New Year, New Blog

January 1, 2010

Hi friends,

I won’t be blogging here anymore. I have moved all of my content and will now be posting at On the Mats. Please come over and visit!

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Taking the fall…

December 5, 2009

This is a blog about budo, not yoga..

I stand five feet and seven inches above the surface of the earth. I’m not that tall by most standards. Average height. The ground is not so far away. Or so I thought.

My mind is consumed lately with the idea of falling. I am learning to fall, slowly, with my sensei. I am learning that the most important thing is to put my chin on my chest. I am learning that you can either control how or when you fall – but never both. I am learning that falling is not so scary. I am also learning that falling can take your breath away. I am learning that falling is an art as much as the intricate kata that I am studying.

When I began my budo training nearly eight months ago, I knew that I would learn to fall eventually. I studied with my teacher, sort of rejoicing that we spent almost five solid months learning other things besides Newton’s 3rd Law. But I knew it was coming. My friend joked with me that everything would change and my perception of the art would be altered when I started facing my body going down to the ground. He was right.

Falling is a different world.

I tell my yoga students that one of our most primal human fears is falling over backwards. We spend a great deal of our time controlling our falling. Walking, afterall, is just graceful, controlled falling. We see kids fall, see babies fall, see leaves fall. And we all avoid it.

Several weeks ago sensei pulled out the mat and said now we fall. I was anxious, but trusted that, like everything else he had taught me, this too would be paced and I would learn it gradually. I have learned a few falls. First, a backward fall. Then the forward rolling, and most recently a side fall. I’m still finding my way with all of these different falls.

I watch my teacher toss himself over on the mat so beautifully. It’s wonderfully graceful and he always comes out so nicely. I remember the first time I saw him take the otoshi (forward roll). I thought surely he did not expect me to do that. Oh, right, he does. Of course. We started with the backfall, which is still our mainstay. For some reason in practice, the backfall does not spook me. But in application when I am actually being thrown, I often grab desperately for my teacher’s keikogi, his wrist, his back, anything I can find. I curl up like a cat. Oh god, the ground, where is it?? My mind screams, and down I go. I am getting better at these and have even enjoyed them a bit recently. But you really cannot explain or understand this until it’s your body going down, carrying that veritable wrecking ball of your teacher’s body drop. You really have no idea what your body and mind will do. Hopefully, with good training, you’ll tuck your chin and go down, keeping the arms extended in front. You might even get a good slap. But all the while, even with proper execution, the monkey brain can be screaming NO NO NO!!! Or at least, that’s what they tell me.

I’ve experienced good and bad falls. Thankfully, none have been injurious. I’ve come away with a sore neck and some sore shoulders. But overall, the falls aren’t that bad. Recently my teacher threw me on a fall I’ve been bailing out of so fast I had no time to even try to bail out. There’s learning all around.

I’m learning to face some of my fears. Falling is giving me the courage to throw my uke with authority, execute the technique with a little confidence, and even face the unknown.

I know in my head how far I am from the ground (or mat). I know how to fall, from a technical standpoint. I know how to move and what to do. The next step is to get my mind to stop working, stop analyzing, and just take the fall.

This is a slide show that two awesome girls from my Training put together.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  It’s a really fun look inside the world of Teacher Training Acapulco Fall ’08.

Trusting the process

December 13, 2008

I’ve been home going on four weeks.  Wow, is that all?  It feels like I’ve been here for months already.

So, how about teaching??  Teaching is amazing.  I’ve taught a lot in the past three weeks and it’s even hard for me to remember back to those last days of Teacher Training when I was so nervous about teaching.  I still feel it though, the neverousness, every single time I am preparing to teach.  I have my ritual; change out the battery in the headset, get a bottle of water, set out the towels, stir my tea, and print the list.  But no matter what, I still feel that little tingle in my belly of nervous energy.  I like it.  It reminds me that I’m in the right place.  This is what I am supposed to be doing.  It feels good.

Every class is so different.  I get it now, what all the teachers told me before.  I understand the little things they said about just trusting the process, going with it, and just teaching.  Just teach, give the dialogue, listen, watch, teach.  But as a new baby teacher, I find it even more valuable to trust.  I have a long way to go, and a lot more to learn.  Of course, the learning never really ends.  And I agree that I will always be looking, listening, watching, and opening myself to what teaching really is.  I’ve barely got my foot in the door, but it’s still exciting.

