I’m back. For realsies. Promise. 

I realised a few days ago that I have taken yet another massive hiatus from this blog. Oy vey. 
I’m not going to apologise, though, because the lack of writing was mainly due to the fact that I started a new job at a wedding website where I write A LOT about random shit about weddings… which I’m good at because I know way too much random shit about weddings anyway so it’s great to have a place to word-vom all of it.

  
But this new job has also been a catalyst for me making a couple of resolutions to myself (even though we’re half way through the year now but shhhh). The first is that, because I have to write so much for work now, I will write more for myself. Which isn’t something I’ve really done in a long time – especially fiction writing – so rebooting this blog is part of that initiative.
The second is that I need to get my shit together and finally do the Whole30, which I have been umming and aahing over for a couple of months. Now that my Uveitis is back and I’ve returned to pummelling my body with drugs (and not the fun kind), I have to start taking better care of myself. The Whole30 was first brought to my attention by my friend Bobbi as a way to help some awful stomach cramps I’d been having which I couldn’t understand the cause of. I went ahead and bought the book and did a load of research… and then didn’t start it. I realised this was stupid of me, so 7 days ago I cut the crap and went full speed ahead.

  
I’ll talk more about Whole30 in the coming days and weeks, keeping you updated on my progress, how much I’m craving Phish Food ice cream, and what my fave Whole30 compliant recipes are. And if you don’t give a shit, well, don’t read my blog until July I guess. (Only do because I love you!) I am going to need all the moral support and cheerleading I can get because tbh I just really love pasta and sugar and I’m dreading going to the cinema this weekend to see Wonder Woman and not being allowed my precious pick ‘n’ mix. Pray for me. 

  
Anyway, back to the topic of the new job. If you were wondering whether this means I’ve stopped teaching yoga, the answer is FUCK NO. I still teach at Bikram Yoga Bristol and I still love every moment of what I do. I just basically needed some more money. Because, y’know, food… and bills… 
Actually, though, I’ve discovered that teaching less has made me enjoy it more. Now that my opportunities to teach are rarer, I take more advantage of them, and I feel I can give more to my students. 

Not that I don’t miss teaching more; I totally do. But at least I know that, for the moment, whenever I walk into the hot room to lead a class, I am going in with complete presence of mind and excitement to see how my students have progressed, as opposed to slumping in thinking, “Oh not this shit again.” 
And believe me, if you’re a Bikram teacher, you have definitely thought that more often than not. If you haven’t, you’re lying to yourself. 
I must admit that this job has sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, though, where I cannot figure out for the actual life of me what I actually want to do. Like, with my life. Do I want to have my own studio? Do I want to try to be a writer? Do I want to drop everything and go to law school so I can do my best to be an advocate and catalyst for change in this seriously messed up world? (Yes, this is something I am seriously considering.)
I’m at a serious crossroads here. And no, sadly I’m not referring to the Britney Spears film which was a masterpiece of our times. I mean I feel very confused and really quite lost. 

  
But hey, I got no time for feeling down about that right now because I have 23 days left of not being allowed pizza, which is definitely taking priority as a bigger problem in my head at this moment. 
God I just want some damn cheese.
IN OTHER NEWS

  • Just before I started my new job, I ended up getting corralled onto a Mindfulness retreat in Essaouira, Morocco with Jackie of Sky Garden Retreat. Essaouira is now my fave place and Jackie and I are soulmates. I also made friends with a lovely man there who makes shoes (because of course I did). You need this retreat. Learn more here.
  • Thanks to the aforementioned Bobbi, I’m now part of a book club in Brizzle where we read cool books and then talk about them whilst eating lots of food. Our most recent book was My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal. Not my favourite, but still a striking read.
  • I am the MOST pumped to be taking part in Inferno Hot Pilates’ first ever UK teacher training in Warwick next month! I’ll be teaching IHP around Bath and Bristol post-training, so I’m very excited to share the class with you and to share my teaching experiences here.
  • I am still traumatised over Valentina getting kicked off RuPaul’s Drag Race 2 weeks ago, but this interview with Bob the Drag Queen made me feel slightly better about it. I am also SO glad Alexis and Nina have gone the fuck home. It was about damn time. Still can’t decide whether I’m on Team Sasha or Team Shea, though. Bear with.
  • Re: RPDR. This:  

You can’t please all of the people all of the time

So I hit a teaching milestone last week. I had my first complaint filed against me by a student.

