Sunday, April 29, 2012

Access Your Latent Force / Hidden Power

This weekend was all about connecting....making new connections with my LA yoga tribe and reconnecting with my closest of friends back home. In a lot of ways, I feel like Bikram when he first got his start in LA. He was originally encouraged to open his doors here, by some of his first, most  influential students - Shirley Maclaine and Dr. Anne Marie Bennstrom, and of course later on in 1984 by Rajashree (Raj) Choudhoury, his wonder-woman wife.

It was Raj and Emmy Cleaves who ultimately proposed that Bikram begin training people to teach for him, so that his practice of Yoga could expand faster. For me, it was my mother and my best friends back home who encouraged me to make my own transition into living my dream, rather than dreaming to live.

Bikram's first ever Teacher Training session was held in 1994. It used to be 90-days, instead of 9 weeks and 3 classes per day instead of 2...I can't even imagine. Bikram taught every single aspect of the training himself. Everyone slept at the yoga school; women in bunk beds and men in sleeping bags on the floor. That being said, the evolution of what takes place during today's teacher training, in such a short period of time, is remarkable in and of itself.

The concept of the "yoga class" blew up in the 90's. Yoga became part of every major movement in this country from the hippie to the health to the new age movements. But as yoga became more and more accessible to everyone, people started changing it. Here's Bikram's problem with changing his series: if it ain't broke, don't fix it! When people are motivated by money they make changes to the postures for the worse; to sell classes rather than to save lives and help people. While the capitalist in me says, so? Money is fun. Money afforded me the chance to take time off from the grind and have this experience in the first place. Bikram would say to that, "you will make more money doing it my way," and believe me, he's willing to put his money where his mouth is. How? By giving us the tools to access our Latent Force / Hidden Power.

As humans, we do not know how to use all the energy in our own bodies, so the whole point of yoga is essentially to learn how to access this tremendous force / power. By simplifying the yoga, the way Bikram has done, WE ALL HAVE ACCESS. However, we will never learn something new, until we stop thinking. 

"When one has become successful at Asana, Pranayama can be perfected. With Pranayama, the veil that hides illumination is lifted and the mind becomes fit for meditation."

Meditation is essentially the focus on a single point / stillness. When we meditate, things become clear. This weekend I was able to meditate in my yoga bubble with my yoga soul mates. I am ready to tackle the grueling week ahead because of this new found stillness. And yes, we had some fun at the beach in between the stillness.
Clockwise from top left: Tom, Rosie, Lauren, Luiz & Ish
A perfect heart in the sand


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Week #2 Teachers

Monday am, Lauren (LA Headquarters)
Monday pm, Bikram

Tuesday am, Barry (Rino, NV)
Tuesday pm, Bikram

Wednesday am, "pregnant" Paulie (CA)
Wednesday pm, Bikram

Thursday am, Emmy Cleaves (my favorite teacher of all time)
Thursday pm, Jim Kallett (San Diego)

Friday am, Stacey (Las Vegas)
Friday pm, Bikram

Saturday am, Michon (Best teacher training employee of Bikram - Love!)

A Day at the Beach

Since it's the weekend and I'm in an amazing mood, I'm going to press pause on Bikram's history to let you into my personal life a bit. Today was a glorious California Saturday with endless blue sky and breezes. After a wonderful morning class, marking the official end of week #2, I can officially say I feel accomplished in ways I had never dreamed of. I have taken a total of 21 Bikram classes since April 16th and stayed in the room for every single one of them (Ish did too!). I have made 5 really great friends and have become familiar enough with the 400 other trainees, who all greet me by name, with their smiling happy faces daily. I have attended 18 lectures and have watched more Bollywood movies in the past two weeks than I have in my entire life. I can recite half moon, awkward, eagle and standing head to knee poses (almost) verbatim. My energy is endless....Life is Good!

Candice & I doing Awkward, Maura delivering 
Candice working her backbend with Ish's help
Today I practiced my dialogue delivery at Manhattan beach with my new friends - I never had so much to do on the beach, yet somehow it was incredibly relaxing.

Heading to Hollywood tonight, for a much needed break from Bollywood. I plan on having my first alcoholic beverage in two weeks. I know, I know....I thought I could stay off the bottle for the entire 9 weeks, but everything in moderation is okay. There are people at Teacher Training that are recovering alcoholics and Bikram Yoga is part of their cure. I admire their strength and courage to turn their lives around, but at the same time, I will appreciate this night so much more because of them and simply because I CAN!

Bishnu Ghosh

I learned a great deal this week about the origin of Bikram Yoga and it begins with this man, Bikram's Guru. Let's recap....         