So what happens up there?  I used to watch my teachers and wonder what really happens up there on the podium.  How does it really feel?  What are you thinking about?  The truth is that when I am teaching, I am completely present in the room.  All of my energy is focused on my students, the pace of the dialogue, and keeping them going.  I try to encourage them, gently remind them of things, and occasionally make them laugh.  I try.  I feel like there is some kind of strange miracle that happens when I walk in the room.  I put on the headset, walk in, turn on the lights, and start talking.  Then..  it just happens.  The class happens.  It’s so cool.  That’s the process.  It works.

Before it’s over…

November 14, 2008

Today is the last day of Teacher Training.  Today will be our last two classes, our last lecture, the talent show, and tomorrow we will graduate.  I have no doubt that we will all feel a mix of excitement, sadness, and uncertainty.  I know that I already do.

Bikram gave his last lecture last night.  He talked about breath, and the importance of doing what we are about to do as teachers.  It was a little sobering to hear him talk.  But it was also amazing to see how far we have come.  And even as we all know that this is only the beginning for us as teachers, this particular part of our journey is nearly over.

Rajashree will teach this morning and Bikram will give the last class this afternoon.  Two classes seems like a drop in the bucket now, compared to the other ninety-something we have already done.  We are a smooth machine, working together almost seamlessly in the yoga room.  We move and breathe together like a silent symphony.  It’s beautiful, really.  I imagine what it’s going to feel like to go home to my studio and practice again with a smaller group of people.  I never would have thought that I would miss having all of those bodies around me, mat to mat, nearly on top of each other.  But I will.  I will miss the buzz of the breathing, the energy that rises in the room as we all commit to 90 minutes together.  I will miss those familiar faces, backs, arms, and legs around me.  I will miss the endless ceiling,  the one that made me so disoriented the first day.  I will miss the big box, and the amazing trail of teachers who have stood on it to teach.  I will miss the milling about before class, the hugs, laughing, the plastic covered couches, and my beautiful friends.

I will miss the yoga room.

But I will go home Monday, and go back to my little corner of paradise to teach.  I will have my own world again, with my family, friends, and studio.  I will have Jen and Arnie and BYTW once again and I can’t wait.  All I can hope is that when I need what I have here, I will find it inside.  I believe that I will take all of this with me, and it will become part of who I am as a teacher.

I can’t wait!

So, today, I will go again to the yoga room.  I’ll take off my shoes, put my bag in my cubby and set up for class.  I’ll say good morning and hello to my friends, sign in, and chat before class begins.  I will spend a few more hours in our beloved hot room.  I will try to remember what it felt like that first class.  I will again be grateful for the incredible journey that I’ve been so fortunate to be on, and I am sure it will humble me.  This is only the end if I let it be.  Today, and tomorrow as we graduate is only the beginning.

Hello, my name is Karen and I am a Bikram Yoga teacher.

Namaste.

In sight.

November 10, 2008

I don’t want to write about this.  Part of me feels like writing about the end being in sight makes it come faster.  Even though I know it doesn’t, it feels that way.  To be honest, I have been avoiding this kind of post because it’s just so emotional.  But hey, I’m at Teacher Training, and the whole thing is emotional.  So here goes.

I graduate in less than a week.  8 days from this moment I will be holding my precious babies and kissing my husband.  Acapulco will no longer be my home, I will have said goodbye, given kisses, cried, packed, tossed out my yoga mat, and taken the short flight home.  Wow.  Where did it go?

Every single person who I talked to about coming here said the same thing, “you’re going to miss it when you are done.  You’re not going to want it to end.”  I used to think they were crazy, especially in the beginning.  The homesickness used to smother me and I used to get so anxious to see the days pass.  But here tonight, sitting in my hallway, listening to the sounds of the lobby, feeling the breeze…  I’m not so anxious.  Sure, I’m ready to be with my family again.  No doubt about it.  I miss them desperately.  I miss my home, my life, my studio.  I can not wait to be home.  But then again..  I can.

It’s the great paradox of this amazing adventure.  We have struggled so much, cried so much, stayed up so late, studied, worked..  OH how we have sweat, and pushed ourselves.  So, why after all of that am I not ready to let go?  It’s simple, I have a family here.  I have a home here.  Yes, it’s weird, living in a hotel.  It’s nice and weird and funny all at the same time.  I love Mexico, I love this place.  And *gasp* I love the yoga here.  It will never be the same.

