Monday, June 18, 2012

The Journey Home

Yesterday I returned to my former life in a different body, with a different mind and a different spirit. The major difference is that now all three things feel aligned, one piece, like a lamppost - unbroken! 

NYC is always so magical to return to after long periods of time. It always feels like home. It is always exciting. I studied the dialogue most of the plane ride home and was tremendously productive in Business Class (thank God!) In between snoozes and Star magazine, I refined the standing series without being too disruptive to the guy next to me.

As we neared the end of the flight, I decided to pull up the shade for a peek to see where we were. I happened to look out just as the plane was flying over NYC from the West Side/NJ. I was never so happy to see Her.

When I finally got to Toe Stand, I was hung up on the last line, just before Savasana. "Change. Come up exactly the opposite way you went down."

Exactly the opposite...isn't that my life now? It's so different from where I was, even just one year ago; so much better. The journey into LAX and the inner workings of Bikram Choudhry - the magician, the salesman, the madman, the genius, the comedian, the therapist, the Jewish American Prince and the list goes on - was very similar to the journey out. 

Leaving LA on Sunday morning, I had the same bittersweet emotions as when I left NY back in April. The feelings are all the same; its all relative. Some moments, I feel like I got sideswiped by Hurricane Bikram. I am exhausted emotionally but have tons of energy physically, which I guess is a good result. 

This morning marked my return to Bikram Yoga NYC. Solange taught the 8am - she killed us, as usual. She and I spoke at length about my Teacher Training experience. She totally cared about my development. I could not get out of the locker room with all the questions being thrown at me from anyone who knew I just returned from Training. It felt like home.

My goal is to continue blogging on all subjects yoga/health related to keep all you Yoga Girls informed. Stay tuned for NY Yoga Girl!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Week 9 Teachers

Monday pm: Bikram
Tuesday pm: Bikram
Wednesday am: Joseph (NY)
Wednesday pm: Juan
Thursday am: Emmy
Thursday pm: Jim
Friday am: Raj
Friday pm: Bikram

Twas the Night Before Graduation....

...And all through the house, lots of yogis were stirring, but thankfully not the mouse. 
Our bags were almost packed, less the one magical degree.
That piece of paper we came for, which equals our personal victory.

One last class with Boss tonight, of course in rare form. 
He gave us his all, which is always the norm.
High fives were abundant as we waited with pride,
To start our last class together, wow - what a fucking ride!

Our graduation outfits have all been selected with care.
We will primp, we will glam, but no GREEN anywhere!

I can't believe tomorrow is the day we say goodbye.
Graduation footage will be streamed live, there will be no dry eye.
That's right, I speak in Calcutta tongue now that I'm through,
So I can race home to New York and show you what I can do.

To save your life and build you a new spine,
Would be my biggest privilege, it will be so divine!
So see you in the Hamptons, July 1st is the date.
Hamptons Hot Yoga, please don't be late.

I will close the door on this chapter before the real magic starts.
My teaching career awaits me, I will leave behind only Jimmy's farts.
That's right, I said it, there was agony along the way,
But the journey was worth it, if only we could stay...

Just Breathe

I have managed to stay healthy for 9 weeks, while everyone around me has been sick at least once. I was proud of this statistic up until today. Tonight my throat failed me, my energy level was low. 

Since Bikram's type of breathing takes place through the throat, using the nose and mouth as only passageways, I was not able to fully engage in this evening's meditative breathing. I was there in body, but my mind and spirit have already returned home to New York. 

What I can tell you is this...our lungs are always hungry. Like an insatiable, wild animal, the lungs crave purified air. Bikram created a breathing system that fuels this fire. We take 6 seconds to inhale and 6 seconds to exhale in the warm-up of his series. Do you ever notice that a solid 10 minutes of thorough breathing at the beginning of class translates to an amazing practice? I can always tell how good my poses will be by how strong my breathing is. That's because it's all related..