Well, maybe that’s the wrong phrasing. It wasn’t filed against me, as such. The student in question wrote a very long, detailed email to the general studio email address that was addressed directly to me. And it didn’t exactly say complimentary things. He evidently has issues with almost every aspect of my class and my teaching style, and felt that I needed to know he was unhappy with me. And not only that, but that some aspects of my teaching are, to him, just plain wrong.

To clarify, the student has been coming to the studio where I teach for a very long time and has, himself, been to Bikram Teacher Training (although he has never taught), and he feels he knows a great deal about the practice. Evidently, he also felt he needed to take it upon himself to right my teaching wrongs, by essentially writing me an essay on everything I’m doing incorrectly.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not consider myself a perfect teacher, by any means. I am far from it. I still stumble over the occasional line, I make lots of awkward jokes, and I’m still not totally comfortable in my skin whilst standing on that podium. And I am always looking for constructive criticism from my fellow teachers. I have learnt that teaching is as much of a lifetime practice as a yoga practice. Every class I teach teaches me something new, and I don’t think I will ever stop learning. So had this student’s email been a few points on how to make my classes better (or had he spoken to me directly instead of emailing the studio), I might have been a little less thrown off.

But that’s not what the email was. What it was was a direct assault on everything I do and everything I say whilst teaching. From my occasional jokes, to the fact that I like to offer a few personal stories of how the practice helped me… He wasn’t down with any of it.

And at first, I was insulted. Then I was angry. I ended up sobbing at home later that night, fuming to my other half. “How DARE this pompous ass who’s never even had the balls to teach try to tell me how to do my job?!” It felt like my worst teaching nightmare had actually come true. Because when you get up on the podium to teach, you’re totally putting yourself out there for your students to see, warts and all. There’s no act to hide behind. It’s just you, in a sports bra and leggings, trying to help a room full of people achieve their best in their practice whilst simultaneously wearing your heart on your sleeve. And I already second-guess every damn move I make and word I say when I’m teaching, so having someone confirm those criticisms completely tipped me over the edge.

I wish I were about to tell you that I had a sudden yogic epiphany at that point that made me see the light about the situation and calm down, but I totally didn’t. I’m still kind of mad. I guess I have a ways to go to reach my enlightenment. Hey, I never said I was perfect.

BUT what I have realised (and the reason I’m writing this blog post) is that his whole email is actually not my damn problem.

So, my teaching isn’t perfect. I know it isn’t. I’m still a baby in the teaching world, it shouldn’t be! But I do know that I have students who really like my classes and who turn up to the studio especially to be taught by me. I have students who laugh at my stupid jokes and thank me for class on their way out of the studio. I also have a lot of students who are totally ambivalent to me, and that’s great too! As long as they’re turning up to practice for themselves and for the love of yoga, I am more than happy to teach them. I’m not there for them to love me, or even like me, I’m there to facilitate their practice and help them improve. And as for my teaching? I’m fine with the way it is right now, but I always look to get better, which is something I will do with time and experience.

I was also reminded by the freesia tattoo on my arm (long story) of something my favourite teacher once said to me when I was an emo 13 year-old getting bullied at school. “If you ever change yourself to please somebody else, I will be severely disappointed in you.” I am not about to change my teaching style to suit this student. Plenty of people like it, and if he doesn’t, then that’s too bad. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. The fact that he feels the need to assert superiority over me and try to make me feel belittled or lesser-than is about his own insecurities and issues. It has nothing to do with me. So I’ll keep teaching my classes the way I have since I left training; by being myself, and learning from my mistakes.

 

8 simple rules for surviving Bikram TT

Well readers, just a couple of short weeks after I posted my last entry about my experience at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training (in which I expressed my suspicions that mine might have been the last one), the next TT has been announced. For the spring of 2016, Bikram’s torture chamber is relocating to India, and I’ve already heard from a good number of people planning to take the plunge. So if you’re one of those people, this post is for you!

My definitive list of what I think you should know before going to TT (that no one told me)…

1) There is no way of adequately preparing yourself for TT. 

Before I headed off to my training, there was no end to the things people told me I should do in order to prepare. I was advised to undertake 30-, 60-, and 100-day challenges, I was told to try eating “raw” for a few months before, a few teachers told me to put myself on an insane daily intake of vitamins and electrolyte supplements… the list goes on. But I didn’t do any of those things. You know what I did do? I slept. A lot. I practiced maybe 3 times per week, and in my spare time, I snoozed. 

