the lecture hall, in front of the entire group, teachers and trainees alike. I had volunteered to be a back up as many in my group rattled off the dialogue over the last several weeks like they had been studying it their entire lives and I thought it would be a nice gesture to show my support. Somehow, the next thing you know, I was installed as the main player and started to get a little bit nervous and have second thoughts about the whole deal. After all, I had months to prepare for the first posture in front of Bikram and this was going to be in a day or two! Everyone was great though and offered their help in every way imaginable. Thanks Kris and Spencer for the last minute prep. One thing I have noticed over the time we have been doing these posture clinics and reciting the dialogue was the fact that the person performing the dialogue usually thinks they do far worse than what they actually do! I was pretty amped up when I went up there and forgot a line in the beginning of the pose, but otherwise everyone said I did great. I’ll have to take their word for it. One thing I am absolutely certain of however is that everyone’s eyes & smiles sent a charge through my body that I must say I had not felt in some time. The minute I was done everyone jumped off of the floor and rushed me for handshakes and hugs. I was honored to represent our group and I'm oh so glad I did it instead of attempting to wiggle out of it. It is another in an ever-growing list of moments produced here that I will remember for as long as I live! Thanks guys for both offering and creating such a special, special moment for me.

Posture clinics have now turned into lectures on different aspects of teaching class as well as timing and how to handle different things that may come up during class. I’m sure that it’s just basic stuff, as the depth of individual things that can occur during any one class has to be staggering. For example, one day this week, Bikram taught half of the class and did not feel well. You could tell something was up because the pace of the class was very, very quick. All of a sudden he walks off of the podium and towards the back where the teachers are situated. He calls on a gentleman from Vancouver and tells him to take over the class. Now here you are as a visiting teacher, all sweaty and possibly disoriented from participating in class and suddenly you are thrust up in front of everyone and told to finish it up! I guess there is no way to prepare everyone for everything that possibly can happen, but they started going over some of the basics.

Have you ever worked really hard outside, maybe on the farm or as a laborer, and then after all of the work has been performed and you are done for the day, you have an ice cold beer. That first one is always the best one and tastes like nothing else! We had a bit of designed relaxation Friday evening with volunteers arranging and participating in a talent show that was enjoyed immensely by everyone. After weeks of incredibly hard work, we really got to enjoy each other’s company and got to see a different side of some of the people participating in this training. Honestly, to me, it didn’t matter what people were doing, it was a load of fun. I mean just a hoot! There was plenty of music, dancing, skits and Craig was a good sport and participated in a little juggling act that had everyone in stitches. We laughed, clapped, cheered and whistled for several hours and truly had a great time. Bikram bought pizza for everyone prior to the event and although I could not see him from where I was seated in the lecture hall, I think he enjoyed himself as well. By the way, that anger that seemed to permeate the air earlier in the week was nowhere to be found!

I don’t know if I said this before or not as the last 2 months have bled together to create a tapestry that has me somewhat confused with regards to anything time related, but if you practice this yoga, take the time to teach someone you love pranayama breathing. Even if you have attempted to get them to a studio and they chased you off their porch with a broom, do it. People’s lives would be improved simply by performing this one aspect of Bikram yoga. Go tell your folks you love them and you have a gift for them. Let your Dad laugh at you and then get your Mom to start doing breathing exercises every morning. Everyone can easily do it and it’s really important!

Apparently I have put on 11 lbs during my time here, although to look at me before and after, you would have no idea. In fact you would swear that I lost 20 pounds. That’s what I thought after looking at myself in the mirror recently! My clothing fits like a bed sheet and my face seems visibly thinner! It really seemed as if every three weeks I have looked thinner and thinner and thinner. I told myself that I would not step on a scale until I returned home, but curiosity got the best of me this week. I weighted in at 198 the day I left home and yesterday weighted in at 209. Incredible, considering to me anyway, my body looks completely different.

Jason Wynn taught an excellent class today, #86. He never raised his voice or seemed stern yet he had complete control of the room in every aspect for the entire 90 minutes. I have noticed a distinct pattern with all of the visiting teachers and that is the ones with a quicker paced class, heavier on specific instruction regarding how to perform the postures and then controlling transitions from one posture to another are the ones that seem to allow me to have my best classes regardless of how I am feel. For example, this morning I was so stiff I was unsure what was the best way to get out of bed, grab a leg and throw it off of the side of the bed or just to roll over until my legs fell on the floor, yet after the first 2 postures I felt great and ended up having one of my better classes. Craig actually discussed the issue of transitions during his lecture the other day regarding the “basics” and I am starting to see why it is an important issue to consider.