I suppose I should start off with an apology. I realised only the other day that I’ve now been on a 2 month hiatus from this blog, which was honestly never intended. I actually wrote an entry for Week 8 in its entirety whilst I was still at training, but never got around to actually posting it. Time seemed to slip through my fingers in the last couple of weeks, and I began to spend my every spare moment either sleeping, eating, or practicing dialogue. There was really no time for anything else. But anyway, I’ll fill you in now. Better late than never, eh?
Of course, the down side to waiting so long to write this post is that I’ve forgotten a lot of the details of Week 8, but I suppose it’s only the important things that matter, anyway. The big thing was that posture clinics finally ended, albeit in a very rushed and hurried manner. The last few days they went on, they lasted 4 hours as opposed to 3, and entailed most people reciting 2-3 postures at a time, which was totally unexpected and totally daunting. I have vivid, almost traumatic memories of memorising Spine Twisting (the final posture) actually during PC, after I’d delivered Head to Knee with Stretching (which I had just learnt earlier that day). It was not my finest moment from an organisational point of view, but I figured if I could pull off writing 3 end-of-term essays within 24 hours whilst I was at uni, – yes, I did do that once, and yes, I did live to regret it – I could learn 20 lines of dialogue in half an hour at TT. The reason for speeding PCs up so much? To make way for Bikram’s own posture clinics, of course! But these ones had nothing to do with dialogue.
Instead, they entailed Bikram entering the lecture room in a tracksuit and announcing to us in a particularly hokey, pantomime-ish voice, “Oh no! I seem to have forgotten my posture clinic outfit… Oh wait!” And, giving us a cheesey grin and wiggling his hips back and forth, he would proceed to strip off said tracksuit to reveal a succession of sparkly lamé outfits that all included shockingly tiny shorts and matching wife beater tops. Admittedly, the first time he pulled this stunt, I did crack a smile. It was probably one of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever witnessed, and like I’ve said before, if you don’t laugh you start to go insane. But after the third time it started to get old. And whilst many other trainees would unfailingly give him the desired reaction every time – whooping, wolf-whistling, and singing the tune to that strip-tease song everyone knows but no one knows the title of… you know the one – my patience started wearing thin. I started fantasising about the day I would never have to set eyes on Bikram again, having grown increasingly tired of his inappropriate jokes and dependence on admiration. And, to top it all off, his posture clinics weren’t even bloody helpful. Looking back at my notes from those sessions, I realise now I barely wrote anything besides the occasional obvious tip like “Make sure the feet don’t inch closer together during 1st part of Awkward”. As opposed to offering us any real wisdom or insight into his yoga, Bikram just spent his posture clinics asking the people with the best examples of each posture to come up and demonstrate, just so he could yank them into more extreme expressions.
The rest of Week 8 also included a number of “lectures”, once again, during which I managed to complete an impressive number of sudoku puzzles and coloured in a very detailed elephant from my friend Heidi’s adult colouring book. I have the occasional bulletpoint in my notebook of a gem that managed to shine through the rest of the bullshit Bikkers was spouting that week. But for the most part, I was just done. Mentally resigned. Totally fucking fed up. My eyes were on the prize: the certificate I would finally get my hands on after 9 weeks of struggling. I think we also watched a couple of films that week… One of which was one of the “Step Up” films, which was justified by the fact that Bikram had apparently helped to choreograph it, despite the fact that his name was suspiciously absent from the credits. I believe it was during this film screening that I ended up collapsed on the floor at the back of the lecture room sobbing my eyes out. The exhaustion had finally gotten to me, and after weeks of thinking I might just make it through without having a full-scale meltdown, I broke. Honesty, had I not only had just over a week to go by that point, I’m not sure I would have made it.
But Week 8 did end with a saving grace, in the form of Thanksgiving. On the Thursday evening, after having pushed us through yet another grueling class, Bikram announced that he would give us the next day off, besides the one morning yoga class, essentially granting us a three-day weekend; a move that was apparently totally unprecedented and wholly unexpected by staff and students alike. So, although I missed out on my beloved turkey and sweet potato with marshmallows, I nevertheless found myself exceedingly thankful. And overwhelmingly relieved.