Bishnu Ghosh

I stare at a colorized print of this image to the left, every day in lecture, so I think it's important for you to see it also. 
Almost 60 years ago, this brilliant yoga master and physical culturist, named Bishnu Charan Ghosh, saw a loud-mouthed,  6-year old kid in the streets of Calcutta, India showing off yoga postures to his band of trouble makers. Bishnu Ghosh took this young rebel, Bikram Choudhury, under his wing for the next twenty years and taught him Hatha Yoga, making him into a 13-year old All-India Yoga Asana Champion and a record-breaking weight lifter. When an 18 year old Bikram had his knee crushed in a weight lifting accident, the doctors told him he would never walk again and wanted to amputate the leg, but he limped back to Bishnu instead, and his guru healed him in six months.  This incident - you could call it a miracle, even - inspired Bikram to become a yoga teacher and heal other sick and injured people. But there's much more to this story...

Jim Kallett, who owns Bikram Yoga San Diego, and who I referenced in my previous blog as one of Bikram's top disciples, gave us the play-by-play on the emergence of Bikram (the man), his practice and his incredible following. I won't regurgitate everything, just the stuff you should know.

Back in the day in India, where yoga first originated, if someone had a mental or physical problem, they would go to a Yogi for diagnosis. Bishnu, as such, would give a specific series of postures and procedures to correct the problem. There was no such thing as a "yoga class" at this time. Since Bikram was Bishnu's #1 disciple, he quickly learned the healing process from his master and began to consult with as many people as possible on a daily basis, one-on-one, most days without sleeping or eating because he was so busy. But it became too much for Bikram to see everyone who wanted to see him, once word spread thru India and beyond about his healing abilities.

In 1965, Bikram created his series of 26 poses, that I am mastering today, in order to help/see more people in one shot. With this accomplishment, Bishnu Ghosh said the disciple has gone beyond the guru with this series, and with that praise and growing popularity, Bikram took his yoga to Japan. It was in the Western culture that Bikram Yoga really exploded. Not only did the most powerful socialites, politicians, celebrities, etc. in Japan embrace Bikram, but so did President Nixon. 

In 1972, Nixon suffered from a life threatening blood clot and when the doctors came up empty on solutions, Air Force One flew Bikram to Honolulu for his first visit ever to the United States to consult with Nixon on his dire condition. 

What did Bikram do? He threw everyone out of Nixon's hotel room, even the secret service. For 3 months straight, he would put the ailing president in a boiling hot bathtub and do breathing exercises (Pranayama). Nixon survived and recovered from his condition and was beyond grateful to Bikram for curing him with "yogurt." Nixon, not knowing what he was doing, called yoga "yogurt," which shows how little people knew back then about it. But then again, this was the first of a long list of mistakes Nixon would go on to make, but I'm not hear to recap our country's political history.

Bikram received an envelope from Nixon, upon departing Hawaii, which contained the highest level of Visa clearance (basically, an instant Green Card) that was ordered by the president himself. This gesture is why Bikram was able to come to the US to open his first Yoga School in San Francisco in 1972, but it was Shirley Maclaine (one of Bikram's biggest celebrity followers to this day) who convinced him to open in LA, where he was soon flocked by more politicians, Hollywood celebrities and athletes like Madonna, Brook Shields, Abdul Kareem Jabbar, Micheal Jackson, John McEnroe and many more.

To be continued....
Meli needs sleep to be ready for the last class of week 2, tomorrow 8am. Will post the week 2 teachers list and the continuation of Bikram's coming of age. Good night my friends!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Jodhaa Akbar

"I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late....."

Trying to cram in a little writing amidst my Bikram shuffle, with the highlights from what felt like the longest day thus far yesterday 8am - 3am, no joke. By the time my head actually hits the pillow, it's more like 3:30am. I survive just fine on 3 hours sleep. Actually, I have more energy than I ever had in my life. Must be the yoga!! Last night marked the end of Week #2 late night Bollywood sessions with this amazing film:
Jodhaa Akbar is a sixteenth century love story about a political marriage of convenience between a Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodhaa. But little did Akbar know that when he married Jodhaa, a fiery Rajput princess, in order to further strengthen his relations with the Rajputs, he would in turn be embarking upon a new journey – the journey of true love. Akbar’s biggest challenge became winning the love of Jodhaa – a love hidden deep below resentment and extreme prejudice. 

One of Bikram's most interesting disciples, Jim, gave us an amazing lecture yesterday on the history of Bikram Yoga and how the practice and the man made it's way to the US (I will write more on this subject later when I'm not pressed for time). The correlation to this film in yesterday's discussion is that we, as yoga teachers, have to remember that it's not about us. We are helping Bikram complete his incomplete mission by spreading his practice all over the world. The people we don't like, actually need the yoga the most. Therefore, we must never discriminate. Everyone and anyone is welcome in a Bikram Yoga studio - no one excluded, ever! The minute it becomes about you, the yoga has stopped. Yoga is not about yoga postures, it's about life. Practice acceptance of others today and I promise I'll give you a good brain dump later (after my much needed massage!!)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cosmic Consciousness

Bikram started this evening's lecture (which mercifully ended at only 12:30am enabling me to write tonight) talking about the differences between Indian and American cultures. In my own words, the best way to sum it up would be the Blue Bloods vs. the Nouveau Riche. Indian culture is 5,000 years old while ours is only 200 give or take. Suffering is an accepted part of every day life in India, while Americans suffer for no reason and intentionally create problems, according to Boss Man. 