And I am so happy I did. 

Walking into Bikram’s first class of my TT, I was absolutely terrified. My fellow trainees had spent the previous couple of days telling me how they’d been doing pretty much non-stop yoga for the last three months, and many of them prided themselves on how many supplements and tubs of pink Himalayan sea salt they brought to meals. I thought I was fucked. And I was (just read my post about it for the full story). But so was everyone else. No one left the room after our inaurgural 2.5 hour yoga class in anything but a completely shattered state. In terms of how strong people’s practices were, we were all pretty much at the same level as one another, save for a few exceptions on either end of the spectrum. So, please, don’t kill yourself pre-training. You’re not doing yourself any good, I promise. 

2) Vet your roommate. 

I was lucky with my roomie. I hit the damn jackpot. Yvo wasn’t just my roommate, she was my TT soulmate, and I couldn’t have made it through without her. Seriously. But many people weren’t so lucky. In fact, there seemed to be no end to the roommate drama at our training. 

Bear in mind that Bikram TT attracts some – for lack of a better word – eccentric people, so try to do your best to ensure that whomever you request as a roomie is somewhat sane. You don’t want to end up like one of my friends who was kept awake until 4 AM every evening by his roommate, who insisted on doing headstands in the middle of their room at all hours (except normal, waking ones)… with all the lights on… with music playing. Or like another one of my friends who ended up with something of a manic depressive. 

So when you post on the TT Facebook group looking for a roommate, don’t just accept the first person who responds. Give them a good old fashioned FB stalk, message with them, get to know them, then decide. It’s not a foolproof method of finding someone compatible, but it at least gives you a better chance. Oh, and for the love of god, do not leave it to chance and get assigned someone random. Who you room with can make or break your training experience. Choose wisely. 

3) You have nothing to prove. 

Actually, someone did tell me this right before I left for training, and it was the one piece of advice that really stuck with me. TT is not the time for heroics. If you have to sit down, sit the fuck down. If you feel like you’re about to puke, leave the damn room. You are embarking on a 9 week boot camp that involves 97 yoga classes in a room that is hotter than any other yoga room you will have ever been in. It’s so hot, it’s probably actually the real-life Purgatory. 

Getting through training is about playing the long game. There is no point in pushing yourself to your limits and ending up with an injury that you then have to deal with for the rest of training. And there is no point in exhausting yourself any more than you already have to. You are there to leave with a teaching certificate, not to show everyone how bendy you are. 

Somehow, I managed to make it through all of training without once leaving the room, and I stopped sitting out postures around week 3. But I began every class by reminding myself not to be a hero, and giving myself permission to do what I needed to do to make it out with my sanity and my health. I pretty consistently gave about 25-40% effort in the morning classes, and 70-85% in the evening classes (except when I was positioned right in front of Bikram, in which case I killed myself in order to avoid being yelled at). I have no regrets about that tactic. I made it through. That’s all that mattered to me. 

4) Bikram…

…Says a lot of offensive shit. Racial minorities, Jews, Muslims, Christians, women, LGBTQ people, the list goes on. He says absurd crap about them all. How much of it he actually believes, I have no idea. But do not take any of it personally. He says it to fuck with you and to try to steal your peace. Don’t give him the satisfaction. Laugh, roll your eyes, whatever. Don’t bother getting angry. It isn’t worth your time. He gave us one particularly rousing lecture one day on how “Western women only need gynaecologists because they don’t stay faithful to one man and they end up with diseases… But men can be with as many women as they want” (paraphrased). My inner feminist was flipping the fuck out, and had I possessed less self control, I would have screamed. Instead, I wrote one line in my notebook: “India clearly has VERY poor standards for sexual education.” And when he’d finally decided to shut up, I merely turned to my friend Jenny, laughed, and said, “I’m SO glad I know all that now!”

Also, be prepared for lectures that go on until the wee hours. And by prepared, I mean bring lots of sudoku puzzles, crosswords, even an adult colouring book. You won’t be missing anything. All he does is chat a load of bollocks about how he and Quincy Jones invented disco. 

5) Reciting dialogue in posture clinics is NOTHING like teaching. 

