Looking inward.

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.

Namaste.

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.

Namaste.

Midpoint ponderings.

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!

Namaste.

OK so I owe you guys a TON of pictures.  Here we go.  In no real particular order.  Enjoy!!  *if you click them, they get bigger..*

My very first class, and YES it was THAT hot..

The first night we watched a movie with Boss.  YES, I am wearing a scarf and sweater.. I also had a blanket.  YES, I fell asleep.  It was realllly late.

Half Moon Posture clinic.  I was in line waiting to go.

The Spa..  So wonderful.

Renee, Jane, and I at the spa.

Fun in the van on the way to Walmart.

Shakti Laundry.  It happens.

In the lecture hall.

I don’t know why I have this random picture of Andrés.  But hey, here you go.  I think we were all trying to stay awake in lecture.

Hotel beauty..  Yeah, it’s paradise.

Mafrita!!!  My amazing roomie.  We discovered we were wearing EXACTLY the same thing to bed one night.  Aye….  yes, we are odd.

Back when I used to take ice into class.  I don’t anymore..  Too much work!

Meah catches a nap in Posture Clinic.

GROUP 16!!!!!  Clearly the COOLEST kids in the whole place..

Going out with the girls.  Jane, Me, Briah (Bree-Uh)

Our outing to Aca..  Renee, me, Briah.

Todd’s amazing artwork/dialogue.

Adorable Robert from Holland, teaching Toe Stand with this WHOLE BODY.

My drawer full of yoga duds..

Returned to my room after Boss’s lecture to find a cake from Dave on our Anniversary.  I ate the WHOLE thing at 12:30 in the morning.  SO GOOOOOD!!!!

Posture Clinic..  all day, every day..

Aye CARUMBA!!  Mauricio, my boyfriend..  (eh, no.. not really)..  But hey, he DOES smell pretty good 😉  Please note the tiger shorts.  MUCHO CALIENTE!!!

Milling about in the yoga room before class starts.

A room full of tortoises.

I can’t believe I’m this happy before Camel.  But yeah, I am.  Today, end of week Five.  Right before second set of Ustrasana.

My standing bow.  Not bad, eh??

Triangle.  Also, not bad..

Love your camel.

A little relaxing by the pool.

Spoiling myself just a bit while I study dialogue.

The Pyramid.  One of the three buildings in the hotel.  My room is in this tower.  Home, for now.

To tell you the truth…

October 11, 2008

WOW, week four is over.  I am almost halfway!  WOW.

I know I haven’t been writing much, or saying much, or *ahem* posting any pictures.  Bear with me, it’s all good.  I’ve always been really honest here on this blog.  So, I am going to talk a little bit about how I’ve been feeling this week with true candor, well..  because I can.

Before I came here, I got SO much advice, information, insight, whatever.. about how this Training was going to be.  I read so many blogs, heard so many stories about it.  I was SO sure I knew how it was going to be.  Well, as per usual it isn’t at all what I expected, or what I was told, really.  OK, OK, maybe a little bit like what I expected.  But overall, not really.

The truth is..  are you ready????  I am happy here.  I know!  That’s good huh?  I feel so incredibly in my element.  I have been a little afraid to say it.  I’ve been worrying that if I say that, it will change.  But, I don’t want to live in fear that this will or won’t change.  I want to share it, so you guys know how I feel.  I’m all good.  I’m sore, exhausted, cranky, hot (duh), and homesick..  yes, I am.  But 85% of the time (or more) I am happy here.  I love it here.  I love the classes, I love posture clinic, I love my friends.  And at the risk of sounding truly annoying, I really really really love the yoga.  I better, right?  Ha.

The good thing about being happy is that no matter how horrible it gets, and it can get pretty bad at times, home base is good.  I feel safe here, I feel healthy, I feel STRONG.  My body is a machine.  Even though they tell us we’re not supposed to necessarily focus on our practices improving during Training, mine is.  I’ve been well and strong since Day One (save that nasty ear thing and a small cold), and have never left my mat.  I have really done well with my dialogue and I feel good about going home to teach.

Oh, and I have an awesome roommate.  I do.  She rocks.

So, in my heightened state of bliss, I fall deeper and deeper in love with the yoga.  I am getting it.  I understand more every time I go into the room.  Of course, I have my days when I want to tear my hair out, or rip off my clothes and run screaming, or just scream.  I have those days, trust me.  I have days when I sob and cry and miss my kids so badly it aches.  I have long nights with movies in Hindi that I neither understand nor care to understand.  I have days when those precious 3 or 4 hours of sleep just aren’t enough.  Yeah, I have those.  But, I signed up for this, on purpose.  And no matter what, there’s always a weekend coming.  And, the best part?  At the end of this nine weeks, I will have a whole new life.  I will be a teacher (or a teacher in the making, at least), and I will have my certificate.  I’ll have crossed over that invisible chasm and have survived the Torture Chamber.  I will be a completely different person.

