July 21, 2009
I wrote this post for a site that I have been contributing to called YogaBudo. Please wander over there and see some of the other things I have been writing.
I took (yoga) class this afternoon at 12. It was a great class, with one of my very favorite teachers. I wasn’t sure how it would go seeing as how I’ve been fairly exhausted lately. But Tuesdays are my day off and I was determined to get on the mat. I slept better last night than I have in weeks and woke feeling more rested than I have in a very long time. So, the noon class seemed like the best choice for me. I was rested, dressed and ready.
I got to the studio, got my mat, water, towels and went in the room.
Hello heat, hello dizzy!! Why am I so dizzy? Only breathing? Ha! Wow, Roy looks so tan. I need to go to Spain. No NO NO Focus!!! Half Moon, ahhhhhh. I am the queen of the backbend. I can do any backbend any time I want. Oh wait, not the forward bend. OUCH OUCH OUCH!! Hamstrings, I hate you. Warm up, Balance. Kick out, hold it. Lock the knee. Why did I wear these shorts? No no NO FOCUS!!!! Touch it, touch it!! Touch the forehead, now the top of the head. Man, I used to not be able to do this. I am super yogini. I am the awesomest. I love you Triangle, I hate you Triangle.. Toe stand. Snap, crackle, pop. Right knee not cooperating. Forget it. Just do the posture, no don’t do the posture, where is my balance? Change, sweat, water, breathe. Mmmmm, water. Floor…
Spine, so stiff. Not the queen of the backbend anymore. Stupid Cobra pose. More heat. Why is it so hot? Sweat sweat sweat. Bow pose. Balance on the hipbones? Is she serious? I wonder when LOST comes on again. Oh look, water break. Mmmmm water. oh.. maybe not. No water, nasuea. Ugh, I know better. Almost there, can do it. CAN DO IT. I would marry you all over again, Camel. I am super yogini.. WILL NOT skip Rabbit. WILL NOT. Ouch, neck is stiff. Shoulders, so stiff. Must do the posture. Did it get hotter? Oh wait, I feel cool air. Stretch, twist.. Breathe. Water.. Done.
Focus, I ain’t got it.
January 22, 2009
I’m having a sort of off day.
I was sick for a while. I lost my voice, got sick, then got better. Then I got really sick again, then I got well. I hit bottom on Sunday evening when I just couldn’t talk anymore. The pain in my throat had gotten to critical level. I was sick, really sick. I proceeded to – as all enlightened, health-conscious yoga teachers do – drug myself. I rarely take medicine, let alone hardcore nighttime cold medicine. But there I was, late that evening, standing in the cold and flue medicine aisle at the store. I wanted the kind of relief that would put me so far to sleep I wouldn’t care how badly my throat hurt. I got it. I took that blue liquid and no more than 20 minutes later was as high as a kite. No lie, I was done for. You know how those packages say, Never operate machinery while using this medicine? I now know why. I barely made it up the stairs to my bed. Dave must have covered me. I slept very soundly for five hours.
Then I woke up.
The throat that was sore when I went to sleep now felt like razor blades had been forced down it. If miserable sore throat were a condition warranting immediate medical care, I would have gone to the ER. It was that bad. I woke up crying, begging for relief. I woke up Dave, who dutifully went down to the kitchen and got my Cepacol and crack Tylenol Severe Chest Cold Nighttime. The Cepacol made my throat burn, it did nothing for the pain. I took the Tylenol, prayed to God for mercy, and tried to go back to sleep. It was a rough few days.
Then I woke up, and I felt human again. It got worse before it got better. I coughed, I moaned, I groaned. I had no voice, nothing. But it got better.
That was two weeks ago. My voice is completely back. YAY! But as things go, I’m starting to feel, well.. off. I’ve been practicing more, trying to get in more classes with the teaching schedule. It’s good. I just don’t know what’s up with me.
As a student of yoga, and as a yoga teacher, I know that the mind and body are one. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. My practice has been bringing up some emotional issues. As I deal with those, sometimes setting them aside for a time, sometimes not, I find my body reacts. I’m betting that these aching shoulders and tight hips are more than just surface issues. So why am I so stubborn? Why can’t I just rest and let myself recover, heal, and restore? Why do I keep gnawing at myself day after day?