I found posture clinics terrifying, especially at first. You have to get up in front of a massive group of your peers and recite the dialogue for a posture, after which you get judged American Idol-style by a panel of visiting teachers and staff who basically predict whether or not you’ll be a successful teacher. I did not find this exercise enjoyable. I suppose it is a necessary evil in order to make sure everyone knows the full dialogue by the end of training, but it bares no resemblance whatsoever to teaching in real life. In posture clinic, fucking up is easy to do. You’re acutely aware that you’re being judged by everyone in the room, and you get too focused on getting every word right. So I’ll tell you a secret about what it’s like to really teach: your students don’t give a rat’s ass about the dialogue. They’re hot, sweaty, out of breath, and sore. All they want is to be guided in and out of the postures with as little drama as possible. If you blank on the dialogue whilst teaching, make some shit up that will roughly ensure that they do the posture correctly and exit it safely. And guess what? None of them will notice a damn thing. 

Do not beat yourself up if you’re not a superstar in posture clinics. It is no indication whatsoever that you will be a shitty teacher. You will be a shitty teacher if you don’t care about your students, not if you find it difficult to memorise a script. 

6) Most people arrive at training at different places in their dialogue learning. 

And that’s fine. Don’t be the idiot that shows up not knowing any of it, because you’ll only make your life there more difficult. Don’t be the overachiever who arrives knowing the whole thing, because you’ll just make people hate you (lookin’ at you, Kramer). Just learn what you can manage before you arrive. Yes, the more of it you’ve learnt in advance, the more free time you’ll have, but equally most bonding at TT occurs over learning the dialogue together, so don’t separate yourself from that. Find a good balance. As a general guide, learning up to Standing Bow pre-training is a good place to be, but it’s by no means a rule. You do you. 

7) Don’t wish away your time at training. 

Which is so easy to do. You’ll be homesick, missing your friends and family and significant others. You’ll miss life before you had to do yoga literally every damn day and you’ll long for the days when you got to actually sleep instead of take night time naps. But you’ll get back to that, and sooner than you think. Life after training does exist! I know! I’m writing to you from it RIGHT NOW! And though you may not miss training once you’re home (I bloody don’t), don’t take your time there for granted. You will likely never again get to spend such a long time with so many people from so many different places and walks of life who, regardless of cultural differences and language barriers, all share a love of yoga so deep that they want to share it in their communities and around the world. It’s really kind of an extraordinary thing, so relish it. Real life will still be there when you get home. 

You may make friends for life at TT, you may not. You may enjoy every moment in Bikram’s presence, or you may wish to throttle him by the time you leave. You may love having the opportunity to practice twice a day, or you may find you’ve (temporarily) fallen out of love with Bikram yoga once those 97 classes are done. But you will certainly never find yourself in quite such an extreme environment with so many different people again. 

8) Teaching is the best job in the world. 

Seriously. It is satisfying, fulfilling, difficult, frustrating, elating, exciting, and nerve-wracking all at once. I love every minute of it. I even love teaching at 6:45 AM when I’m half asleep and wondering to myself why I have 16 insane people in front of me who all woke up so early to come to class. I even love it when I get my lefts and rights mixed up and my students laugh at me (which happens a lot). I even love it when a brand new student shows up 2 minutes before the start of class with no mat, towel, water, or remotely appropriate clothing, but still leaves class with a sweaty glow and says “thank you” all the same. 

When a student of mine gets both legs up with their knees locked for the first time in Locust pose, or when I get someone to crack a smile instead of looking so miserable during Triangle, or when someone finally gets their forehead to their knee in Standing Head to Knee and spends the rest of class looking SO pleased with themselves, I am reminded of why I went to TT and why I wanted this job to begin with. For those moments. They are wonderful. There is no other way to describe them. 

So, future teacher trainees, go bravely forth and kick some ass. Laugh, cry, sweat, throw up, fall asleep on the floor during Bollywood movies, enjoy some moments, loathe all the others, never lose sight of why you went in the first place. You will be fine. And, when in doubt, I am available for pep talks over Skype. 

Good luck. X

Week 6 round-up: What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you

Note: Apologies for the horrible lateness of this post, but I spent this past weekend celebrating my birthday and have had veeeeery little free time since. Anyway…

Week 6. Goodness me. If week 5 was a roller coaster ride of emotions, then week 6 was akin to the Tower of Terror ride at Disney World. But we got through it, all in one piece, and it even seemed to go quite quickly.