Bikram can see both sides of this proverbial coin, having grown up in India and settled his roots in Beverly Hills, hence he lives in a state of Cosmic Consciousness. He can see our spine, brain, heart, love, feelings and so forth, from the top down, which is why it's easy for him to solve our respective problems on an individualized basis. No matter what Bikram says or does, people like him. They do not question him. His role in all of this is to make us trainees see the Cosmic Mirror, so that our future students will be attracted to us, as we will be able to see the good in them and help them see it too, most importantly.

While we are all inherently good people, our brains are "totally fucked!" My mom told me not to curse so much in my blog as it is non-yogi/lady-like. She clearly hasn't spent any time with Bikram...

Total side bar here, but every other word out of Bikram's mouth is trash talk, completely candid and vulgar to make his point crystal clear. It kind of reminds me of the way we communicated in the Leasing department at SL Green, so I feel right at home here with all the trailer park lingo. There, I said it! 

Back to my cerebral monologue...News is not "news" if it's not bad these days, therefore the media is intent on making the news bad. Bikram HATES the media for this reason. The important thing to realize is there is a limit on bad, while there is no limit on all things good in this world. For example, good health, good love and good fortune - we cannot get enough of these positive things which are limitless in good. If you can pinpoint the root of the problem, you can solve it! Even chronic illness can be cured if you understand biochemistry; in other words, the mind/body relationship.

Biochemistry and it's imbalance in our bodies is what triggers the nervous system to create acids and involuntary reactions that ultimately destroy our systems. For example, why do we get angry? When we hear something we don't like, our nervous system can literally flip a switch or release a toxin that can shock our entire system. Does your neck hurt when your stressed? Do you get shingles when you're under extreme pressure? These are all symptomatic of our nervous system working against us when we are unhappy for any reason, even the smallest of annoyances. 

So what do we do about this? Always maintain happiness. It's that simple. Nothing in this world can upset you unless you let it. No one can steal your peace, unless you allow them. To practice yoga is to translate this simple message. I made the decision to come to Teacher Training to get to an elevated playing field in my mind, to take my life to a higher level of Cosmic Consciousness. While Bikram may be able to give me the master's key at the end of this 9-week roller coaster, it's up to me to actually use it. 

How will you guys use your keys today? Just remember this, you can't start the engine of a Ferrari with they key to a Toyota.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
Last night we were shown another Bollywood family drama (see left), which translates to "In times of happiness, in times of sadness.." The title alone says a lot and resonates with my constantly in-flux feelings during teacher training.

This 3.5 hour movie (yes it was another 2am night for me) forces you to reflect on your parents and your up-bringing and why you are where you are today. The lesson, in the end, is that parents and children make choices for themselves that have lasting impacts, some good, some not so good. In keeping the faith through the good times and the bad, you will     
    always find God. Without faith, God will 
ultimately leave you, according to Bikram.

Speaking of families, my mother returned from Italy yesterday. She had an amazing time, irrespective of the inclement weather and minor travel drama on the way home. I admire her perpetually positive attitude. She raised me to see the glass half full and I am so grateful for that. You see a lot of negative crap at teacher training. People's attitudes can be horrific at times, so I embrace this shield she bestowed upon me.

To give you a sense of my mother's selflessness, she dropped everything she needed to do for herself today, her first day home after a two week vacation, and ran to the city to see my watch get auctioned off (SUCCESSFULLY!) and collect my mail and other belongings that I need sent out west. I told her not to go, that it would be ok if she waited until the weekend. She went any way...that is the true love that only a mother can give. Thank you #1 Peep on the Planet!!! I love you so....

In the end, my faith in Bikram and his practice has brought me to the most positive day thus far in teacher training. Unexpected calls are coming out of the woodwork, financial situations are gelling for the positive and things I thought I needed to sweat, I don't (well, except in the hot room of course, and that's enough believe me!) I have been alcohol free for 10 days and I feel amazing. Got the eating thing down to a science. Do not forget your daily green juice people! It's a total game changer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Mahabharat Cont.

Mahabharat (the 92-hour movie that I saw only 3 hours of and will likely be forced to keep watching during training) is essentially like the Ten Commandments, without Charlton Heston and all the Hollywood glam, of course. It lays the ground work for our goals in life. The Mahabharata is the longest Sanskrit epic. About 1.8 million words in total, it is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Ramayana. Its importance is compared to world civilization to that of the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the works of HomerGreek drama, or the Qur'an, in other words - IT'S MAJOR!

Bikram's style, I'm coming to learn, is to start at the beginning and pretend we know nothing. He's right in that we are all so programmed one way or another, so what Teacher Training aims to do is reprogram our thinking and open our minds beyond what we're used to, what is comfortable. 

I am especially enjoying all of the car analogies I'm hearing along the way. In this morning's class, Barry from Reno, NV (a retired solider from the military) said that the "Kick is like the Engine and the Breath is the Fuel." While the teacher was referring to standing bow pulling pose, the lights went on in my head and the posture started to gel for me in a new way. 