For all of that, I am thankful and very happy.  And, that is the truth.

Namaste.

Check-in

October 8, 2008

Oh boy.  It’s been a while.  Truth?  I wrote a huge, long “update” this weekend and decided not to publish it.  Yeah, I know.  It had pictures and everything.  But alas, I did not publish it.

I’m doing fine.  Many of you, whom I speak with regularly anyway already know most of what’s going on with me.  You know my daily ups and downs.  For those of you who are outside of that loop, rest assured I am just fine.  The pace has picked up considerably in the last week, and blogging has kind of fallen to the side in my priorities.

There really is no way (for me, anyway) to really describve this experience.  I’ve tried, many times, and my attempts always seem so feeble.  I came to the conclusion last week that overall, this Training is impossible to understand unless you are actually here or have been here before.  And yes, even despite my very eloquent writing skills, I feel like writing about it is a little empty.  It’s beneficial, for many personal reasons and it certainly keeps all of you connected.  But in general, I’m not very good at the chronicaling of this 9 weeks, that I initally set out to do.  Which, to be honest, is just fine with me.  I haven’t got the time to be that diligent.

So, on a practical note, we’re here in the middle of week four.  Posture Clinics are rocking along and as I said before, the pace seems to have picked up quite a bit.  I’m not comlaining one bit.  As per the usual, the weekends are so restorative for me.  This past weekend I got a cold, which I am still nursing.  Seems we all have some kind of something we’re dealing with.  I’m just glad it’s not in my stomach.

Classes are..  well, fine.  Good and bad.  You know, the same.  Overall, I definitely feel stronger.  You just never know going into that room what’s going to happen.  The easiest thing to do is to just have no expectations and let it go.

I hope all of you are well.  I’ll try to write more later this week.  Namaste

Ritual and the unexpected.

October 1, 2008

Boss came back last night!  And oh how fun it was to see him again.

I have this little ritual in the morning.  I wake up around 5:45 or 6, go straight to the fridge and get my sea salt, take it, have a glass of water, wash out my laundry from the night before, hang it up, eat some breakfast, then I grab my laptop and head out in the hallway (where I am now) to check things online.  I do this in pretty much the same order every morning.  Sometimes I sleep a little late, if I’m very tired or if we’ve been up late the night before.  Sometimes I skip the laundry, but overall it’s the same.  Sameness, ritual, it keeps me slightly more sane.

I’ve been falling into a groove here in Acapulco.  I feel some days a bit like a gerbil in a maze, chasing the cracker.  Other days this groove feels safe and familiar.  Either way, this groove has become so familiar to me that I think I could almost do it without even being awake.  Almost.  But the one element of this pattern and ritual that I never can foresee is the yoga class.  Sure, I arrive to the room the same time each day.  I have my water, my mat, my ipod.  I grab my towels, walk down the same side of the steps, sign in, put my things away and set up.  I usually sit in the lobby and chat or listen to music, and get ready for my class.  But even in all of this pattern, with its sameness and its rhythm, the unknown still lies in those 90 or so minutes of class.  No matter how much the same I do things, the classes never are.

I’ve said before that I don’t think one can ever truly prepare for an experience like this.  You can’t really know what it will be like to be here until you are here.  This is all for a good reason.  I expressed to a friend last night that I feel like I’ve started over in my practice.  Sure I have in my body and in the muscle fibers all of the memory of the asanas.  Sure I have the built up strength of years of repeating this yoga over and over.  But the intensity of this Training, and the profundity of what it’s doing to my body make me feel like a brand new yogini.

Jim said last night in lecture, The only bad class you have is the one you don’t do.  But I am a labeler.  I can’t help it.  I say constantly, yeah that was a good/bad class.  Some days I say, yeah that was a great class or yeah that was a terrible class.  Why?  I guess in my flesh I want to quantify and qualify my experiences.  I long to grade myself and measure what I’m doing on some invisible scale.  It doesn’t even matter.  Whatever system I am using is flawed anyway.

So my goal is to just let the yoga be.  Let the ritual be what it will be, and let go.  90 percent is showing up, that’s what the teacher’s say.  And for the most part, that choice has already been made for me.  I show up without even trying most days.  It just happens.  So, the rest is easy right?  Well, not always.  But you know what I mean.

My practice became a ritual for me.  I built it into the fiber of my day, like washing my clothes or eating a meal.  But once I’m on the mat, all bets are off.  Those 90 minutes are unique each and every time.  And that’s how it should be.

Namaste