Monday, April 25, 2011

Week One: Bikram, Bibs and Bobs, and the Bottomless Pit that is My Stomach

Wow.  Where do I begin?  The few times I've caught up with people outside BYTT land they say "so how is it!?" and it's impossible to adequately describe this incredible experience in a way that doesn't result in bafflement, shocked dismay, or eyes glazed over (or all three).

So I'll try not to go on and on but if you feel like I've left something critical out (for example, "but love food so much! how do you feed yourself living in a hotel room?!"  Answer:  Sandwiches, miso soup, and eating like a fat kid at a buffet.  In the first week I went through an entire giant box of Shredded Oats, an entire mason jar full of trail mix, an ENTIRE BUCKET OF TRADER JOES GINGER SNAPS, and that's just breakfast and snacks) just let me know.  Okay, here goes, feel like I should start by giving context via...

A Typical Day 
We have two 1 1/2 hour classes (sometimes longer) a day - one at 8:30AM and one at 5PM.  The hotel/Bikram staff have transformed an enormous ballroom into a hot yoga studio that can fit 430 - that's right, FOUR HUNDRED AND FREAKIN' THIRTY - teacher trainees at once, plus visitors and staff and a makeshift sound booth and a big podium.  It has mirrors lining 3 walls, huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and giant pipes that look more like (dork alert!) sandworms than anything else, pumping heated, humid air into the room.
In between, we have breaks for showering and eating, and then about 3-4 hours of posture clinic in the afternoon.  Right now, everyone has to deliver their dialogue for Half Moon (the first posture after breathing) in front of Bikram, one by one, so of course with 430 people it's gonna take a while (all 3 San Francisco ladies are signed up for tomorrow!).  After that, we'll break into smaller groups to go through the rest of the 26 postures.

After evening class, we have "lecture" - which can take the form of Bikram talking for a good 3 hours straight, watching a Bollywood movie (followed by Bikram talking for another two hours - our first is pictured at the top of this post), more posture clinic, we never know.  It can last until 11:30pm, it can last until almost 4am.  WE NEVER KNOW. Which is one example of how...

This is Bizarre. 
Bikram doesn't teach every class - right now he's teaching about a class a day (it'll be less once we get through half moon) and the rest are staff teachers, visiting teachers, etc (see "This is Awesome," below).  One of my favorite guest teachers this week was Juan, a handsome fellow with a strangely unplaceable accent (Spanish? Spanish having lived in France?  French having lived in Morocco?) and a killer Spine Twist pose.  He said "This yoga is not a "normal" activity.  If a normal person walked in here right now, they'd think you were a freak." (the point being, I should point out, that the yoga enhances normal life in a way normal activities do not).  I had a number of moments this week where I thought of Juan's words as I sort of mentally stepped back and looked objectively at what I was experiencing and thought "this is BIZARRE."

Such as the very first class of training, which I think was meant to humble us because it was HOT AS HELL.  We ran in all bright eyed and bushy tailed and sloshed out all red faced and limp with our tails tucked between our shaking legs.  I doubt anyone actually did every posture all the way through.  Peering through the haze up at Bikram as he admonished us for our laziness I couldn't believe what I'd gotten myself into.

Or when I'm trying to take notes on the ramblings of a sixty-something Indian man lounging on a giant inflatable podium in a big hotel meeting room at 1am and, much like eight years ago in college, my notes go from "conscious mind, unconscious mind, subconscious mind all work simultaneously, usually in conflict" to "as an active human, you cannot tet another bad hurking am other..." slurring off into a nonsense scribble as I fall asleep.  That is a transcription from my notebook. No joke.  Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit coffee.

Or when I come "home" (to my hotel room) and make myself a full bottle of ice, water, lemon, and sea salt (also known as homemade gatorade) and this glorified saltwater makes me so happy I find myself grinning ear to ear as I sing "it's lemon salty water time" to myself, to this tune, as I walked down the hall from the ice machine.  I'm not kidding.  

Actually,  newfound joy in the little things is one of the many aspects of training that makes me feel like...