Later this afternoon, Bikram informed us that Barry was visiting today to talk about bringing Bikram Yoga to the military in this country to help soldiers stay focused and readjust into life after service, something that's always been a struggle for troops in the US. Personally, I could not think of a better place for this yoga. 

Along these lines, Bikram is constantly thinking for others and staying global in his outreach. He asked us today, "what are you going to leave behind for the world?" I struggled for a while trying to come up with my answer, but that's just it! I don't have an answer yet, and it's ok, but I want one. This is why I'm here. 

Bikram also brought it back to JFK (don't worry Sal, I haven't forgotten to get the scoop) and reminded us of his brilliant speech (which Bikram will of course take credit for writing at some point over the next few weeks): "ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY." Remember that one? It still gives me the chills to say it out loud. We all can't be selfish in this world. If no one is thinking about tomorrow, then who will?

Our bodies are our powerhouses in every sense of the word. You will never know what's under your "hood" until you get on an open road and push the petal to the metal. Life is meant to be enjoyed. The #1 crime, according to Bikram, is wasting time. I couldn't agree more, but I'm not hear to preach and tell everyone they are lazy. In fact, when you try too hard, you actually die faster. So don't get caught in the quick sand of life either. Find your flow, find your balance and meditate. Bikram doesn't teach meditation - HIS CLASS IS THE MEDITATION.

Karma Yoga

With the ding of the microwave bell, signaling Bikram's hot water with lemon and ginger is ready, so started another day of lecture. I find the red San Diego mug that he religiously drinks out of a trip.  Of all the places in the world he's been, why a San Diego mug? Why red? I'm questioning the purpose of everything out here. If I had to guess, Bikram likes things consistent. That we know for sure.

55 more people delivered Half Moon pose yesterday.  Ish will deliver it today and it's honestly the most exciting I have to report!

Yesterday's evening lecture felt like a religion class, more than anything else. Whether I was in the mood for it or not, that's another story. But after all, I do list "yoga" as one of my religions on my Facebook profile, so I'm giving Bikram the benefit of the doubt and I ask that you do as well. We talked a lot about Karma Yoga, which Bikram describes as the first kind of yoga. The main reason humans came to the Earth as humans was to do our Karma Yoga. Nature created us to do this and we, as yogis are God's most powerful creation.

To prove his point, Bikram put on this movie: Mahabharat, Vol. 1
The story is one of two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. The above links give you a lot of color and detail on the story.

What does it all mean? Well, since the movie ran until after 2am, I will need to round back to you after morning lecture/recap. I slept through a lot of it, but Bikram is great at getting to and making his point several times. Repetition, repetition!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Other Yoga

I have a confession to make, I cheated on Bikram yesterday. In what may be the last Sunday of my 8 weeks left that I have the energy/desire to work out on my day off, I flowed with it and found myself at Hot 8 Yoga in Santa Monica 

I took a yoga sculpt class that incorporates light free weights into basic Vinyasa sun salutations and warm up moves. The class is taught in a 90 degree room to boot! It was intense, and I was was the most clothed person in the room. After all 90 degrees is like a holiday compared to 105 degrees in Bikram.
It was definitely a good work out and I totally sweat my face off. What's more interesting, is that concept is highly successful in California. Since I approached this from the business perspective to see what works  out here, I was impressed by how much the students love it and how well set up the facility is. Location, location, location! 

Not everyone is a purist like me. People get bored with the same 26 poses. Not everyone is looking to change their lives, some just want a bad ass work out and that is fine also. Hot 8 has 8 yoga based classes that cater to all of those needs, in a modern, minimalist, zen and most importantly, CLEAN, setting. They even have a yoga barre class similar to the Lotte Berk method we now see all over the map. Opted not to do that one as I wanted to be able to walk into my 8:30am class this morning (not crawl or limp in pain).

So what's the lesson here, variety sells. Location is everything. I am still approaching this from a Bikram only standpoint with an upgraded look and feel (i.e. Pure yoga nyc). But why not be able to get a fresh pressed juice outside of your class? Why not have a lounge to drink that juice with friends? Why not have a fresh smelling locker room with modern appointments and amazing showers? It's not that hard...who's in?

Lastly, if you're wondering why I wasn't at the beach on what should have been a great Cali beach day, check out the view of Santa Monica has been like this for days now. "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone...."
Santa Monica

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week 1 Teachers

Monday 4/16, 5pm - Bikram
Tuesday 4/17, 8:30am - Ann Kalyan, evening - Bikram
Wednesday 4/18, morning - Ulysses (Mexico City), evening - Abhinav (Santa Clara)
Thursday 4/19, morning - Emmy Cleaves, evening - Bikram
Friday 4/20, morning - Danny Dworkis (Vancouver), evening - Patrice (Costa Mesa)
Saturday 4/21, morning - Lisa Johnson (Malibu)

The Car Sitch

I need to pay proper respect to Justin Moritt for insisting I ship my car out to LA. He told me I would feel isolated without it and if you look at my schedule from yesterday, I think it says it all:

8am: YOGA
11am: coffee/errands
12:30pm: mani/pedi/study dialogue 
2pm: lunch with Motie in Marina del Ray (a new favorite spot of mine)
4pm: get car detailed/more errands
6:30pm: drive to Pacific Palisades in time to catch the sunset
8pm-12am: dinner party in paradise with friends (non-yogi's)

Fog below the sunset from overlook
Justin Moritt living the good life
Justin was a client of mine 7 years go when I ran the eemerge business for SL Green. He was a class act then and now. I'm so grateful for our friendship and happy for his new family, who was so welcoming to me yesterday. Justin married Amy five years ago and these are some of the pictures I took from her family's Italian inspired "compound." I didn't want to get too camera crazy with them on my first visit, but let me just say this, the pool over-looking eternity is one of the least impressive parts of their home, wow-wow-wow, and you know it takes a lot to impress me.... 

The Pool. I mean, seriously?
Every detail of this palace was imported from Italy, lots of stone from Umbria and glass from Venice - the absolute best of the best. No expense was spared and the design is flawless. Sound familiar? This home was on par with Bikram, down to the last perfectly landscaped flower. Amy's parents didn't skip a beat and took such pride in what they've created. They also have love and a solid 40-year marriage, which is so rare these days. They have created the most perfectly unique space for their family and friends. Like with anything else, if you look very closely, I'm sure there are some cracks, but positive energy prevails in this home and I'm happy to see Justin so at peace and in good health after struggling with previously negative relationships and a life-threatening heart condition. His wife loves yoga and gave me some great ideas for my own studio. She also spent 20 minutes in the car with me helping me sort out my German built, GPS.

Cali sunset
I only got lost twice yesterday, and in the end, the best navigation system is the map in my iPhone. Go figure. I would never realize this back home because I don't drive enough in new places. All I could think of as I was pulling out of my hotel several times yesterday, watching the rest of my yogi's get carted off in the shuttle service, was thank GOD I brought my car! Yes, it's a bit extravagant, but I would be paying the lease anyway. Yes, I'm suppose to stay local and not go places alone, according to Bikram. He clearly didn't get the memo on me yet, but he will. It's good to disconnect from the yoga bubble, even if only for 36-hours. My only regret now is not opting for the hard top convertible, but I will stop there and just say:        


Friday, April 20, 2012

Hot & Cold

Today marked the end of Week 1, not including tomorrow's 8am class. Another 50 students performed Half Moon for Bikram successfully. I am still amazed to see how different we all are; over 40 countries are represented at Teacher Training this season. On occasion, Bikram will make foreigners recite the pose in their native tongue so we can really hear their true volume and personality. Some people have cried on stage, laughed at themselves, froze up and everything in between. A teacher friend of mine told me that the less Bikram actually says to you after you deliver the pose, the better off you are...keep a low profile!

Thank you Melissa P!!  And thank you for keeping the room so G. Damn hot in NYC - I am finding myself over-prepared for the lukewarm room temperature in the ballroom. Everyday I fantasize about adding a long sleeve shirt over my top to keep my sweat going, but I am scared that people will think I'm nuts...

Speaking of nuts, the hotel staff definitely thinks I'm a basket case. They still haven't figured out the water problem in my shower. Today was scalding hot only, who knows what tomorrow will bring. It all feels like part of Bikram's grand plan at training - to keep me and everyone else on our toes as much as possible (and I'm not talking about Awkward pose). I was offered a different room today, but the truth is, I love my room and my neighbors and my proximity to classes. I will not give up on the positive energy I worked so hard to create in my space! And come on, what can top this view of the Emerald City?
View from my room
Same view different perspective
Sometimes it all boils down to changing your perspective.  Sometimes the lights are green, and sometimes they are red, white and blue. Sometimes the water is unbearably hot and sometimes it's bone chilling cold. When you least expect it, friends can change and show true colors. 

In the end, we are all "Boss." It's our choice to see things and situations one way or another. Like my Italian dinner was average food, but to me it tasted like the best 5-star restaurant because of the good company and the change of scenery. And not to mention the menu cover: 

Italian chefs doing 2nd part of Awkward pose

What is Yoga?

The obvious textbook answer to this question is the connection between mind, body and spirit. Bikram's definition is an hour and a half longer than that....YOGA IS EVERYTHING! It is the physical, mental, emotional, astronomical, etc. aspects of our being.  In other words, it's the exchange of philosophies on life. In every fraction of a second, you are doing yoga.

For those of you who are not as familiar with Bikram Yoga, it is the practice of 26 postures taught in the same exact order and temperature every time, no exceptions. Just like the alphabet has 26 letters, if you practice "A to Z" you work out everything. The minute you change the sequence, even by one hair, you lose all the benefits of the practice.

Fact: Yoga maintains youth and immunity to diseases. Bikram made an interesting comparison to prove his point last night. Professional athletes who do more sports (think boxing, football, running, everything) actually die sooner through excessive wear and tear on the body. While the more yoga you do, enables you to live longer. For all of you financial gurus out there, let me put it this way: if your life/your being is the Principal, then we're all just living on the Interest.  YOGA IS THE INTEREST in bank accounts of life.