Breathing is not just something we do to survive, it's something we do to calm down, to meditate and to produce energy in our bodies. Life force is another term used to describe the breath. It is everything and nothing all at the same time. Air leaves almost as fast as it comes into our bodies. How we choose to harness it is up to the individual.

The end of week 9 marks more and more down time and less and less dialogue study, which I hope to resume asap (i.e. on the plane ride home Sunday). I have a heavy heart and an anxious mind as I begin to pack up my hotel room which I practically turned into a studio apartment. Thank God Mom is bringing an extra suitcase and I have my trunk to pack the rest in.

I am so grateful to be seeing my mother tomorrow. She's flying cross-country to watch me graduate on Saturday, which will be a most-memorable moment for both of us. Hopefully my body will continue to fight whatever has crawled in me and taken up residence. In the mean time, I will have to breathe my way through, (which ever nostril is still functioning), for the next 48-hours.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

There Are Places I Remember

The things I will miss the most about LA/Training:
- Doing yoga twice a day with 400+ like-minded people
- Bikram's "colorful" commentary in class
- The Counter
- Manhattan Beach weekends
- Getting my ass kicked by Emmy every Thursday
- Michon's DJ'ing skills
- Spending an hour by the pool daily
- Observing Balwan
- Group 11 comrades
- Visits with Motie
- Exploring new yoga studios in the area
- Belly laughs & good coffee with Rachael F
- Adventures with Ish

The things I will miss the least about LA/Training:
- Lecture room chairs
- Lining up daily/nightly to grab said chairs
- Inconsistently cold yoga
- Annoying questions & negative people
- Posture clinic floors & injuries
- Water belly
- Bed Bug paranoia
- Listening to people complain about their roommates
- The 3rd Floor Ice Machine!
- Michon's wandering eye
- Sugar/caffeine pushers
- Carrying a 64oz water bottle everywhere I go

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Real Yogi

A real yogi....
...Turns her head in sadness; always remains calm and balanced.
...Shows no sign of sorrow or happiness, just depth of soul.
...Controls her own mind and senses, not the other way around.
...Possesses no attachment.
...Uses intellect to define peace and thwart desire.
...Does not partake in false sympathy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Hardest Part...

...Of Week 9 is staying present. How can you with the thought of returning home looming? To make matters worse, our heating system is busted, again. We are forced to practice in icy cold conditions, which translates to barely breaking a sweat these days. I have fantasies about practicing at the other local studios to get my heat on, but I cannot abandon the ship. We have started together, all 411 of us that remain, and we will finish together on Saturday, guns blazing, certificates in hand, with our smiling happy faces.

Tonight's class will be filmed and used (if good) for at-home practice. Bikram has apparently tried multiple times to get this DVD made for public sale, but none of the previous footage has made the cut. I'm trying to be motivated and positive, but I am cold and tired from the 3 hours of sleep I got last night (not counting the 2 hours of sleep on the floor during last night's movie, which I can't even tell you the name of).

My problematic neck has turned it's pain switch on again, partially due to lack of heat during practice and sleeping on the floor. And partially due to subconscious stress and nervousness revolving around the end of my training. Bikram's lectures are long, specific and non-specific all at the same time. He contradicts a lot of what we learned to be correct at our home studios. 

It's time to go down to the 5 o'clock Bollywood meets Hollywood yoga class. I wonder if Boss will ask us what he can do with "dead, cold pussy" tonight? He better!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

You Can't Afford to Be One Hair Off

Apologies for my lag in writing.  Going into the 9th week brings a slew of new emotions to the surface. This is the home-stretch. Saying goodbye will be hard, but saying hello to a new future is the most exciting aspect of reaching graduation. That, and seeing my mom and Group 11 cheer me on.

Bikram is lecturing all week about each of the 26 postures and how to really break them down when you're teaching. I will just say this...there's a lot of incorrect guidance out there, which is one of the benefits of practicing at a true (licensed) Bikram Yoga studio. You are guaranteed the real experience for your body.

