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 7 round-up: Just keep swimming

Exhausted does not even cover it. I slept 11 hours last night and that still was not enough to allow my body to recuperate fully. Apparently there’s a sleeping bag that someone has designed that will actually make you look like a hibernating bear, and I have decided that it is the only thing I will need for the rest of my life. I miss sleep. We were such good friends before all of this. I feel like a fool for leaving it. I promise, if it will take me back, that I will never be unfaithful to it again.

I don’t necessarily think that week 7 was physically any harder than previous weeks have been. We still had our standard two yoga classes per day, and the latest we were kept awake was 12:30 AM. I just think it’s the cumulative effect that 7 weeks of extreme physical exertion and very little sleep has had on me. I was waxing and waning all week in yoga class, going from a really strong class on Tuesday night, to a class so bad on Friday night that I spent final savasana in the foetal position. Seriously. My roommate almost had to call someone to help carry me out of the room. It wasn’t so much that I was dizzy or nauseous, it was just that my body had decided it had had enough, and my muscle strength basically gave out on me. It started with a pins-and-needles sensation in my left arm after Camel pose, but I didn’t want to allow myself to sit out any of the rest of the postures for fear of getting yelled at by Bikram and of making everyone else’s class that little bit longer. But I definitely paid the price for it. I just felt really, really done.

Luckily, however, not all of week 7 was quite so miserable. In fact, I had quite a few highlights this week that definitely helped speed things along a bit. Bikram was away Monday and Tuesday, so left us in the hands of a senior teacher of his from Mexico named Ulises. Ulises taught the evening classes on both Monday and Tuesday and, although I started out not liking him very much (his pacing during class wasn’t exactly what I would call “snappy”), I ended up really valuing his input by the time Bikram returned. He tends to approach this yoga from a more spiritual perspective, which I something I found really refreshing and comforting at this stage in the training, when things have started to feel a bit soulless and institutional. Ulises lectured us on Tuesday in the afternoon and the evening, and ended his evening lecture by playing a chanting track and allowing us to meditate for about 15 minutes. Monday evening was even more special, though, as Manali (who is basically the headmistress of Bikram Yoga TT) chanted part of the Bhagavad Gita whilst we all meditated. It was such a special and beautiful experience, and it offered us some peace, which I really think we were all in desperate need of.

But, just as quickly as he had left, Bikram returned once again. And he returned with a vengeance. His classes were hotter, his yelling was louder, and it seemed at times like he was on a one-man mission to steal our peace. He has become quite enthusiastic about accusing us all of being stupid, and about giving people corrections that they don’t actually need, seemingly just for the sake of being intimidating. And while I continue to enjoy his classes because of his almost infectious energy, I was getting too tired this week to be willing to make an effort for him anymore. The fact that we were forced to watch yet another two episodes of the Mahablahblah on Wednesday, and to listen to another one of his “lectures” on Thursday didn’t help my feelings either, and just served to put me in even more of a shitty mood. However, for all you future trainees out there, fear not! I have come up with the following, just for you…

Watching the Mahablahblah: A helpful guide

-The subtitles are not in grammatically correct English. I know this is annoying, but it’s not worth getting frustrated over. Choose to find it funny.
-When in doubt of what the fuck is going on, just assume that the kingdom of Hastinapur is in some sort of danger.
-Contemplating whether the costumes were made out of spray painted plastic or aluminium foil is a fun way of side-tracking yourself when you get bored.
-Whilst watching the Bhagavad Gita section (which is a 3 episode long conversation between Arjun and Krishna), ignore the subtitles and make up your own ideas for what Arjun and Krishna are discussing. Our ideas included, but were not limited to: The best places to shop for jewellery, the benefits of colonic irrigation, and whether they would rather shag Sofia Vergara or Megan Fox.
-Make up your own sound effects for when people start beating each other up in the big battle scene. My personal favourite was the doing sound I made every time someone hit someone else over the head with an oversized Christmas bauble. (You’ll see what I mean when you watch it.)

Seriously though, if you don’t do something to make light of the situations you get put in here, you could quite easily go mad. You really have to fight in order to stop anything from disturbing your peace, and having a good laugh goes a long way in that battle. A lot of what we do here is ridiculous. When I tell people back home what an average day here entails, they tell me they think it’s insane. It is. But there’s no point getting frustrated. We’re here for another two weeks yet, and I’m noticing more and more that peoples’ success here is very highly dependent on their attitudes. Those who go with the flow and stay in good humour are having a much easier time than those who have become more cynical. So try to avoid taking things so seriously. Whinge a little, sure, but laugh a lot, and enjoy spending time with so many wonderful people.