HATHA YOGA is everything to do with the human body.

The maximum influence on our lives and bodies is called PRANA, which is the union of the sun (right side) and moon (left side) that creates life force as we know it. Too much sun and the world is cooked. Too much moon, we freeze in darkness.  Prana protects all of us.

This is my yoga and what it looks like daily.
Bikram has helped millions of people recover from injuries and terminal illnesses when Western medicine fails. He sighted really interesting celebrity examples, and one very personally moving example of someone with Leukemia (cancer of the blood), which he was able to flush out of the person's system in 60 days with Bikram Yoga. I shed a tear over this story last night, wondering if my dad had known about Bikram or had the resources to work with him privately, if yoga could have saved his precious life from an untimely death. We will never know for sure. My mom swears he was too sick for alternative treatments and I remember feeling the same way 18 years ago, but let's just say this...I'm not taking any chances!! Why would you? When the world economy was down 45% last year and the Bikram Yoga business was up 65%, having it's best year ever, those are stats I am not going to challenge (and neither would my financial advisor!!)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Class #6

This morning I had my 6th consecutive Bikram class.  We have two per day at 8:30am & 5pm, M-F and one at 8am on Saturdays.  They are all taught in the 700-person capacity ballroom of the hotel.  An amazing energy exudes doing these poses under the bright lights of the chandeliers, next to 500 people with the same goal - survival.

Today's class was taught by Emmy Cleaves, who is in every sense of the word, a MAGICIAN.  Emmy, who is 87 years young (yes freaking 87 for all of you complainers who tell me you can't do Bikram because you're not flexible) was born in Latvia in Eastern Europe and ended up in a Nazi slave labor camp during World War II. Despite this past and her age, she has not let it hold her back. “It’s the struggle that makes you stronger, that makes you more competent and makes life more exciting in a way,” she said. Years later, Emmy credited yoga with helping her recover from a debilitating brain aneurysm. "All of those things, when I look back, made me the person that I am," she said.

This was by far the most serene and beautiful class for me thus far.  Her volume, serenity, in-depth knowledge of the poses, intensity on alignment and pearls of wisdom are still ringing in my ears.  Most relative is the following: "We are all slaves to our habits, until we learn to let our habits be our slaves."
Emmy giving me one last bit of advice at graduation.
Point well taken Emmy.  I came back to my room after class, hungry and cold from a slightly cooler room today (don't tell Bikram I said that), only to find that I had no hot water and a broken sink faucet.  I have been complaining all week about the sporadic hot water situation and I knew something was really fucked up today....I am still sitting here, un-showered but peaceful. Yes, my rhythm of showering after class has been broken, but I'm ok. It gives me more time to eat and blog while the hotel fixes the issue.  I let that problem go, it is no longer mine anymore. Can we all try to translate the simplicity of letting our habits work for us today? BTW, as I'm typing this the hotel just offered me a nice clean room to shower in down the hall. Problem solved, habit dropped.  Savasana..... 

Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai

Don't kill me, but you know it's getting harder and harder out here when I miss a day on the blog, but I have a really good excuse...In & Out Burger and this movie:

Bikram kept us up until 1:30am watching the above Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai - the biggest Bollywood commercial success of 2000, which won many awards. It was was highly entertaining and a nice break from hearing Half Moon pose recited for the 300th time! However, it was a 3-hour movie after an already grueling day. I don't think any of us are really sure of the lesson in this one yet, but there will be one, aside from the theme song still stuck in my head. As we all stumbled back to our rooms, delirious, one girl behind me said it best, "I am seriously starting to feel like I am part of a cult..."  I think she's right on a lot of levels, but that said, there's no where else I'd rather be.

Everything with purpose.  Teaching means there is a connection between teacher and student.  After class this morning (which I am already late for), I will write more and hopefully have more clarity!  

Time to hydrate peeps!!!  Electrolytes, coconut water, plain water, vitamin water, water with lemon, repeat......   

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Half Moon

They always say, "it's not what you do, but how you do it," that counts.  Bikram says this a lot and it certainly rang true today.  I was one of the first 40 people out of 417 (yes, the headcount is dropping since day 1) to perform the first part of Half Moon Pose for Bikram live today.  I have been studying this particular dialogue since March, you would think it would be a piece of cake......and it has been until today.

Just this morning, on my 6am walk to Starbucks with Ish, I recited it cold and confident.  I was cocky, I was ready, I had no idea what I was in for.  After watching the first 30 people and hearing Bikram's subsequent remarks, I could not wait to get on stage.  With all my corporate experience in speaking in front of rooms with just as many people, if not more, for much longer periods of time, I thought I had this in the bag.

As the guy from Madrid finished up before me, I felt my heart start beating in my stomach.  WTF!?!  Ok, butterflies are good, I told myself.  I got a cheer from the NYC crew which helped to boost my spirit as I walked on stage and introduced myself to Bikram.  This moment was 5 years in the making, no pressure or anything.