I’m not someone who tends to hold onto the past.  I think experiences are for a time, and they serve specific purposes in our lives.  The good and the bad – they all teach us different things.  And I know that this Training, too, in all its up’s and down’s is just the same.  But man, I’m going to miss this place.  And in a way, I feel this isn’t just an experience, it’s more like a new beginning for me.  These friends I have made have all become knit into the fiber of the person I have become during this (almost) nine weeks.  They are my brothers and sisters.  Family.

So with the end in sight, I feel reticent to see the days pass.  I don’t really want to hurry up anymore.  I want one more weekend, one more Saturday night dinner, one more lazy Sunday, one more of everything.  And even though I know that’s not really possible, I want it.  I want to hold onto these people, and take them home with me.  I want them to be next to me when I teach my first class.  I want them to be there when I need someone to get my jokes.  Yet, they won’t be.  And it’s OK.  I can’t have them with me on the plane, laughing and joking and eating candy.  I can’t have their voices around me switching back and forth from Spanish to English so beautifully as we share our lives.  It’s a loss I am already mourning.  They won’t be there to say good morning and share ice before class.  And it’s OK.  They’re my family now, and I believe it’s not over.  I will see them all again.

But this place, this hotel, the yoga room, I will likely never see again.  I won’t have this world again.  The pools, lunch, the lecture hall.  I won’t live in 742 anymore.  And it’s OK.  Things come and go, and I have a home, kids, and a husband that I will have.  And I can’t wait to be with them again.

So this week I begin the process of saying goodbye.  I finish my last week of Teacher Training.  I do my last ten classes, graduate, and go home.  It’s going to be wonderful, and emotional.  I hope to find gratitude in all of it.  I’ve come so far and learned so much.  But more than that, I feel blessed beyond measure.  This has been an unebelievable experience.  And as much as I am sad to see it end, I am even more excited to see what is next.

Really, I haven’t.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind.  I’ve been sinking in here more and more as the time gets shorter til we finish.  So, the blogging has been a little lower on the priority list.  BUT, here I am.  I have a few things to share and even a few pictures.

Today was our LAST Saturday class.  Amazing.  In one week we will graduate, and I will prepare to teach.  I will go home, re-join the world, and be a teacher.  YAYY!!!  So, at Teacher Training, there’s kind of this unwritten rule about Saturdays being “tiger shorts” day.  (This is for you, Daren)  So, today, since it was our last Saturday class, well..  I was obligated.

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That’s Mauricio, me, Renee, and Marcela.  It’s foggy because it’s THAT hot and humid down in the yoga room and the cameras get a little cranky.  I can’t believe I just put a picture of myself wearing those shorts on the internet..

So, anyway..

It’s been a wild ride.  Bikram came back this week and WOW, did we have a crazy one.  We did our first triple on Thursday.  Yes, that’s right, three classes in one day.  Hallelujah for Gatorade.  We also had a few late nights and even had Election night off.

One of the highlights of Teacher Training for me is the friends I have made.  We have a ritual of going out for Saturday night dinner.  Here we are last Saturday.

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This is my family away from home.  I’m going to miss these guys BIG TIME when I leave.  But, it does give me a *really* good excuse to come back to Mexico.  Not that I need one.

We have a lot of guest teachers coming for the last week.  I can’t believe we are already at the last week. I have to remember to hold on tight to these last days.  They’re going to be gone before I know it.

Derek told me I wasn’t allowed to put this on Facebook.  He said NOTHING about putting it on my blog.  Just sayin’…  My mat buddy Derek.  Beside him, Jose from Chile, in Cobra.  Our last Saturday class.

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Derek and I have shared SO many classes.  We laugh, we cry, we curse.  It’s good times.  I’m going to miss him.  Too bad I can’t put him in my pocket and bring him home.  I’d bring Jose home too.  The more the merrier.  My kids would LOVE them.

Last Saturday my amazing Posture Clinic group went out for dinner together.  Here is almost all of the group, before going to dinner.  Please note the cute baby.  He hasn’t learned his dialogue, but his adorable good looks make up for it.

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I’m off for a bit.  I’ll try to write another post this wekend with some really squishy insightful stuff that will make you ponder the depths of human existence.  But for now, I need to get ready for my last Saturday night dinner with my friends.

Ciao!