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.
October 20, 2008
Wow, well I am really over halfway done with Training. But I didn’t have time to really write much this week, so I’m catching up now. Thanks to all of you who have stopped by to see the pictures. I wish I could have gotten them up sooner. But they’re up now, and as you can see, this place is pretty amazing.
So, thoughts on Teacher Training from the midpoint… Wow, what a ride. I say it over and over and over and over, but wow.. what a ride. If I think back to the day I left Houston to come here I can hardly believe all that I’ve been through. Getting here was such a big deal, and then the hurricane hit. It was a whirlwind for about two weeks. Training started and the madness ensued.
I remember a lot of it. I remember Orientation, meeting the staff, the welcome dinner. I remember that FIRST CLASS. I remember meeting Bikram. It all feels like a year ago. But really, it’s only been five weeks, so much time and yet so little. I remember how anxiously we all navigated around one another for the first week or so. I remember the rough transition into the heat of the yoga room, the adjustment to the humidity, and finidng ways to cope with the class. I remember thinking I was starting over like a brand new baby with my practice. I remember feeling like I was going to die, wanting to die, and hoping I would die so they would have to carry me out. But I also remember feeling better and laughing at Bikram’s hilarious commentery in class. I remember when my body said, “thank you” and worked harder for me. I remember the glee of making it through without sitting out a single posture for the first time. I remember thinking I’ve never worked harder in my life for anything. I remember thinking I’d make it afterall, then the next day not being so sure. I remember crying through more classes than I can count. I remember all the compassionate arm squeezes, handfulls of ice, and “are you ok’s??” I remember giving up on trying to figure out why I was crying, and feeling so free. I remember the first Posture Clinic with Boss. I remember nailing my dialogue one day, then struggling the next. I remember ANATOMY with NO BOOKS!! I remember my first LATE night with a Bollywood movie. I remember wanting to scream I was so tired, but having nowhere to go. I remember the ache that finally subsided from missing my kids and my husband so much. I remember the day I accepted that I was supposed to be here.
And now here I am, about to being week six, a new person. This is not the body that flew to Mexico so many weeks ago. It’s not the same brain or the same heart. I have a long way to go, and a lot more to do. But being here, at the crossroads, just over the mountaintop – is really, really, really awesome.
If I look back at those goals that I set for myself the first night in Acapulco, I can honestly say I’ve really accomplished most of them. I’ve given my full effort to this experience. And, I’ve NEVER left my mat. All of those little victories are adding up to what I hope will be the start of my new life teaching. But, I’ve still four weeks ahead.
So, in celebration of this landmark, I’ve decided to write a Thankful list. I used to do these a lot on my other blog. I think it’s only fitting, seeing as how I have so much to be thankful for. So here goes.
Things I am thankful for today:
I am thankful that I am here.
I am thankful for this yoga.
I am thankful for my husband and family.
I am thankful for so many people who believe in me.
I am thankful for my studio at home.
I am thankful that Training is halfway finished.
I am thankful for my amazing friends.
I am thankful for my roommate.
I am thankful for the staff here.
I am thankful for this beautiful place that I get to call home.
I am thankful to be able to be included in this amazing group of people.
I am thankful that I *can* do this.
I am thankful for my body.
I am thankful for water, salt, and sleep.
I am thankful for my ipod.
I am thankful for all the shorts I brought with me.
I am thankful for my water bottles and my insulated bottle sleeves.
I am thankful for my watch.
I am thankful for caffeine, crackers, and chewing gum.
I am thankful for blogging, and having the internet.
I am thankful for my Posture Clinic group.
I am thankful that the weekend is always coming.
I am thankful for the pool.
I am thankful that I can buy a new yoga mat because I killed the first one.
I am thankful that I don’t have to wash my own towels.
I am thankful for my maid, the lunch buffet, and the ICE MACHINE!!!
I am thankful for candy. Yes, really. Candy, especially caramels.
I am thankful for the van that carries me to the grocery store every Saturday.
I am thankful for my small, laminated, dialogue that has been through so much.