By the 5th line, I froze, but jumped right back in with the help of the crowd who's always there to throw out the next word - thank you my fellow yogis!!  The only thing I knew is I was not going to let this man see me sweat.  I kept my tone and intonations high, my energy sounded positive, even though I was dying on the inside.  It was like Nancy Kerrigan falling during what should of been, and what was expected to be a perfect routine.  But I kept going and made the room laugh with my confidence.  Every line I recited was verbatim, except for a few pauses.

I nailed 93% of the dialogue today with just a few breaks in certain unexpected spots.  I did better than most but the perfectionist in me yearned for the Perfect 10.  After all, Nadia Comaneci is my childhood hero.  Why did I feel like the next 9 weeks was riding on the perfection of this 3 minutes of dialogue?  An even better question is, why do we forget the dialogue?  According to Bikram, we forget the words when we don't go into the teaching because we're trying to get out and get to the end.  We need to be with our students and express ourselves through the dialogue.  My personal goal after today is to make my students as comfortable as possible, but to be firm with them so they take me seriously.

Fear will make you lose your personality.  I am grateful for being fearless today and being "me" up on that stage.  Bikram's comments are actually hard to remember because the whole thing happened so fast and hours later, my heart is still trying to slow down.  He said, overall I was really good and had really nice energy.  He liked my, "PUSH, PUSH, PUSH!!"  He knew I knew the pose verbatim, as did everyone who got up there today, but only a handful of the people actually got a perfect 10.  I am thrilled for them and excited for my own progress still to come.

As Ish said in class tonight, "if you were perfect, then you'd have no where to go."  Thank you Ish, my fearless warrior, for reminding me of what's real and bringing me back down to Earth.

There was so much more that I learned today, so many wonderful and challenging experiences but I need to catch a nap before my 9:30pm lecture, so it's off to La-La land.

One last thing, a dear friend asked me to clarify something from my post yesterday regarding JFK being a celebrity who died young through his own faults, even though he was shot.  Bikram himself used him specifically as an example. While I tend to agree with you Sal, in thinking deeper about it, he should have never been in that car that day.  He chose the wrong people to protect him, he was too public in uncertain times, maybe for reasons we will never know.  I will ask Bikram myself when I get more face time, but we do know this....he was an unfaithful husband and told lies, maybe not in politics, but according to Bikram, if you're 99% right, you're 100% wrong.

Monday, April 16, 2012

From India with Love

Today I met my guru, Bikram Choudhury and all I can say is he's just as crazy, dynamic, egotistical and no-holds-barred as everyone promised he would be, but I went into his lecture today with a different approach....I pretended I never knew of him or had any preconceived notions about him.  It was much more fun that way and it's the way we all should look at the world, but I'm not ready to go that deep yet, so bear with me.

His 1-hour lecture felt about 10 minutes long, to give you a sense of how engaging this man is.  Beyond learning that he spent all the money he made off of our training at Harrods in London (on Swarovski encrusted platform shoes), I also embraced and took interest in the following:

- Poison kills the poison; in other words, pain kills the pain. We all have ailments that can be healed with work. When western medical science stops, Bikram's yoga science starts for a lot of us, myself included.  As a lot of you know, I suffer from a badly blown disc in my cervical spine.  It has deteriorated to the tune of "you must do surgery," from my orthopedic surgeon.  With Bikram and acupuncture in my life, I know now that surgery is not the only option, it's actually the last thing I want  or need to do right now. If you didn't already know this, Bikram broke his knee in 1964 in a horrendous weight lifting accident. His doctors wanted to sever his leg and told him he would never walk again. Bikram contemplated suicide at the time because for a macho guy like him, that seemed like a better option than living life as a crippled person. But he took a different path with his own guru and while all the doctors who advised him in the 60's are long dead, Bikram is alive and kicking and jumping and walking and fit beyond fit, so let's start from there....

- "The New School" - that's where I am people.   In this University, we don't follow the world, the world follows us.  We all deal with the pain from practicing yoga together. The pain is the same for everyone. It's the practice of Bikram that makes us feel human, but there is a major road block that all of the trainees and I are looking to get past - our minds.  "Mind is the #1 enemy!" Over the next 9 weeks, I will be working towards using my body as a medium to keep my mind in my brain, the only place it should be.  (more to follow on this topic later)

- Yoga is a marriage of body, mind and spirit.  While 77% of marriages in the United States fail, yoga marriage is forever, if you make the connection between the 3 elements. What Bikram teaches us is humanity and spiritualism, plain and simple.  He's not trying to be something he's not, nor is his practice, hence the simplified nature of 26 postures taught exactly the same way, in exactly the same order, in exactly the same temperature (give or take).

- Negative energy is 9 times more positive than positive energy, think about it.  We all need to be our own warriors to protect ourselves and our loved ones. "English Bulldog Determination!!"

