Sunday, June 8, 2008

Om Shanti Om

Thanks Kris for “reminding me” that I really wanted to attend class on Sunday. Again, all I needed was a little bump and I’m glad you were there to provide it. You have been a great deal of fun throughout this entire process and I’m glad our last names linked us together for this training! It helped that they added an extra late class and I also assumed that taking it would help me on Monday morning. I honestly did not think it was possible for me to feel any stiffer than I felt when I went to bed on Sunday night, but apparently I was incorrect. I continue to have what I would refer to as “minor to moderate aches and pains” pop up in a variety of new places as well as those that inhabit the same old places and while they would not be enough to cause me to miss any single session, I simply did not have the energy to go to class early Monday morning and “encourage” others the way that I had intended to. I had my hands full with the job of “encouraging” myself!

Monday night was movie night and I think Bikram picked a movie out just for us. The final act of the talent show was a bit of a spoof on the movies we had been watching late night with Bikram. A company named Bollywood produced the movies and they always had several group dance numbers in them sort of like a Michael or Janet Jackson video! They decided to name the skit “Bollywood”. They had 3 men dressed in costumes replicating clothing from India sitting on some chairs with big cushions and then pairs of scantily clad, extremely attractive women would come out and dance in a suggestive fashion around the men to a song taken from one of Bikram’s DVDs. Well, Bikram played the movie that the song was taken from for us tonight and I actually had a chance to ask him if he enjoyed the talent show and he said he did. That’s why I believe he picked this movie out just for us. The name of the movie was Om Shanti Om and the song was actually a catchy little number that sort of gets stuck in your head, so for 2 days after the talent show and 2 days after the movie Monday night, people were walking around singing this song and smiling at each other because you knew if you were not singing it, you were thinking it! I think I finally made it to bed at 3:30 am.

We were allowed to watch the advanced series class in the afternoon today and while I know it is taught regularly at the Lyndale studio in Minneapolis, I have never seen it in its entirety. It’s quite impressive actually. My camera steamed up and prevented me from taking any good pictures but just to watch the participants as well as Bikram and Emmy go through the class was something else. Emmy can still put her foot behind her head at 82 (or whatever her age is) and the other people going through the class perform in a fashion that would make your head spin. The advanced series moves at a very fast pace and seems a bit less strict in its form. That may have just been for our benefit though; I’m not 100% sure. If you practice this yoga and have an opportunity to watch an advanced class, don’t pass it up!

The final week’s classes were taught by an all-star lineup of senior teachers:

1)    Emmy’s Monday morning class was 2 hrs long and there seemed as if there was no air circulating at all. I crashed big time!

2)    Bikram taught Monday night’s class and it was a decent class for me but I was still recovering from the morning class.

3)    Emmy’s Tuesday morning class was much better for me as at one point I started to fade but surprisingly recovered after sitting out Locust Pose and then finished quite strong.

4)    Jason Wynn taught Tuesday nights class and again, as with the first class he taught, I had one of the better classes I have had in some time here. I got the feeling everyone else did as well!

5)    Jim Kallett taught Wednesday morning and I had another rough go of it. It seemed long and hot!

6)    Craig taught Wednesday evening and it was a great, fast paced class that for me was full of fun and yoga joy. I again remembered this yoga. He had a contest on who could hold the second part of Awkward pose the longest. I held it for 2:08. The eventual winner, Tyrone, held it for over 3 minutes and was then given the opportunity to go up on the podium and deliver the next postures dialogue. Nicely done Tyrone.

7)    Rajashree taught Thursday morning and as usual it was very hard work but made me feel sparkling and shining afterwards just like Rajashree’s eyes. They were filming both Rajashree as well as the students for this class.

8)    Bikram finished it up on Thursday evening to a packed house with a great class that enabled everyone to finish strong and enjoy his teaching style complete with several demonstrations of postures, a couple of jokes and a song at the end. It wasn’t a second over 90 minutes, in fact I believe it was under even with all of the extra stuff. The film was rolling once again.

Thursday night was a self-induced movie night. I stayed up until 5:30 am watching movies in the theater with Bikram and about 12 other people. Some were required to be there as there were no more make up classes and everyone is required to have a zero balance in order to graduate so the staff came up with other things like cleaning the lecture hall and assisting in boxing up merchandise to be shipped back to the States. There were probably 5 of us there voluntarily and some of those were regulars. This was the second time I had joined in and the first time I pulled an all nighter voluntalily.