As Bikram said, "you can't afford to be one hair off in the beginning of your life...Liar is liar. Thief is thief. Everyone should have a Guru (someone that is not your parents) when they are young. A Guru is a "life expert." The first step of life is self-realization."

There will be much more to follow on the poses as we go forward into the week. 

We said goodbye to our beloved, Felix, this morning. His wife's water broke, so he flew home to Montreal to welcome Daniela into this world. 

Felix - I am so happy for you guys! We will all miss your happy, smiling, sign-in face every day. Please post pictures asap!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

If You Build It, They Will Come

While yoga to Americans is somewhat of a new-age movement, the philosophies that govern it are thousands of years old. The principles and spirit of Bikram originated in India, where spiritualism comes slowly, gently. This is the exact same pace at which Bikram manages his franchise business.

With only one person managing the application process globally, and all decisions on who can open a franchise and where, still governed by Bikram alone, you can imagine the back log created. Make no mistake, Bikram likes it that way. Since he's already achieved fame and fortune and has mastered the art of work hard/play hard, it's no wonder he shoots for quality, not quantity. Again, a very Eastern way of approaching life.

As Americans, we want it all now, yesterday and that's just not Bikram's style. So with the gauntlet thrown, the rules are as follows....

- You must teach for 6 months and have 75 classes under your belt before you can contact headquarters about opening a franchise.
- Location requests can take a few weeks for Bikram to approve. 
- He will not let you open too close to another Bikram studio (unless it's your own).
- You have six months to find a space and go to lease in your market, otherwise the territory goes to the next teacher in queue who's looking to open.
- Bikram collects a monthly licensing fee of up to $500 to use his name/logo.

There are a ton of other logistic requirements that all take place in a very specific order, as mandated by Boss. Is that really the right approach in this fast-growing, yoga-conscious marketplace? 

I worry for  Bikram's franchise stability given all the "illegal" (non-Bikram hot yoga) studios popping up everywhere you turn, here and abroad. It is my strong opinion that he will ultimately not be able to afford to fight all the copy-cats without an expansive, in-house legal department. Not to mention, his brand is not used consistently enough to foster Bikram loyalty. The main reason, is that people are having extremely different experiences from studio to studio. Some are hot, some are not, some smell like B.O., some smell like artificial creamsicle (UES), some have hard wood floors, some have Flotex carpet, and the physical variances go on and on. If the dialogue is the same, why not put forth more effort behind the franchise to make the user experience the same. SEX SELLS and Bikram knows that first hand. After all he's the one who taught us "no money, no honey!" 

The two owners of existing franchises that lectured - Lisa Johnson and Jodie Peterson - seem to have it all. According to Jodie, if we just "remember our students' names and trust Bikram's guidance through the process," everything else will fall into place. Most studios that got their start 10+ years ago, seem to have a huge advantage over the newcomers to the market (and I'm sure they must have felt the same about their predecessors). Maybe I'm biased as I've got my sights set on opening in two very popular markets, which are already saturated with yoga and notorious for "red tape" and anti-competition mentalities.

The biggest change, as of late, is the one-time franchise fee that Bikram now requires for all new owners to pay. This amount was not disclosed to us, but I hear it's in the $10K range. I picked up a few other pearls of wisdom, when it comes to owning a studio. It's definitely a business that never sleeps. It's the business of saving lives, the job I always wanted to have. If it's not taken as seriously as it sounds, it will fail. There is really no easy way in, although I always manage to have a few legs up on the process, which I cannot share publicly. 

Bottom line when it comes to opening a Bikram franchise - Go big or go home. Size does matter; the studio must be at least 3,000sf. All the answers to our business and logistical questions can be found in the dialogue. If we can convince our students to move with Love, we will see Green.