All the same though, I feel it worth mentioning that I started to have two pretty constant anxieties going into Week 9. The first was that I was going to feel overwhelmingly lonely after training. After getting so accustomed to constantly being around 124 other people, I worried that going back to my normal life, which entails being alone for at least five hours per day, would drive me into a depression. It wasn’t an irrational fear, either. I spoke to numerous TT graduates who all reported feelings of intense loneliness, and one of whom who strongly warned me against staying at home alone for any amount of time in the month or so following training.
“You’ll feel jet lagged,” she warned. “You’ll want to do nothing but sleep, you won’t want to to leave the house. But you have to. Go to the yoga studio, go sit in a cafe, go be around other people, for your own sake.”
These conversations really started playing on my mind during the extended weekend between Weeks 8 and 9, and grateful as I was for the extra rest, I found distracting myself from these trains of thought was just another exhausting form of work. And trying to discuss it with my other half only gave way to my second anxiety: that I’d never be able to explain any of this to people back home. Yes, I had my blog. And yes, I’d been speaking to people in the outside world pretty regularly. But I still felt that what I’d been put through during those months would never be truly understandable to anyone who hadn’t actually been there with me. I was worried I would get home, fall into a depression, and be unable to explain why. It was the weirdest mish-mash of feelings; on the one hand, I wanted nothing more than to leave that fucking place already, and on the other, I wasn’t sure I even knew how to exist in the outside world anymore. Looking back on it now, those fears seem irrational and ridiculous, but at the time they were very real and very scary.
But Week 9 began soon enough and quickly distracted me from those thoughts, mainly because it was the longest and most painful week of the entire training programme. I was expecting it to fly by, after all the staff tells you not to count the last week because it’s just the “wrapping up” week.
“Don’t count it”, my ass.
The days were longer, the bedtimes later, and my muscles sorer. Not a single evening lecture was dismissed before 2 AM, and the Thursday night saw us trapped watching a Bollywood film until past 4 AM. If Week 8 was starting to wear my patience down, then Week 9 served as the final test of my sanity. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that the end was near, and that I was mere days away from getting my certificate and being able to come home a teacher. Which I am immensely proud to say I did.
On 5 December, 2015, I put on make up for the first time in 2 months, put on a dress instead of yoga clothes, stepped into a pair of heels in lieu of my Birkenstocks, and got my teaching certificate. I remember trembling a bit when walking across the stage to shake Bikram’s hand, feeling a mixture of nervousness, excitement, relief, and sadness. (I also remember feeling immensely weirded out when he complimented me on my dress, telling me he and I were matching… Let’s just say I didn’t find that much of a compliment.)
Not sure if you can make out exactly what Bikkers is wearing there, but in case you were wondering, yes, those are purple satin trousers and snakeskin shoes. So you can maybe see why I wasn’t thrilled to be told I matched him.
But there was a weird atmosphere that hung over the graduation proceedings, and that I couldn’t really shake for the rest of that night. I suppose it was a bit somber, really, and a bit surreal. I couldn’t help but notice that the ballroom was barely half full, with a lot of empty seats. I was reminded that only two training sessions previously, when there would have been over 300 graduates, it would have been packed. This time, it seemed sad and empty. And all the staff members had odd smiles plastered on their faces, as though they were trying to pretend everything was fine whilst being acutely aware that ours might be the last ever Bikram TT graduating class. There was a sense of grim finality about all of the proceedings. And relieved as I was, I was also uneasy. Looking back on it now, in the light of recent events surrounding Bikram and his empire (which I won’t go into here), maybe there was some foreshadowing going on there. But whatever it was, it felt like we were going out with less of a bang and more of a fizzle.
Of course, that’s not counting what a lot of us got up to at the beach bar later that night, but that’s another story for another time… 😉
That’s all for now, readers, but stay tuned! Tales of teaching and the post-training come-down will follow shortly. Thank you all for sticking with me through this weird and wonderful journey. Namaste, bitches! X