I sense a feeling of completion here amongst the trainees and while it probably is so, I think back once again to my martial arts days and relay a story to you that was taught to me early on. In the old days, one was given a belt (Obi) when they started training as part of their uniform (Keikogi). That belt was white and as one continued to train under a variety of circumstances, the belt would invariably begin to show signs of age, most notably by becoming increasingly dirty. As time continued to pass by and one trained more and more and more, that white belt would turn black. After years of additional training, the outer layer of fabric would wear away and the white inner layers would begin to show again thus completing the circle from white to black and then back to white again. It seems to me that what we did here over the past 9 weeks was get a little dirt on our belts. Every one of us now needs to continue both to practice as well as to teach until our belts turn a darker shade of black. There is still much work to be done and I hope people never lose sight of that fact!

Graduation was an odd mix of elation, relief and exhaustion as we gathered to enjoy each other’s company as a group for one final time. The demonstration was incredible and every participant showed the audience exactly what the physical practice of this yoga was all about. It was my pleasure to watch as 2 participants from my group were involved and both did an outstanding job. Congratulations Annie and Jane! You were really, really beautiful and I know that the amount of extra work you put in may have, at times, made you wonder if it was all going to be worth it. I know I’ve said it several times now, but it was another moment I will remember for a very long time and I hope it is a lasting memory for you as well. You were among the best of this graduating class!

To everyone in my group, with whom I have spent so much time these last 9 weeks, I know there are some of you I will never see again and others that I will have the opportunity to see numerous times in the future. I wish each and every one of you success no matter what path life takes you down. Take the things we have learned here and apply them daily in your life without fear or regard for what others may think. You know what’s right and should always follow your hearts. If you ever need some one to talk to, email me and we can talk about whatever you would like. I guess once you feel comfortable enough discussing diarrhea with some one, anything is open for discussion after that!

That reminds me of a story about a guy I know here for training named Greg who was in line somewhere around the hotel early on, perhaps week 2 or 3, when everyone’s stomach was sour and we were all suffering from diarrhea. He’s asking this young lady how her stomach was and whether or not she was taking something to stop the constant onslaught of trips to the bathroom until he figures out, probably from the look of horror in her eyes, that she had no idea what he was talking about and was not actually here to practicing yoga with our group but was a regular hotel guest! How’s that for an introduction!

To everyone here who over the last 9 weeks spoke the words “are you alright” or “can I help” with a pure heart and honest intentions, not just to me, but to anyone in need, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. During one of the few times I had the television on over the course of the last 2 months, I was watching a news show and they were running footage of a man who had been hit by a moving vehicle somewhere in the northeast. I was shocked as the footage continued to run and person after person simply stood or walked by this man as he lay there in the street. Bikram said numerous times during his lectures that just because you are born a human being, and look like a human being, that only means you get 5% credit for actually being a human being. I’m starting to understand your words a little bit better now Boss!

To Bikram’s staff and everyone at head quarters who made this session of teacher training operate so smoothly, a thank you hardly seems adequate. I had an opportunity to say this to many of you, but in case I missed someone let me document here and now that I certainly could not have accomplished the completion of this training without help from each and every one of you in one form or another. I imagine not everyone’s experience was the same, but I for one understand the job you all decided to undertake and admire how steadfastly everyone worked together to move us along a path that we really had very little understanding of when we met for orientation that very first Monday. Some still may not understand and maybe never will. Perhaps eventually, in the future, all will come to realize the burdens of leadership and appreciate both the effort and emotional investment each one of you put into our development. Thanks again to each of you for both your individual as well as your collective efforts.

There are so many things that never made it into this blog that gave this experience the color and texture that blog entries simply cannot do justice to. Like the actual feeling of the heat as you enter the yoga studio and it smacks you in the face, Bikram breaking coconuts open with his head, a person who began to expel shards of glass from their skin that apparently had been left over from an automobile accident years before or a gal named Ashley, who on my very first “rough” class gave me a back rub as I laid on my mat outside of class and cried for the very first time. She had no idea who I was or what was going on with me but she offered her assistance without hesitation and if I recall correctly, I don’t think I ever saw her without a smile on her face. Not just her, but her runnin’ buddy Karen and her “friend” Tim, who I’m quite certain all had their own down days just like the rest of us, but never do I remember seeing any of them without a happy, smiling, friendly face and positive, encouraging attitude. In fact, the entire Aussie contingent seemed exactly like that and I enjoyed interacting with each and every one of them. It must be the water down under! They all sum up what I like best about many of the participants here at this training and reconfirm the reason I initially wanted to undertake this challenge. These are beautiful people and they are filled with all of the seeds that I need to continue germinating in my life. Now, let’s be real here for a moment so people don’t think I’ve been brainwashed or I’ve lost my mind or something. I have no doubt that we are all a bit dysfunctional as could clearly be seen during our posture clinics with the burning desire to be perfect on each and every posture. Our “Type A” personalities really stuck out, as did many of our compulsive habits (or maybe that was just me and my room mate, I’m not sure). Craig said several times that it seems that the teachers have the most stuff to work through and he’s probably correct! Just the same, I hope to continue to surround myself with these types of people and with any luck at all I will have the opportunity to laugh and talk about these times with some of these same people in the not to distant future! I miss them already and I have yet to leave the hotel!