Just like Dory in “Finding Nemo”, we must all just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. Because, lord knows if we take our eyes of the ball and start flailing about, we’ll all fucking drown.

Lynn Whitlow, who is one of Bikram’s senior teachers who is currently visiting us, and who lectured us on Friday evening, said something that really struck a chord with me. Whilst discussing the merits and draw-backs of running a studio with very hard and fast rules, she explained to us that, for the majority of our future customers, coming to yoga is something that makes them happy and that helps them to love themselves. Really, that’s what this yoga does for all of us. So what is the point in taking it so seriously to the point where you’re making people miserable? We come to yoga to feel good, to fall in love with ourselves. And it is so much easier to do that here at TT if you just laugh, love, and focus on the positive. Even when there are negative things bubbling up around you, it is important to keep in mind that paying attention to them will not serve you here.

The name of the game is to get through these 9 weeks alive, in one piece, and (somewhat) happy. And we are so close now. Those certificates are within our grasp, many of us have already scheduled our first classes, and we are preparing to go home. So on we charge into week 8. Tired, sore, but determined as hell. Put on your war paint, people. Let’s do this. x

Yoga classes completed to date: 76
Hours of the Mahablahblah watched: 8.5
Current position in posture clinic: Camel/Rabbit
Latest bedtime this week: 12:30 AM

P.S. Here is a still from the Mahabharata. You can tell how sophisticated the special effects are, can’t you?

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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

 

Week 5 round-up: My best friend, my worst enemy

Tl;DR This week was literally just emotions. All the emotions. The end.

Week 5 is over and we’re now more than half way through our training! HOW DID THAT EVEN HAPPEN? No, really. I’m asking you. Because I do not know the answer to that.

This week went by so quickly I almost can’t actually remember what we did each day because the days have all started to blur into one another. Bikram is back, yes, but he actually hasn’t been in the least bit horrible to us, so week 5 was also much easier than I expected it to be (in that respect). The longest class he taught was on Monday night and lasted two hours, and he actually stuck to roughly 90 minutes for most of the rest of the week. Not that he was going easy on us during those classes in the slightest, though. On the contrary, the heat was cranked up even further almost every night, and he upped the amount of corrections he shouted at us from his podium by about ten-fold. He even made one student, whom he has affectionately nicknamed “Mr. Manchester” (because – would you believe it – he’s from Manchester) get up on the podium one night and start off teaching Pranayama breathing because Bikram was pissed with him for doing it so badly in every class.

I have to admit, though, that to some weird, masochistic extent, I kind of like Bikram’s classes. Maybe it’s the fact that his energy when teaching is infectious, and makes the classes seem shorter. Maybe it’s the fact that, even when he’s yelling at you, he’s still trying to be kind of funny. Whatever it is, though, I think I’m far more scared of the idea of his classes than I am once I’m actually in there. The sight of his saffron coloured towels draped over the chair on the podium every evening most certainly inspires fear in me, but that fear quickly dissipates once he starts saying things like, “We have 35 billion brain cells but we only use 3 billion. That’s why most people are so weird.” (It’s little conversation points like these that he enjoys adding into his own version of the Dialogue.)

But Bikram being back doesn’t just mean that he’s returned to the hot room; it also means he’s back to lecturing us. And that, to me, was the real torture last week. Yes, Bikram’s lectures do include some pearls of wisdom. The problem is, though, that his lectures are so random that it’s very difficult to sort through all of his stories about his various famous students in order to understand what he’s really trying to say. Add to this the fact that he’s only been lecturing at night from 10 PM until Midnight, and you have the perfect recipe for making sure no one is entirely able to follow anything he’s trying to articulate. He’s also gone back to telling us more about the story of the Mahabharata, (which we have not yet returned to watching) interspersed with him going through his bag and showing us all the different things he likes to carry around with him. (He did this because a girl in the front row had dry eyes and he offered her his eye drops. This was accompanied by a demonstration of how he can put eye drops in his eyes without blinking. It was a really wonderful use of fifteen minutes.)

Whilst Bikram’s lecture series was treading water a bit this week, though, posture clinics were going full steam ahead. We had them every day last week for three hours, and blew through six postures as a result. A visiting teacher told me she thinks we went ahead with PC’s so intensely because we lost all our time to do them in week 4 due to Rajashree’s earlier-than-normal visit to our TT. I’ve mostly heard that PC’s tend to wrap up at the end of week 7, so if we keep going at our current pace, we’ll likely still be bang on schedule. And I’m happy to report that reciting the dialogue has been going a bit better for me as of late. My feedback was consistently good this week, and I’m pleased with how quickly I’m able to memorise all the postures. My next hurdle, though, will be to stop concentrating so hard on getting all the words perfect, and instead on being a more fast-paced, genuine teacher, as I tend to lose my pacing when I concentrate too hard on being word-perfect. Which, considering I’m a perfectionist, will be difficult for me. But I am here to learn, develop, and grow. And I have to seize every opportunity I am given to make changes in my mindset, and to stop being so hard on myself.