I am thankful for my alarm clock.
I am thankful for my bed.
I am thankful that I get Sunday off.
and yes.. I am thankful for Bikram.
I could probably go on and on. But I think that should do it for now.
This week should be interesting. We are supposed to have some great lectures this week with Rajashree. I am looking forward to seeing her happy smiling face again! As always, more YOGA, and more POSTURE CLINIC!!! My dialogue is going really well and I only have TWO more postures to learn. WOW. I worked really hard this weekend to get through a bunch. It is nice to know I am almost done.
As always, my love to you all. Here’s to four more weeks!
September 30, 2008
I’m here, doing this Training. So far, I’m enjoying it. Well, you know, mostly enjoying it. It’s got it’s ups and downs (have I said that before??). But there are things that I may never understand about being here. And it’s probably for the best. Maybe in six or ten or twelve months it will add up and make sense. Maybe not. Who knows?
This experience is so unique. I’m almost three weeks in, more or less, and I can’t even really explain it to anyone. I have come to the conclusion that it’s just something to let go. Explaining this journey to anyone who either has never walked it or never will is, well, a little maddening. I don’t mind answering questions, of course. I love to talk. I love to share, obviously, and writing is one of my outlets. But for me, I have started to become more reclusive in the things I’m sharing. I’ve given more vague answers than specific ones and I do it on purpose. I get the same questions over and over. What’s it like? How are the classes? What are you learning? How do you feel? My answers are generally the same. It’s challenging, but amazing. The classes are tough, but good. I am learning more than I can ever share here, and I feel awesome. But what people really want to know is far deeper than than. They want to know if I’m going crazy with homesickness, if the classes are killing me, and if my body is really holding up in this extreme situation. They want to know what I’m being indoctrinated with, and how different I will be when I come back to them in 7 weeks. I know, I know you all so well.
But the truth is, I may never even understand it all. I am trying. But it’s a little like being told a parable that you hold tightly to for years and years. Then, suddenly, one day that story becomes applicable. Light is shone on the truth of it, and you suddenly understand. I think a lot of yoga is like that. We are given nuggets of wisdom, truth, stories, parables, thoughts, ideas. If we are wise, and are paying attention, we store those things away for later use. That’s what this Training is. We are storing up truth, ideas, knowledge, and information that will enable us to go out and teach this yoga to others. I (we) don’t always celebrate this, of course. Why on earth is Boss keeping us up until 2 am watching a movie we don’t get? Why are we sitting here listening to lectures hour after hour? Why? Because we may never understand them. BUT, then again, one day we may. And I think just the glimpse of hope that one day we may is reason enough to listen.
Last night in Jim’s class I became incredibly angry. WHY is he holding this set of Cobra for so long? I am so FUCKING HOT, let me out!!!! I want to lay my head down. Ugh, doesn’t he get that? I can’t stand it when teachers hold us in this posture for so LONG. Oh and why is the heat so oppressive tonight? WHY? I hate this. Well, obviously I don’t hate it. Obviously I love it, or I wouldn’t be here, right? YES! Of course I love it. I came out of that cobra weeping, sobbing, and cursing the hot, soaked mat I was laying on. But five minutes later, as I did floor bow, I understood that long cobra. My warm spine bent easily and effortlessly. I held that posture with gratitude. Later Jim went on to tell us a story about loyalty, and how it’s one of the hightest Spiritual attributes you can have. Loyalty, huh? You mean, like loyalty to this yoga? Yeah, see? I get that.
There’s a lot I may never understand here. But what I know for sure is that it doesn’t matter. I do the best I can, give what I have to give, and commit to learning it. I may never understand even a fraction of what I am taught during this Training. But it’s all stored inside of me, like precious jewels that I may one day need to pull out to save my life. And for that, I am truly thankful.
September 29, 2008
It’s been an interesting week. Week 2. I am totally feeling the ups and downs. The week starts off with energy and by midweek I feel drained. The weekends are the best. I feel so refreshed on the weekends. I think it’s what makes this process bearable, the knowledge of those 46 hours off. Yeah, I counted the hours.