Week #8 Teachers

Monday am: Muktamala Ghosh (Bishnu Ghosh's granddaughter)
Monday pm: Antonia (Headquarters)
Tuesday am: Cynthia (California)
Tuesday pm: Bikram
Wednesday am: Raj
Wednesday pm: Jodie Peterson (Owner, Bikram Yoga Brookvale, Australia)
Thursday am: Emmy
Thursday pm: Bikram
Friday am: Raj
Friday pm: Bikram

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Osteoporosis & Bikram

Through scientific methods and research, a lot of the major benefits of Bikram have already been proven. Because my grandmother suffered badly, at the end of her life, as do 28 million people (in 2011), from Osteoporosis, I think it's important that everyone know the facts. 

There are 2 Types of Osteoporosis - Primary & Secondary
Primary has no underlying cause and develops from an excessively sedentary lifestyle, which causes age-related bone loss. 
Secondary has an actual cause. Some of those causes include: steroids, alcoholism, anorexia, cigarette smoking, diabetes and kidney failure; just to name a few.

Here is a brief summary of the highlights:

  • 80% of all Osteoporosis cases effect women.
  • There are no signs/symptoms of pain. Only when you break a bone do you realize you have it.
  • We spend $15 billion annually to treat Osteoporosis.
  • Your body steals calcium from your own bones when you are not getting it in your diet.
  • Post-menopausal women can lose 3% of their bone mass annually.
  • Women 60+ years old should go for a bone scan (DXA scan) regularly.
  • Working against gravity increases bone density, which is why walking, running and other high impact exercise has always been known to work well as a preventative treatment.
  • Yoga is the only low-impact exercise that increases bone mass.
  • If you're already post-menopausal and you start yoga now, you won't lose as much bone.
  • Bikram Yoga can reverse Osteoporosis.
  • You do not need dairy in your diet to get enough calcium, so remember to eat your green leafy vegetables and other calcium fortified foods.
  • If you are taking calcium supplements, don't take more than 500mg at a time. 1,000mg per day is ideal (if you're not getting it already in your diet).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Beginners & Losers

Randomly today, I heard from two male friends who are new to Bikram. Maybe it was the full moon last night, or all the love and positive energy in the LAX air surrounding next week's end to our nine weeks of enlightenment, but whatever the case, I was so touched and inspired by the following email message I received from a former colleague of mine at SL Green. He is no longer with the firm, and shall remain is what he wrote:

"Wanted you to know after watching your updates I just signed up for a
month of bikram, will see how it goes once i get a chance to start it. how are things? 
I guess your site says it all!"

This message, in addition to hearing from Motie today, who did his third class solo (meaning without me) at the Agoura Hills Bikram Studio, makes my nine weeks worthy. Both friends have struggled with back pain and even surgery to resolve the pain. I know they will find relief and experience new beginnings though yoga. Thank you my friends for sharing your stories and soon your practices with me.

Ironically, today was one of the LEAST inspiring days on the Bikram Yoga College of India front. This morning's yoga class was cold and uninspiring. I HATE COLD CLASSES, as much as Bikram "hates lazy people!" 

This afternoon's lecture was the worst so far (repetitive topic - spine, spine, spine! Yes, we get it. It's all about our spines!) And even the Boss Man himself, was out of sorts teaching the evening class. He blamed his low energy mode on the bad East Coast weather, having just returned from lecturing at Harvard University. Harvard Medical/Research is now devoting its resources to the study of Bikram Yoga Therapy as it relates to medicine....hopefully the rest of the world will catch on now too.

Raj's brother, who's the head of Gynecology at UCLA, spoke about fertility tonight in a broad sense, but it was nothing I didn't already know. Obviously, if your mind is more tranquil through the practice of yoga, you will have an easier time getting pregnant. At least he was comedic! Apparently Raj ties this all into her pregnancy lecture(s) which we've yet to have.

Bikram made the movie tonight optional, so I took a pass and drove my Yoga Sister, Rachael to CVS so she could get some much needed cold supplies. After being a mom and a sister to all of us for eight weeks, it all caught up to her and now it's time for us to take care of her! 