Speaking of which, this week has been a complete emotional MESS for me. Which is something I’ve literally just realised as I’ve been writing this. I heard different reports from different people regarding when the emotional breaking point of training tends to be, but the general consensus is that it comes somewhere between weeks 4 and 6. Now, I’m not saying that I have necessarily reached that point, but this week has definitely been an emotional and very confusing one. I fluctuated between being absolutely in love with this whole experience and with everyone here on one night, to waking up the next morning wanting nothing more than to go home. I had some seriously great classes (including one in which I managed to lock my knees during Padahastasana!), and a couple in which I came very close to crying for what felt like absolutely no reason. Sometimes I look around the hot room thinking there’s no place on Earth I’d rather be than with all these wonderful people, and the next minute I’ll mope about not being back home with my friends there. I also feel like I’m progressively going slightly mad without getting cuddles from Boyfriend and without being able to hear his voice every day. Meanwhile, having to look at myself in a mirror for 3-4 hours a day whilst wearing tight, unflattering clothes is really doing a number on me. There has been the odd occasion on which I’ve felt really good about myself and how I look in class, but most of the time I just stare ahead at all of my body’s imperfections. It is frustrating, discouraging, and mentally exhausting, but for whatever reason I can’t get myself to cut it out.

Bikram has said quite a few times during class and during his lectures that, “The mind is your best friend; the mind is your worst enemy.” And that is so, horribly true. Of course all of us have our little mental battles that we fight in our day-to-day lives, but being at teacher training magnifies those battles and forces you to deal with them. And it sucks. We have a unique opportunity here to spend nine weeks focusing on ourselves, and I’m quickly learning that that is definitely a curse in some senses. There is nowhere to hide from yourself or your insecurities here. So, for now at least, my mind is mostly my enemy. The good news is I have 4 more weeks to try to make it my friend.

P.S. Bikram made us watch another Bollywood film this week. It was 3 hours and 28 minutes long. I have zero recollection of what it was about.

Yoga classes down: 54
Number of Bollywood films watched to date: 2
Current position in posture clinic: Tree Pose
Latest bed time this week: 1:30 AM

And because we’re (over) half way through now, here’s an earworm for you all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDK9QqIzhwk

Week 4 round-up: It’s gettin’ hot in here (but everyone’s already got most of their clothes off)

Wow, is week 4 really over already? Sheesh!

Considering how much the first three weeks dragged (at least for me), I’m so grateful that this week went by that much faster. I have no idea what exactly made it seem so quick, but I have a feeling it was due to the fact that we were back to not knowing exactly what was coming every day. Last week was a bit monotonous. We cycled daily from yoga class to lunch to anatomy lecture to yoga class to dinner to posture clinic. Every. Day. This week, on the other hand, things actually got changed up a bit. It’s amazing what a bit of variation in the schedule can do for your willpower to get through the week!

This week was mainly focused on Rajashree, as she returned on Monday to spend one last week with us before she had to return to LA. She spent most of the week’s afternoon lecture slots doing her own posture clinic with us, in which she went through each posture in the series one-by-one and answered all our questions. It took almost 10 hours in total (not in one go, obviously), but it was so worth it! She even let me demonstrate Standing Separate Leg Stretching for her – which was mortifying because I suck at it – so she could explain to me exactly why I suck at it. Apparently I have a few vertebrae in my lower spine that have a weird habit of totally flattening out during back bends, and curving during forward bends, hence why I can’t touch my forehead to the floor in Standing Separate Leg. You’d have thought that, after three years of practicing this yoga, I would have figured that out already. Just goes to show that you learn something new about your body every day practicing the 26/2. The series might be the same every day, but your body never is. And there is always something new to learn.