My body is telling me something. I don’t need another bad chest cold to get my attention. I don’t need to lose my voice again to understand that the energy in my body is moving differently. What I need is to go back to yoga preschool. I need to work a little slower on my mat, give myself some room to breathe, and relax. I need to (as per the usual) heed the words I tell my students. I need to take care of me.
I’ve written before about learning this delicate balance. Teaching Bikram Yoga can be an exhausting job. It’s hours in the hot room, sweating, and talking non-stop.. On the other side of that, there’s the emotional expenditure. I walk in and very carefully encourage my students, I use the energy in the room, I try to discern how to best teach, how to motivate, when to push, and when to give compassion. Often it’s the latter that wears me out the most. We tell beginners and experienced students the same thing. Every day is different, every practice is different. Be kind to yourself and breathe.
I still need to learn these lessons.
So take me back to preschool. I hear they have snacks.
January 5, 2009
I was at the studio this morning, after teaching the 5:30 am class, and was trying to decide whether I wanted to use my spare hour to do yoga alone or go get coffee. I struggled for a short moment. I wanted to think, to be quiet, and to be alone. So the question stood whether I wanted that in the form of a little sweat and stretching, or in a cup of milk and caffeine. I stood there in front of my packed bag of clothes, looking at the shorts and top I had brought along for my “solo yoga”, and decided the yoga was better than the caffeine. So I dressed, grabbed a mat and towel, and headed back into the hot room.
This doing yoga alone thing is kind of a new ritual for me. Today is my second time to do it. When I teach early, then stay to teach the 9:30 am class, I have a gap of time. Prior to this new ritual, I would spend that hour or so eating breakfast and inhaling coffee. But given my new career, I’ve found that my body needs more yoga time. That empty hour or so was the perfect opportunity. I’m already at the studio, I have access to the room, and I like to do yoga alone. It’s something I miss from time to time. I started doing Bikram alone in my apartment in Colorado nearly nine years ago. It’s kind of interesting now, all this time later, to once again practice alone. Now I have one of the best heating systems around available to me, a huge open studio, and plenty of mirrors. It’s quite the contrast to the way I started out, but I’ll take it. It’s nice.
Today as I stood in front of the mirror, I was critical of myself. Too tired, Karen. Not enough yoga lately, Karen. You need to work on your posture, Karen. These shorts look awful on you, Karen… Blah Blah Blah. It’s interesting that I spend a great deal of my time when I teach encouraging my students to let these things go. I tell them, Meet your own eyes in the mirror. Face yourself. Let it go. I could learn from my own words. Maybe we teach the things that we really need to learn first. I dunno. But I did it, I started. Breathe, breathe, breathe.. Inhale, exhale. Again. I did my hybrid Advanced Class/Beginning Class warm up. I did my Salutes, my backbends, and I worked. I didn’t feel particularly excited to be practicing. The humidity was low in the room and I felt dry. I had fairly shaky balance, my legs giving way as I worked on head to knee pose, my body not wanting to bend the way I wanted. It was there that I was taken back to the Training room in Acapulco.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Training. I went through a time when I got home of thinking about Training constantly. Part of me wanted nothing more than to get back on the plane and go back. Those formative nine weeks changed me forever. The further I get from Graduation, the less I really want to go back. Being home is better, and I know it. Nobody is meant to live in that situation long term. Teacher Training was but for a season and that’s OK. But there are days when I’m taken back to that hot room and it all comes rushing back. Today was one of those days.
I remember those nine weeks as a very complex emotional journey. I spent the time separated from all of my friends and family here at home. But during that time I built up a new support system. I took care of me for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t fun or easy or particularly comfortable at times. In fact, there were times that were painful and I wanted out. But the time passed and looking back, I have no regrets.
I read a note that a friend of mine from Training wrote today on her Facebook page. She said that we leave such an intense season of change to return home where we require a season of rest. Our hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies must recuperate from the intense therapy we have given them. (my interpretation) I agree with her. When I came home, I was spent. My body was irritated and creaky. Over 100 Bikram classes in nine weeks left me sore and weary. But now, a little less than two months out, now that I have rested a bit, I feel much better. Some days I still feel like I am recovering. There are times that I practice and my body complains. There are times when I feel like I’m back in that hot room in Mexico, and I feel sentimental all over again.