The other reason I have had a difficult time relaying a true sense of what has gone on here is a man by the name of Mr. Bikram Choudhury. One must be within arms length of him to truly appreciate what I’m talking about. In a 10-minute span you can be educated, entertained, reprimanded, amazed, confused as well as frustrated and angered. He is the reason, the only reason, we all have been here for the last 9 weeks and as he started to say repeatedly last week at about this time, we are all going to miss each and every thing associated with this training, the camaraderie, the 2 classes a days, the lectures, the staff, Mexico, and yes even the posture clinics, but most of all we are going to miss “the Boss” and all that he encompasses. His detractors may say what they will; I came here for the yoga and Yogi Raj Bikram Choudhury’s guidance. The man they say has taught more yoga, to more people, than any one alive today. I called down the thunder and got caught in a perfect yoga storm that at times tossed my ship around in an extremely violent fashion. Now, as the water begins to calm, I wonder what the future has in store for me and suddenly, I am transported back to my yoga room and I hear the admonition to stand still, meditate, breath and stay in the moment. So be it ~

Buckminster Fuller wrote "You never change something by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete".

Tolstoy wrote, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”.

The man known as Frank Anthony DiNuzzo, who stepped on a plane in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 5th, 2008 and traveled to Acapulco, Mexico to begin a quest to both find as well as reinvent himself physically and mentally, no longer exists. When people look into the eyes of the fellow they used to know as Frank DiNuzzo, they may be surprised at the man who has taken his place. I’ve already surprised myself several times over the course of the last 2 months and I’m sure many of my fellow participants will find themselves in the exact same situation. Bikram says not to blame him if people don’t recognize us when we get back and in the first week you wonder just what the hell he’s talking about! The second question you ask yourself is, even so, exactly how much can happen in the span of just a few short months! Man, if you only knew the half of it…

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What's that light?

I meant to write about this in my last post but forgot to jot down a note as I usually do during the week to remind myself of things I want to elaborate on as topics pop into my head. I had a run of 3 rough classes in a row again last week. One was Wednesday night and two more came on Thursday. My roommate has insisted since about the 3rd week that your position in the room makes a difference as to what sort of class you will have. The staff has made us rotate positions in the room every day according to a preprinted schedule as there are 12 lines for students in the room and your group is assigned 3 lines each time to set your mat down on. Supposedly, 1/2/3 and 10/11/12 have less airflow and therefore made for a tougher class. Rows 4/5/6 and 7/8/9 have ventilation in the ceiling and can make for a somewhat better class. I had refused to allow this idea to germinate in my mind because I did not want to be defeated before I even entered the room simply because of my groups line assignment! I must admit however that after 8 weeks of two classes a day that I think there is something to it. I had 2 days on 1/2/3 and 1 day on 10/11/12 last week and actually caught myself for the second time since I’ve been here (at least that I can remember) attempting to take it easy during several postures so that I could make it through the entire class. You may remember the other time was just after I had cramped and Luke came and practiced next to me for a posture to “inspire” me. I didn’t need Luke this time to refocus my mind but afterwards I started to think more about this incident. I started to go full out again during that class and that eventually caused a crash and burn situation during that class on Thursday night. Food, electrolytes and a nap started to get me back on track but the point is that I don’t want to fade here in the final week of this experience. I don’t want to just go on cruise control and throw in the towel physically or mentally. Everyone seems to already be in countdown mode as we only have 8 classes left and I mentioned at dinner last night that even though this is the case, I want to go full out just as I have been doing since April 7th regardless of whether or not I crash a couple of more times. I have no idea what my line assignments are for next week, but I want to finish with the same type of integrity that I started this process with regardless of the consequences. A spinning room will only last a couple of hours while a failure to maintain what I have started here may leave a mark that lasts forever. I will encourage my fellow trainees to do the same. I think I’ll wake up early this Monday and greet everyone as they enter the facility and “cheer” them on.