This was further reinforced for me this week during Rajashree’s evening yoga classes (she taught four out of the five), in which she walked around on the floor of the yoga room and gave us all personalised corrections throughout class. Although she only gave me one, – that I have to bring my body down more during Balancing Stick – listening to the corrections she was giving everyone else all week was nonetheless incredibly helpful. If she told someone else that they needed to even out their hips more during Standing Separate Leg Head-to-Knee, I would try to do the same. If she told someone else to suck their stomach in more, I’d suck mine in more as well. Why? Because there is always somewhere to improve in your yoga practice, regardless of how long you’ve been practicing. And there is always something new your body is willing to do in yoga class, but you won’t know until you try to push it to that point. I’ve heard a million times in the last six years that I’ve been practicing yoga that it’s called a yoga practice for a reason. Yoga is about practicing and trying (in the right way), and being humble enough to admit to yourself that there is still room for improvement. There are amazing yoga practitioners out there who can do ridiculous things with their bodies, but their egos are so big that they think they’ve got it all down and don’t need help anymore. That’s why they are yoga practitioners, and not yogis. I’ve heard that time and time again for years, but Rajashree’s classes this week brought me back to that idea in a big way.

So did that mean my classes this week were always wonderful and enjoyable?? Hell. No.

My left knee has been in all kinds of pain this week, and my thigh muscles are so tight and tired that I came out of Awkward early in almost every class. Meanwhile, the teachers aren’t playing Mr. Nice Guy anymore, and the doors rarely get opened during Savasana between the standing and floor series. So it has been hot in there. I, myself, haven’t been brave enough to look at the temperature gauge in the room lately, but a friend told me at one point this week that it was reading 45 degrees centigrade at the end of class. That’s 113 farenhiet. And that’s not keeping in mind the humidity. So, yes, classes are getting progressively harder. But I do also believe that we’re getting progressively stronger. We may all be getting a little worse for wear at this point, and most of us are dealing with joint pains or muscle strains, but our stamina is nonetheless increasing. Fewer people are having to sit down during class, and people having to leave the room during class is getting rarer and rarer. I’m sure all this progress will be thrown out the window tomorrow when Bikram returns, but at least we’re doing well for now!

It did help, though, that we had a couple of really great visiting teachers this week, who talked to us about life after training and all the amazing things that lie ahead of us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: positive thinking works wonders here. So during the couple of really shitty yoga classes I had, and the boring anatomy lectures we were forced to sit through, I reminded myself of everything I’m excited to do once training is over. I’m hoping to teach in every city we go to on my dad’s tour next summer that has a Bikram studio, and in the mean time I can’t wait to start teaching back at home and really getting my career going. And I’ve been day dreaming more and more about hopefully opening my own studio some day soon. And all I have to get through to achieve those dreams is just five more weeks here!

Now, on a bit of a totally different topic, I’ve been getting asked a lot about what happens to your body here, so I should probably address that. My simple answer is that it’s different for every person. The guys appear to be losing more weight (one of them has apparently lost 12 pounds), whilst the girls are all over the spectrum. Some of us (not myself) are bloating from the increased water intake. Some have gained weight on the scale, but appear to have lost weight when you look at them, which I’m assuming is from gaining muscle mass. And some don’t seem to have been affected much at all. As for me, I lost four pounds in our first week here, and have completely plateaued since then. I, personally, don’t see a difference in how I look, but Boyfriend is insisting that I look skinnier in the photos I’ve posted. So, really, I don’t know what’s going on here. I’ve heard that the time that most women lose weight is actually about two weeks post-TT. So I guess we’ll see.

What I do know for certain, though, is that my body is detoxing like crazy here. To the point where I had a Thai iced tea the other night when we were anticipating a particularly late bedtime (which didn’t end up happening), and the caffeine actually make me start trembling. Some others remain totally unaffected and are drinking coffee every day, but my body is not having it at all. Honestly, I’ll probably be able to get shit-faced off half a glass of wine when I get home. I’ve also completely lost my appetite. One bowl of Pho noodle soup at lunch is enough to fill me up, and I rarely want to eat much at dinner, either. I don’t feel ill or under-nourished or anything, though. I’m giving my body what it’s telling me it wants, and so far that’s been working out fine for me. Oh, except for some reason I seem to have developed a permanent craving for peanut m&ms, and my roommate has been constantly craving olives. So basically here at TT you develop the eating habits of a pregnant lady.

And on that note, readers. I must be off. I’ve got a whole lovely Sunday ahead of me to study Dialogue and nap in the sun. (I really need to start working on my tan so I come back to England in December looking something other than my current shade of Vampire White.) I shall also be trying to stop myself thinking about what lies in the week ahead, what with good old Bikkers coming back and the promise of 3 AM lecture finishes hanging over our heads. I’ll tell you all about it next week! If Bikram hasn’t killed us by then.  x

Yoga classes done: 43
Latest bedtime this week: 12:30
Current position in posture clinic: STILL Standing Head-to-Knee (as we didn’t have PC this week)