- What's the most important thing in your life? You!!! To use Bikram's analogy, we are all little frogs dancing in the small puddles of life and thinking those puddles are big oceans. The small puddles are comfortable and familiar. The big oceans are massive and never ending, with sharks and other predators. We must prove ourselves in the big ocean to feel good about coasting along the puddles of life.

- Last but not least, consider this....famous celebrities, all the ones we love (Marilyn, Elvis, Jim Morrison, JFK, etc.) all died young. They didn't take care of themselves, they weren't their own #1's.  They lived for others and lived on "crutches" to ease their pain. Yogis never die. Death comes to yogis only when they are ready; only when they want to.  It's pretty powerful....

I have only one thing to say about the 5 o'clock class tonight taught by Bikram.....I enjoyed him much more as a lecturer when he wasn't killing me softly with his joke, he actually sang that tonight in class, along with his other chart toppers in India. This man has done it and seen it all. He broke us all down, one by one. It was the hardest, hottest, most inspiring, energetic, vulgar and emotional class I ever took. I stayed in the room unlike some of my fellow trainees, so I'm pumped about that! I feel like I'm in Yoga Kindergarten, starting from scratch. Aren't we all most days? I was able to share my abundance of ice cold water (thank you 64oz Hydro flask, see right image) during class with a friend, in exchange for some electrolytes that he had. We all need to lean on others at times and I am grateful for my new buddy. As of tonight, we are stocked and ready to jump into the "big ocean" head first tomorrow.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Taking It To The Next Level

And so day 63 began at 5am EST and still rambles on at 9pm PST.  I am happy to report that my travels were smooth and my fellow yogis are wonderful.  There are 424 of us and each of us has 424 different reasons for being here, yet we all share a common goal in needing to learn more about ourselves, by taking our practice to the next level and getting situated in the "starting line" of life.   We are all starting together on equal ground.  It is truly a profound moment in my life worthy of a pause and a sigh....ahhhhh.

I heard the background on Bikram today from the people who know him best and have been practicing with him since the early 70's.  I was moved by their candor and learned the following in our 2-hour orientation:

- The practice of Bikram is comparable to the process of life...when it stops, you're done!

- Yoga is not just what you're going to be learning, but how you learn defines you as an individual.  How you share your findings has an even more profound impact on the world around you.

- The reason there are mirrors in Bikram studios is so you can study yourself and see everything.  Bikram himself is like a mirror to our souls.  He will hone in on our weaknesses only to crack us and rebuild us, stronger (nice & tight contraction, nothing loose, nothing hanging!)

I have decided today that I am personally here to learn how to love myself and those around me.  There is no reward or silver lining at the end of all of this.  It's going to be hard, I will likely cry on multiple occasions and have major melt downs along the way, but I know in my heart the "juice will be worth the squeeze."  The reward will find me....

My goal over the next 62 days is to simplify my life, suspend all resistance and listen.  The hardest thing to do in Bikram yoga is actually listen.  I will learn how to create the optimum Bikram yoga environment for my students and make the process/practice my own. Technique is key!

On a personal, superficial note, I ran into a fellow yogi from my home base studio unexpectedly today. It was a wonderful surprise to see a familiar face and have a partner in crime to canvas Sepulveda Blvd. with.  Join forces and make alliances where ever and how ever.  There is strength in numbers during Training.  That has been made very clear to me.

Looking forward to spending all day tomorrow with Boss Man and taking my first class with him.  Cannot wait to have my proverbial world rocked!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

By this time tomorrow I will be in orientation, finding out what my existence for the next 9 weeks will entail.  I have all but finished (over) packing and staring at the four walls of my apartment.  It's a gorgeous spring weekend in NYC.  The city is buzzing with energy, smells and people running to outdoor places I will miss.

My tenure with SL Green is behind me.  I will never look back, but always be grateful for the opportunities the firm gave me.  If it wasn't for the past 11.5 years, I could not be taking this huge step forward.

My mother, Elizabeth, is frolicking around Rome for the first time.  She is happy and in her own personal heaven, which makes me happy too.

As I look back on all that I've accomplished in order to move forward, I feel gratitude for the friends and family that supported me along the way, and excitement for the friends I've yet to meet who will continue to expand my horizons.

To quote one of my favorite Bikram NYC yoga teachers, Terra M,
"everything builds on the last thing to open you up."  She also told me,
"nothing changes if nothing changes."
I took Terra's 8am class this morning.  It was my last practice at my home base studio and so amazing to have come full circle after focusing on her (and her mother's) mantras for a couple of years.

Okay, time to focus on the Bikram dialogue.  I know half moon and awkward.  Trying to learn Eagle before I hit the ground in LA.  After receiving very helpful advice from a former Trainee this morning, I have chosen not to stress myself out and learn the entire dialogue before arriving.  I was told most people who do that have to relearn a lot of elements of the dialogue, and isn't that the whole point anyway, to learn with your peers and teachers and of course, Boss man!!

Looking forward to my last nyc pizza dinner - VEZZO!!  Sitting outside with great company, sipping wine on this kind of evening is what it's all about here.

Will I be off the bottle for 9 weeks?  Not sure yet....