This is Awesome. 

The yoga is incredible.  I get to learn from some of the best teachers in the world, including BIKRAM HIMSELF, who is tough, and a little crazy, and a lot brilliant.  I thought the actual yoga would be the toughest part for me because I'm not that good (not false modesty, trust me! someday I will be that good).  But it doesn't matter how high you can get your leg up in Standing Bow - it's about discipline, stamina, letting all the negativity or judgement go and just DOING YOGA.  

And there are people here from ALL OVER THE WORLD - Poland, Prague, Mexico City, Bulgaria.  I'm discovering all these little geographic pockets of Bikram enthusiasm - there so many trainees from Vancouver, and parts of Austrailia, and New Zealand.  

Because everyone gets up in front of Bikram to do Half Moon, we're hearing familiar words in new ways through these amazing accents: like the ladies from Brooklyn, who pronounce "ears" like two very separate words, or the Austrian who pronounced biceps "bee-ceps," or the music that the dialogue becomes when spoken in a Portuguese accent.  The Japanese trainees are particularly impressive - two of them don't speak English, so they learned this dialogue PHONETICALLY.  And I thought it was hard for ME to memorize.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows, of course.  It can be draining, and I know now I need to let go of the sardonic, judgemental attitude that can take hold of my mind sometimes, never so clearly than when I'm surrounded by hundreds of individual personalities with their own quirks and complaints - but as Bikram says, "if you let someone else steal your peace, you are the loser."  

But at the end of the day, I just feel so grateful to be here, to take joy in little things like cold saltwater after class, or a good laugh with friends new and old, or a nap on the beach in the sun.

Bibs and Bobs
So the term "bibs and bobs" comes from Judes, a lovely Australian who is Bikram's assistant and who said last week during announcements "Now, I understand, we've all got bibs and bobs.  But I was in the back row and there were some fellows in front of me and when they were in Standing Bow, I saw more than I wanted to see."  I'm using it to mean "bits and pieces." Just to be clear.
This is Kelly in our hotel room delivering a magnificent dramatic oration of Half Moon.  I just love this photo.

Bikram gave us Friday night off because we were doing so well (cue raucous cheering) so Kelly and I went to Manhattan Beach for Italian food at Mama D's.  We were on yoga highs, sitting at the kid's table outside drawing and giggling like six year olds, and spending the entire dinner talking about yoga.  The service was perfect, the food was carb-o-licious, and we tapped out halfway through course three which meant we had enough leftovers for Saturday snacks.  Did I mention I'm eating a lot?

Angie, Victoria, and Victoria's sister Priya, friends I knew in San Francisco who now live in LA, and with whom I met up with this morning.  We had a delicious brunch and I learned the value of getting out of my yoga bubble and NOT talking about yoga all day.  Also, I've really missed these beautiful ladies!
When Kelly was in a low place, I shared with her the joy of satirical self help guru Paul Crik's Killin' It.  It has become the slogan of our training (hence it's hallowed place on our message board).  She said it really helped her remember not to get overwhelmed - after all, it is what it is!  It takes on more significance with each passing day.  We're sharing it with fellow yogis.  This is it!

In and Out. Less than a mile away.  'Nuff said.
Oh man, there's more I wanted to say, but it's past my bedtime...some of us have yoga in the morning!  See you next week!


  1. I'm so excited to see the photo you, Angie & Victoria!

    I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying LA, yoga, your yogi friends and the "kool-aid" - can't wait to visit!

  2. yay! Love the update-- so glad to hear you're enjoying yourself. I can't wait to take a class from you!

  3. This sounds incredible! I'm ALMOST jealous of you. Except I wouldn't survive a day! You are so impressive!! Keep it up!

    Oh and I miss your face.

  4. Keep the updates coming. I've living vicariously through you! So, standing bow huh?...hope you got a damn good look ;) -shaherose

  5. Awesome post, I feel like I'm there. So glad that it's a great time learning and sharing with other peeps and Bikram is there in all his crazy awesome glory!