This week I’ve learned a lot about my practice. I had many incredibly strong classes. It felt SO good to just feel the yoga in my body. I am getting leaner and stronger. But one of the hard things about this Training is that when it’s great it’s REALLY great, but when it gets tough, it can get REALLY tough. I feel like the room is getting hotter, which it very well may be. I had a few classes this week when I truly felt that my body wouldn’t be able to do this Training. I had another emotional breakdown on Friday evening in class. I just sobbed and sobbed. A lot of it was exhaustion, but a lot of it was also an overwhelming release of so much of the anxiety I brought with me to Acapulco. I am learning that it’s easier just to let it go, so I did. The process gives way to the healing, even when it’s tough. Physically it feels harder to actually let this happen. But it’s more emotional than physical, and I know it. I’d prefer to muscle through and fight it off, but my body and spirit has other plans for me. I am healing on such a profound level. I don’t love it all the time, but I know it’s best for me.
We had some great lectures this week. We’ve been studying more Anatomy and had a very talented woman come talk to us about how to use our voices. She was great and brought a lot of energy to the group. Bikram gave more lectures on Yoga this week. We saw one Bollywood movie and also had the lovely Emmy Cleaves with us all week. Oh how I love Emmy. I’m not sure if she’s going to be here next week. She helped me in posture clinic with my left side Triangle. Oy, I won’t soon forget that experience! And my Triangle is certainly better for it. Her classes were so wonderful. She teaches very deliberately and gives really detailed information about postures. I learned so much about alignment and correct positioning. Learning learning..
So.. How’s the body holding up? Well, really well. I still feel overall really great. No dehydration, no cramping, and no real misery outside of overheating in the room. Physically, I’m great. I do tend to get a little weak in class at times and find it hard to get my heart rate down. Once again, the sea salts are saving my life. Thank God for pure minerals and electrolytes. Thanks Arnie!
On a more business-y note, there was some talk this week about my blog going private. I know many of you have commented and emailed me about it, and I had considered it as well. However, I have decided not to do this afterall. The general feeling here (in the Training), and the impression and requests I think we have all gotten from the staff and teachers is that this experience is unique. The way that we, as students blogging, speak about Training affects the way the outside world (and potential future Trainees) view it. It is inappropriate, I believe, to overshare others’ personal experiences, give specifics from the lectures (Copyrighted information), drop names, and gossip. However, I do feel that this blog, and many of the blogs being written by my fellow students are very helpful to those we have said goodbye to at home. These blogs are our lifeline and outlet. They serve to inform our loved ones and friends of the daily goings on here in Acapulco. For that reason, I have chosen to leave mine public. You may find as you read that my blog is fairly general, and at times vague. This serves several purposes both for myself and out of respect for the requests being made of us while we are here. Please understand this, and do remember that this Training is an incredibly unique community. We are all here for different reasons, coming from different places, and will all have a different point of view. I hope that my words shared offer a glimpse of this community, with the utmost respect to the staff, the Senior Teachers, Bikram, and especially my fellow Trainees.
I hope you all have a lovely week.
September 16, 2008
This will likely be pretty brief. I’m very tired and want to curl up on my bed and study.
So, wow, so much to write and impossible to fit it all in. Yesterday we started with orientation, followed by a welcome dinner. It was all very nice. We met the staff, got signed in, given the down low on rules and shuffled off to bed. This morning was a late morning with more orientation, and then we met Bikram. He talked to us for about an hour. So much about Bikram, far more than I can say here. I am sure as the weeks go on, I will have a lot to say. He’s immediately engaging, outrageous, and hilarious. We then had lunch, another session of more orientation and then a break to prepare for class.