What made the week quite so emotional completely eludes me. In a way, the pressure was actually taken off of us a bit, as it was re-certification week (in which teachers return in order to get re-certified, which you’re meant to do every three years). This meant that all the re-cert teachers were forced into the front row for every yoga class, and Bikram spent far more time yelling at them than he did at us. Honestly, there were times at which he gave the re-cert teachers a harder time than he’s ever given us… Which would make me completely petrified of the day I have to get re-certified, if it weren’t for the fact that you can also get re-certified at Rajashree’s annual women’s retreat. He spent most of the week ridiculing one (heavier) gentleman who had a consistently difficult time in the hot room, nicknaming him “Fat Ass” for the entirety of the week and forcing him to do third sets of a good portion of the postures, and he also spent a lot of time speaking Japanese to the five or so Japanese teachers who had come to re-certify. Of course, I have no idea what he said to them, but from the looks on all their faces I can only imagine that it wasn’t exactly complimentary.

As for his lectures last week? They were mercifully kept to a minimum. He only really lectured on the Monday evening. Tuesday evening was spent watching more Mahabharata, and Thursday and Friday evenings were spent in our Posture Clinics, during which we finished up the standing series and got down to the floor. As for Wednesday evening… it was Diwali! And what does that mean at Bikram TT? It means a great big party on the lawns of the resort, followed by a dance party in the resort’s night club (which was apparently right next to the hot room this whole time and none of us even knew about it). And not only did Bikram attend this dance party. Oh no. HE ACTUALLY DANCED WITH US. Yep. I made some seriously shit attempts at Bollywood dance moves right next to Bikram, whilst his son, Anurag, blasted his favourite Bollywood tracks from the DJ booth. I know, I know – pics or it didn’t happen. But seeing as we weren’t allowed to take photos, you’ll all just have to take my word for it. It was probably one of the weirder experiences of my life. But I do have to give the man credit. For a 69 year-old with bad knees, dude can still bust out some moves.

But unfortunately all this alleviation of pressure and bits of fun didn’t stop week 6 from being an emotional hell hole for a lot of us. Maybe it was just something in the air, maybe it was just plain exhaustion, who knows. But it seemed like a switch had been flipped all of a sudden, and we all started to feel everything a little bit deeper. Physical pains seemed to become more intense, especially where my knees were concerned, and some people had to resort to merely lying down in the back during class just to get themselves through the whole thing. The psychological pains that people started to feel, though, were even worse. Issues that people thought they had dealt with and had put in their pasts began to boil up again, and seemed to come back even stronger. Some of us (including myself) started to burst into tears mid-class for no apparent reason.

I don’t necessarily think this was happening because any of us wanted to throw in the towel and give up, though. On the contrary, I truly believe that we are realising more and more every day how incredibly strong we all are, and how fully capable we are of making it through this. Rather, I think we’re all just getting to the point here at which we’re realising that we can’t hide from our previous injuries anymore – mental or physical – and that they need to be brought up again so that we can deal with them once and for all. Not that that’s a nice thing to be aware of. It sucks, to be honest. My brain is constantly pushing my most hurtful memories to the forefront of my consciousness here, just when I thought I had buried them for good. So of course it hurts. But I also really do believe that we will all be stronger for this experience, painful though it is at the moment.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

And oh boy, are we being challenged here. When you are this emotionally and physically exhausted, the littlest things seem capable of setting off a meltdown.

Here is a (shortened) list of things I came close to crying over in week 6:

-How badly the wifi sucks
-The fact that the food is the same thing every damn day
-How much I miss tea
-The fact that I’m missing the final series of “Downton Abbey”
-The dogs on the beach who look underfed
-I really miss drinking white wine
-How shit my Bow pose is because I think my hips are out of alignment

So, basically, week 6 was a glass box of emotions that all 126 of us were trapped in. The good news? It ended with my birthday and a trip to Moo Moo’s Cabaret in Khao Lak, where we watched a bunch of ladyboys lip sync to Mariah Carey songs. Every cloud, eh?

All stats here are relevant to week 6

Number of yoga classes completed: 65
Hours of the Mahablahblah watched (cumulatively): 6.5
Position in Posture Clinic: Wind Removing Pose
Latest bed time: Midnight

 

I spent my first night at TT eating peanut m&m’s

We arrived!