Rach - if it wasn't for your presence next door and your magical coffee, I would not have made it this far. I certainly wouldn't be up right now writing. I love you sister! 

As Rachael and I pulled into the Radisson tonight, we recited our memorable Bikram quotes of the day. Mine was in relation to Bikram's commentary on the crappy Boston weather. He said, "see this is why I don't like the East Coast. My nose close, my throat close and my ass close...!" 

As we reminisced on the day's highs and lows, we stumbled upon Bikram's one of a kind Rolls in the driveway. Yes, another Vintage Rolls people! He has 40 something of them....

Rachael said, "we might be complaining, but Bikram's laughing all the way to the bank." 

True that!!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Today marks the 12th day before I go back to my real-world life, but it's not like I'm counting or anything...just as I was telling Ish how excited I am to return home, Bikram decides to throw on the above movie, Krrish2006 Bollywood science fiction superhero film directed, produced, and written by Rakesh RoshanKrrish received mixed reviews from critics in India, but was widely appreciated by audiences, who gave it a record opening week at the box office. The film became the second highest earning Indian film of 2006 and grossed a worldwide total of $23.34 million. It was given a "blockbuster" rating by Box Office India. The film won both the National and Filmfare awards for special effects, while actor Hrithik Roshan (the sexiest Indian actor I've ever seen) received praise and numerous best actor awards for his role. 

Why was this Bollywood Night different from all other nights? For the first time, I ended a movie with Bikram wide awake at 2am. I have so much energy and no neck pain! This is major....

While the storyline of the movie is somewhat "out there" and unrealistic, the underlying message is strong and struck a beautiful cord within me. The hero and main character - Krrish - possesses super-human powers that are comparable to a modern day Batman or Superman. The viewer doesn't know right away how he got these powers, but all is revealed in a very action-packed, sequential way that kept me glued for 3 hours. Krrish is good to the core and doesn't want the real world to know of his capabilities for a myriad of reasons. Mainly because he made a promise to his grandmother not to reveal himself once he leaves his home in the secluded mountains of India for Singapore to marry his dream girl.

Krrish is the simplest and humblest of superheroes I've ever encountered. In an odd way, he reminded me of why I was here and what I've been working towards for the past 8 weeks. Sometimes the past  IS worth holding onto and the future is NOT worth seeing. To be human is divine, especially when you possess a power within you that no one else has. As Bikram likes to say, "born baby, die baby. We have no idea the strengths that we have as individuals." This point may not resonate or mean anything to you, but I'm starting to see his meaning, as I near the end of my journey here.

Don't get me wrong, I have my share of disappointments in Bikram as a person and this "process," but in the end I am true to me and the ones I love and Bikram is definitely still one of those people. My goal is to channel the newfound energy I have discovered at Training into helping others find their own strength and super-human capabilities. Not all of us can swing from skyscrapers and rid the planet of evil, but we all have the power to start small and start cleaning up ourselves. With purity comes perseverance and determination. Who will you save today? How will you make this world a better place? If you start within yourself, you're already halfway home.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Week #7 Teachers

Monday am: Latisha McDaniel, owner (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
Tuesday am: Cheryl, Headquarters
Wednesday am: HERMOSA BEACH STUDIO w/Jamie - amazing teacher!
Wednesday pm: HERMOSA BEACH STUDIO w/Daniel
Thursday am: HERMOSA BEACH STUDIO w/Devin
Friday pm: Juan, Headquarters
Saturday am: Victoria Hovda (Bikram Yoga Old Town, San Diego)
Saturday pm: Robin Brace (Bikram Yoga New Haven, CT)
Sunday am: Jake, Headquarters
Sunday pm: Kat(h), Headquarters

When I practice...

....I find myself constantly touching my thumbs to my individual fingers. When I impersonate a yogi at rest, I exemplify my Moudras for effect, but I never understood why. Moudras defined are: A gesture or position, usually of the hands, that locks and guides energy flow and reflexes to the brain. By curling, crossing, stretching and touching the fingers and hands, we can talk to the body and mind as each area of the hand reflexes to a certain part of the mind or body.