The physical recovery is only one side, though. Physically Training was very demanding, exhausting, and difficult. But that’s only one part of it. Emotionally and Spiritually I feel changed as well. And maybe that’s really where the recovery is happening now. The body, the most acute need, had to recover first. Now the mind, spirit, heart, and soul can have some time to breathe. As I stood on my mat alone today, I wondered at all the things that I’d been through. It seemed petty and small to feel so frustrated with my inability to hold my posture in that moment. I remembered the early days of Training when that posture wasn’t even happening for me at all. How far I have come indeed.
But in the yoga room, and in my life anyway, I completely believe body and mind are intricately connected. When the body hurts, or even reaches new depths, the mind and spirit react. Yo-ga. Union. Hatha: Ha (sun) tha (moon). Opposites. Union, togetherness. All connected, and all the same. Just as there is no *perfect* posture, there is no right or wrong emotion on the mat. It is what it is. This is perhaps one of my great lessons from Training. Just letting it be. If I am happy, or if I feel pain, if I celebrate holding my head on my knee, or if I whine because my back aches – it’s all the same. Yoga, uniting, bringing together the mind and the body.
I will keep looking inward on my way as I practice. I will have many more mornings in that room alone, I hope. Maybe I’ll pick up some more insights. I will continue to allow my soul, body, and spirit to rest and recuperate. As Sean reminds me, I will continue to respect myself and afford myself a little kindness and balance. I will continue to appreciate the lessons learned in Training, and continue to be thankful for the work that was done.
January 4, 2009
Well, it happened to me. The New Teacher lost her Voice.
It happened about two weeks ago. I really really really lost it right before Christmas. I had not been feeling my best over the weekend, fighting off a nasty something or other, and a sore throat. Well, I woke up at that particularly lovely hour of 4 am to greet my amazing 5:30 yogis and was SO hoarse. My throat was sore, but I taught, then went back to teach 9:30. Somwhere around 40 mnutes into class I didn’t know how on earth I was going to finish. Thank the Gods above for the microphone. I surived that one but was whispering as I left the studio. It’s been nearly two weeks and though my voice is back, mostly, I still can’t sing.. at all. And yes, I can usually sing.
I lost my voice. I have gotten the lecture, so please.. I know. I KNOW how to use my voice. I’ve had plenty of voice lessons. Diaphragm, I know, I know. Really, I think I lost my voice because of whatever something or other I had. Either way, it was gone. And if there’s anything you can NOT do without a voice, it’s teach Bikram Yoga.
This too shall pass.
So, I’m fine, and I only missed two of my classes thanks to the Holiday time. By the way, my Holiday was great and I hope yours was too.
So I think I’ve lost count of how many weeks I’ve been back from Teacher Training. I’ve also lost count of how many classes I have taught. Teaching is going so well. I really love it, like, a lot. I love love love love it. Of course, it does not hurt that I have the best studio to teach in with the best fellow teachers and bosses (shameless plug).. In all seriousness, I feel great about teaching. I feel so supported at BYTW and feel like I’m learning as I teach, and that’s the point, right?
Every day is different when you teach. Much like when you practice, you can never really tell how the class will go. I’ve had some rough classes. My worst on record, I believe, was a Friday 5:30 am’er where I was so sick by the middle of class I barely made it home. That was no fun, but a learning experience. I’m learning more than ever to take care of myself and respect my physical limits. And yes, I do have some. Teaching can be exhausting, It’s hard to find the balance between teaching class and finding time to take class. I’m still working it out, but mostly I get in the room as much as I can and not worry about the rest. Some days, like today, after teaching a double back to back class, I just do not have it in me to take a class (let alone an Advanced Class). So it is what it is. I get plenty of yoga, and plenty of heat. I still crave more yoga, as I always have. Maybe that will never end. But one day at at time, I make my way.
It’s a New Year, and I’m still a New Teacher. I feel great, but still learning, and that’s why I’m here.
December 13, 2008
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.
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.
November 28, 2008
Eleven days ago I completed Teacher Training. I completed the last classes, my last few lectures, and walked across the stage to accept my certificate from Boss. Only eleven days ago. It’s amazing to me how long ago that seems.