After two 7 hour long flights and a total of 24 hours in transit, Anna and I arrived at our resort for TT a couple of hours ago. I am shattered. Out of the 16 hours I spent sitting down during that 24 hour period (we also had a 2 hour bus ride from the airport to the resort – I promise I can do basic addition), I think I only slept for 3. Oh well, good practice for the exhaustion that lies ahead, I suppose.

Our journey was pretty drama-free. Flights ran on time, our baggage made it, the number of screaming babies was kept to a minimum, and Anna and I sat side-by-side watching “Inside Out” together and both teared up at the end. Sorry if you didn’t want me to share that, Anna, but it was a good moment. I do enjoy a good cry whilst watching a Disney/Pixar film.

And at long last, here I am in my hotel room watching silly videos on Youtube and eating peanut m&m’s because I’m very hungry and there’s nowhere to get food at this time of night. My roommate isn’t here yet, so I’m on my tod… Lonely, yes. A little bit. I must admit it doesn’t fill me with joy to think that Boyfriend is attending a family wedding this evening and will no doubt have a bloody good piss up with everyone whilst I’m sat in a hotel room by myself suffering from horrendous jet lag. But I am nonetheless looking forward to the nine weeks that lie ahead of me.

24 hours of sleepless travelling does afford a lot of time to meditate on things, and I went through quite the mental journey regarding my feelings about teacher training. I went from being excited to nervous to upset to angry and, finally, to being simply at peace with whatever may be about to happen. My thoughts wandered off in this arc because my brain started juggling around all the rumours I’ve heard about TT over the last few months. I started to worry how I would cope with it all; whether I would get ill or absurdly homesick or simply fed up. I went off on a whole train of thought for a while regarding Bikram’s ban on the colour green during training (you cannot wear ANYTHING green or that has bits of green in it). It made me angry because I started to realise that a lot of the yoga clothes I have happen to have bits of green in them here and there, and I came to the realisation that I’d probably have to buy more clothes here in order to avoid being called out by Boss or getting into trouble. Which, of course, set me off on thinking how ridiculous that was considering all the money that has already been poured into this whole thing.

I started dwelling on how sleep-deprived I would get and how ridiculous it is that we’re apparently going to be forced to stay awake until all hours of the morning watching Bollywood films, and how that might mean that I end up getting very ill. The injustice of it all (please note I use the word “injustice” ironically here) started pissing me off gradually through the first flight and into the first quarter of the second.

But then I had another realisation – and this is one that I sincerely hope those of you who find this blog when you’re considering whether to go to TT yourselves will pay attention to:

None of that matters.

At the end of the day, I’m here for nine weeks. This is what I’ve signed myself up for. Bikram runs this programme, so his rules are the rules, and if I let my – admittedly, dominant – rebellious side get the better of me, I will only get myself in trouble and land myself in extra Saturday classes. I don’t want that. i want to get through this alive, healthy, and, preferably, with a happy, smiling face. I want to fully take advantage of this time to focus on myself, my practice, and on making new friendships that I hope will reach far beyond December 6. You have to pick your battles, and this is not a smart one to pick. So I will put up and shut up. I will be over-tired, I will be homesick, I will have to spend more money on new yoga clothes. Fine. For nine weeks, I can do that.

I think.

X

We’re on the plane!!! 

So this is actually happening I guess? Fellow student, Anna, and I are in the plane to Dubai! And I gotta say, this Emirates plane is nice. British Airways, you have some catching up to do. They have USB hookups on all the seats! I mean come on!

But I digress. 

Here begins our journey. 14 hours, 2 flights, 1 car ride, and we’ll be there. It’s crazy. This is something I’ve wanted for three years and now I’m actually about to go do it. Saying goodbye to Boyfriend earlier today was painful… I cried a lot and am pretty sure I looked like Chris Crocker in his “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE” video, but I know this is what I have to do. And I know this will be a life-changing experience that I will be forever grateful for. 

As my yoga mama, BA, likes to say, “How GOOD is this life?!” It is so good. I am so lucky. 

I’d like to give an Oscar-style thank you to everyone who has supported me on my way… My ultra-supportive mum and dad, my wonderful cousins and my aunt and uncle, Boyfriend, my best friend Vicky, my dopey ass dog Freddie, all my friends on either side of the Atlantic, and, of course, BA. I would not be here on this plane cramming Dialogue into my head without all of you. 