So how does this relate to us? The Universe is made up of 5 elements: Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Space. These universal elements correlate to each finger: Fire w/Thumb, Air w/Index Finger, Space w/Middle Finger, Earth w/Ring Finger and Water w/Pinky Finger. 

Dr. Sarkar told that the reason we wear wedding bands on the ring finger, is in theory because marriage "grounds" us to the Earth with our partner. The fire in our thumbs controls metabolism. Water in our little fingers controls our body's fluid content. Space in our middle fingers keeps necessary distance between our vital organs. Air from our index fingers represents the Prana (breath) or life force within us. If you want to read more about this topic, this site gives a very clear explanation on what touching each finger with the thumb can do for a person:

Jesse & his girlfriend, Dayna & Me
Carla, Angela & Me
On the less spiritual front, I had a wonderful dinner with 17 of my group members last night. We had meaningful conversation and a lot of laughs. I got to know them on a deeper level and am still blown away by the magic of our diversity and that we all united for the same goal, given our differences.  
Me & Melissa Mailly

With 2 weeks left on my journey, I am living every moment as present as possible. I know I will miss this time upon my return, but look forward to reconnecting to my real world friends and family. My yoga family will always be there for me. We make promises to visit each other and take each others' first classes, but will we? 
Faith, Me & Angela
It's so hard going into Week 8 without a break from practicing, but none of us really need one at this point. Our routine is ingrained. My routine here will be imbedded into my daily life and career back home, so that...

When I practice, I am a philosopher
When I teach, I am a scientist
When I demonstrate, I am an artist

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I Am The Cause, I Am The Cure

Today's lecture was given by Dilip Sarkar, MD, FACS, CAD. He is a retired professor of surgery and a very good speaker, who spoke candidly and eloquently about Bikram Yoga for Cardiac Wellness and Yoga Therapy, among other topics. 

Yoga is a practice towards your own self-realization. You've probably heard that before, if not in this blog. More simply put, if your body is the hardware, then your mind is the software and your spirit is the programmer. The body-mind-spirit union is what makes us "whole." As Dr. Sarkar said, it's funny that we've dropped the "w" off of "holistic" for this very reason.

Sarkar's stance on health is you need to consider the overall wellness of a person vs. honing in on a specific illness or disease, to properly treat them with yoga. With 20 million people now practicing yoga on a regular basis, more and more studies are being done globally on the positive effects of yoga as it relates to health. The results of this research have morphed into "integrative medicine," which is the new school (and the only school) that I will be following after Training.

If you are overweight and thinking, I am too fat to do these poses....think again! Body size has been proven to have no bearing on the effectiveness of yoga. While conventional medicine defines being healthy as the absence of disease, Yoga Therapy would define disease ("dis-ease") as the absence of vibrant health. 

The flexibility of your spine, ultimately dictates health and age in a person. Yoga Therapy is a strong, but slow medicine, that doesn't include a standard protocol the way western medicine does. Therapy via yoga is individualized for each person, based on their needs. I also learned today that having a genetic predisposition to a certain disease (heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, etc) is no longer an excuse either. Yoga causes "genetic suppression" of every type of disease known to man (Google, epigenetics to learn more about this topic). This means, just because your mom had "it," you are not necessarily destined to get it if you practice yoga regularly.

Ok, enough of the cerebral dump.....the studio is back in effect at the Radisson. I took a VERY COOL class tonight at 7:30pm, but I was happy to be back where I belong and back in some semblance of our usual routine. Here at Training, without the routine, I become dark and down on being here. I have taken for granted the mental and physical conditioning that takes place every day, twice a day. Not any more. Dr. Sarkar told us today that Yoga is the most addictive substance on the market these days, and after an abnormal Week 7 without consistent yoga, I couldn't agree more with him.