When I wrote the last blog, I was sad about seeing Training end. I remember writing it, the morning of the last Friday. I was sitting on the floor in the hallway, as I often did. I had my breakfast beside me, I felt the cool wind of the morning, and was contemplating what to wear to class that day. I remember that last day. I remember Rajashree’s morning class, so full of energy. I remember the afternoon lecture. I remember Bikram’s final class and the sheer electricity in the hot room that night. I remember standing with my Posture Clinic group and goofing off. I remember laughing, crying, and not quite believing it was really over. I remember when Bikram ended the class and we all screamed and clapped. We jumped up and down and hugged one another. I remember people dancing and cheering. We did it. And really, it was over. That night we had the talent show. It was exhilarating and exhausting to think of what was ahead. I remember not wanting to go to bed that night, so afraid I’d wake up and it would be over. But no matter, I did wake up, and it was over. The next morning felt strange with no yoga class and I started packing up to go home. I went to the pool one last time to sit with my friends. I ate lunch in the sun and thought about graduation. That night, we all walked across the stage and took that little piece of paper from Bikram. It is that piece of paper, coupled with our nine week journey, that would enable us to be Teachers. Nobody in that room had ever looked or felt better than we did at that moment. We shined as brightly as a million stars. We did it. Really, we did it. Graduation gave way to the goodbye dinner. I sat one last time with my beautiful friends, and we all felt a little solemn under the warm evening. As time waned, we started hugging, and crying, and realizing we were parting ways. I remember getting up to leave, and staying another hour just to not have to let go so soon. But when my final goodbyes were done, I walked back to my room feeling spent. I was so ready to go and yet didn’t want the night to end.
I flew out on Sunday, late in the morning. My flight was short, and deposited me back into a cold city. I got off the plane and wondered instantly where I was. I saw my precious babies and my husband for the first time in two months. It was amazing to see their faces, and feel their embrace. I felt like a stranger a little bit. But it wasn’t long before I was mommy again and even now, those 9 weeks seem to have slipped by so quickly.
So, now, I sit here only eleven days past graduation. I have taught four classes at my studio. My tan is fading, all of my suitcases have long been emptied, and I’ve adjusted to the cool weather. I am fully re-initiated into my life here in Texas. It feels strange when I think about it. Some days I struggle to understand what just happened. I no longer spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the sun by the pool. I have a stove, and my own washing machine again. Nobody makes my bed while I am in class every morning, and I no longer sleep alone. I don’t have to sign in four times a day, wait in line for lunch, ask for things in Spanish, or give my room number every time I want something. I don’t have to go to yoga if I don’t feel like it, although I do – unless I am scheduled to teach. I can drive to the store, instead of take a van, and nobody keeps me up until 2 am anymore. Teacher Training is over, and I really really really miss it.
There are things I do not miss. Of course, I love the freedom of being done with Training. I love having my precous husband and kids back, and having a car, and being able to sleep late. I love my home studio, my friends, and my really comfortable bed. I love being home, and I love being a teacher. But I think I will always miss that hot room, the sun, and Mexico. It will never be the same, we can never go back, and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. I’m right where I’m meant to be, a little homesick for Training. I miss Bikram, just like he said. Amazing.
But no matter, I am here now, and I am a Teacher. If there is anything that seals the Training experience, it’s teaching. Teaching is the perfect completion of the circle (thanks Craig), and it’s like the icing on the cake for me. After all that hard work, putting on that headset mic and walking into that hot room feels like the best reward. Hello, my name is Karen, I’m going to be your teacher today. Please come standing in the middle of your mats and towels, toes on the line… The circle is complete.
But the journey goes on, and I have much to learn. I have so much more of myself to find. I have so far to go in my practice and I’m excited to see how it will continue to change. Even as I am growing, my life on the mat will continue to grow and evolve. One of the best things about this yoga is that there is no end. There’s no destination point. It just goes on and on, if we let it. I am excited to see what is ahead. I know there are many ups and downs waiting for me, but the yoga is constant. Even when every class is different, the yoga is the same. 26 and 2.
We say this little phrase a lot in the Bikram world, Eventually or in the future. It’s kind of a little funny part of Bikram’s “language.” I have adopted it so much, and it means a lot to me. Eventually, or in the future, I used to think about being a Bikram Yoga Teacher. Now I am. Everything in its time.