And with that, I should go. Because I’m pretty sure the stewardess is about to smack my phone out of my damn hand unless I put it on airplane mode. I’ll post when we get to Khao Lak!! 

Namaste, bitches! Xx 

P.S. Here is a very unattractive selfie of me and Anna about to board the plane. 


 

Ustrasana or Ustressana?

Those of you who frequent Bikram studios will know what I’m talking about. You’re ten precious minutes away from the end of class, so close that you can almost taste the ice cold coconut water on your tongue, but there’s just one big hurdle between your sweaty ass and the lovely, room-temperature outside world: Ustrasana. You may also know it as Camel Pose, but fuck it, at that point in class you don’t care what the hell it’s called, you just want to get yourself out of there.

Those of you who’ve been there before know how it is. You crawl up to the front of your mat and towel, sweating like… well, like you’ve been exercising in 105 degree F heat for 80 minutes, and stand up on your knees. “Do we have to do this again?” A little voice in your head asks. “We do this like every day, surely we can take a break.” But you ignore those thoughts and tilt your head back anyway, and are immediately punished for it with a wave of nausea.

Nevertheless, you go back half way until you can see the wall behind you (or the floor, or the person behind you… whichever), and put your right hand on your right heel, followed by your left hand to your left heel. And then you’re in it.

I had never felt the way I did before when I did my first Camel in a Bikram class. I’d done it in Vinyasa Flow classes, and it was moderately hard then, but the intensity of the heat seriously ramps up the intensity of the posture, and I honestly started to panic that I was going to pass out stone cold while in it. And then of course I started freaking out about falling directly back onto my ankles and twisting my calf muscles so badly that I’d never be able to walk properly again and – no? No one else had that very specific worry during Ustrasana? Just me, huh? Yeah, I thought so.

But I stayed in it, and I’m so glad I did. I don’t know what exactly it is about Ustrasana that makes us feel so nauseous and dizzy whilst in it (I guess I’ll learn that at teacher training), but what I do know is that, at least for me, it’s the most cathartic posture in the Bikram series. And I never let myself miss it.

No matter how bad I’m feeling, and no matter if the maximum I’m able to bring myself to do is to just tilt my head back at the beginning of the posture, I need Ustrasana. Because, more than any other posture, it allows me to let go of what does not serve me (a phrase frequently used by Bikram teachers). I realised this about a year and a half ago when I had to be in New York for seven weeks to do an internship and Boyfriend stayed in the UK. I went to a Bikram class about half way through that period, and found myself having a massive sob-fest after Camel. Tears were coming out and I just couldn’t stop them, nor could I really understand why I was reacting that way. And then I realised that I had been back in NYC for 3 1/2 weeks, getting increasingly frustrated with my family, missing Boyfriend terribly, and working in a very stressful job. And yet I had taken absolutely zero time to confront and deal with any of those feelings. Instead, I kept just “getting on with things”, thinking that I had no time to let myself feel those emotions.

I find this happens all too often to all of us, especially when we go through a period in which we face a lot of set-backs. I, personally, am pretty insistent on just brushing myself off, getting back up and getting on with the next thing. But then I’m only setting myself up for a major meltdown about a week or so later, because there’s only so much negativity the mind and body can take.

One of Mary Jarvis’ favourite phrases to use is, “To sit in Lotus and notice yourself.” Well, I like to hang out in Camel and notice myself. I notice exactly what I’m feeling on that given day – what’s hurting in the posture, what’s more comfortable than normal, whether I’m feeling nauseous or overwhelmed – and then I ask myself why? What’s going on that’s making me feel like that? Did I have enough water before class? Did I forget to eat this morning? Or is there something going on with me emotionally that I haven’t dealt with yet?

I recognise whatever those factors are. I acknowledge them. And then I let that shit go.

It’s so easy to pigeonhole Ustrasana as a posture you just have to “get through” and “endure” in order to get to the end of class. But maybe next time try to see it as a form of therapy. A chance to understand what’s fucking with your head. Acknowledge that it’s there, and then choose to move past it, as opposed to suffer through it. You might come out of the pose feeling like you just downed 5 tequila shots in one go, but your mind will thank you for it.

P.S. I’m now a week into my Dechox challenge in aid of the British Heart Foundation. Please consider donating a couple of quid here. x