They’ve been telling us, “take it easy honey.” The first week is NOT about killing yourself or proving yourself to anyone. The first week is about not passing out and acclimating to the overwhelming humidity, the room, the heat, and the new environment. That said, I can see now why they warn us so much. It’s hard to not push and not want to go for it. But I did take it easy tonight and I’m glad. By about Standing Bow my body had taken over that decision and I was taking small breaks. I had some shaky legs, some nausea, and LOTS of dizziness. Nothing that forced me to leave my mat or anything like that, but not very fun either. The Standing Series was much harder for me than the Floor Series. I got very discouraged and thought many many times to myself, “I can’t do this! Why am I here?? What was I thinking??” By Savasana (midpoint rest) I was crying. I wanted to run, I wanted to scream, I wanted OUT OF THE FUCKING ROOM!!! But I didn’t go, I stayed, and I was glad for it. The room is so big, and so overwhelming. Just staring at the ceiling tiles can make you feel like you are going to fall over. I didn’t, but I felt like I might. Ahhh my FIRST breakdown, YAYYYY it’s OVER! But somewhere around Locust I was fine, happy, laughing at the Boss man, doing both sets. I finished class fine, and was smiling by the end. I even had water left in my bottle.
I’m going to be fine. I am.
I stayed in the room. Right? Goal number one. I stayed in the room.
Anyway, I’ve been a little up and a little down today. Raj said last night everyone experiences the breakdown, everyone will have this happen. Some will have it now, some will have it in the middle, some will have it later. Some will have it the whole time. I miss my family. I miss them so much, and have no idea how they’re doing with this horrible situation in Houston. I can’t get to them, I can’t. It’s maddening.
But, I am here. I am here and the only way I can bere here is to just be here. They’ve been telling us to just be here. Be here now. I’m trying.
Tomorrow morning starts with another class with Bikram. I’m looking forward to having a real day here with two full classes and posture clinic. I am itching to give my dialogue for Half Moon. Get it over with!!!
I will write again as I can. Love to you all.
Here’s a quick look at the room tonight just before class.
August 7, 2008
Well, first of all, I am not sore. I went to bed SO incredibly sore I was near weeping when I pulled my aching frame under the sheets. But something happened between 11 pm and 7 am and I woke up with zero soreness anywhere. Really. I was so done with it yesterday evening that I told myself that if I woke up feeling stiff again, I was taking a day off. Nothing, not even a tight hamstring today. This yoga works, believe it.
Arnie taught 9:30 today. I haven’t been in that class in a while, but I love it. There’s so much energy in the room. There are a lot of “regulars” there every day. I took my new favorite spot and had a good class. It was HUMID to the max and my body moved well. I am thinking maybe taking it easy on myself yesterday paid off today. I was able to work a bit deeper than I have in a few days. Anyhow, boy was it a long one. Arnie taught a one hour, 49 minute class. I was feeling it by the end. I had a hard time in the first set of Ustrasana and ended flat on my back for fear of blacking out. I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t especially overheated or nauseas. But I couldn’t get myself even into the setup without the room seeming to spin. Second set was awesome and I felt that really killer stretch all the way up and down my body. So good.
So, since I’m always looking to educate myself further about my practice, this yoga, and all things Bikram, I have a special thanks to give today. Social networks are amazing things. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace – they all bring us closer together. I think the Bikram world especially is tight in the virtual world. And since I never pass up an opportunity to live my life on the web, I really love it. I had the amazing opportunity recently to “converse” with Mary Jarvis on Facebook. Mary is the founder and owner of Global Yoga San Francisco. She is also a deeply respected name in the Bikram world. Mary offered me some fresh insights into my backbends. Since the Challenge began I have had a love/hate relationship with all things backward bending. But recently I’ve been having some discouragement and frustration with my backbends. Since Mary is all about the backbends I asked her for her insights. She gave them to me. My life and my spine will never be the same. Mary encouraged me to try some new things, do a few things differently and GO FOR IT!!!! I’ve been working on it. Today I finally felt it in the third part of Half Moon. I finally felt the zen of the backbend. I’ve heard about it. I’ve read about it. I’ve wished for it. Today I got it. And yes, Mary, I did squeeze the shit out of my hands! So, Mary, thank you. Thanks for encouraging and instructing, even from far away. You are a legend, and I long to meet you one day. Eventually, in the future. 😉
I’m considering a double today. I’ll keep you posted.