Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Reflection Before Class 10 for Group 11

My beloved Group 11...have you had that moment in class yet when you look at yourself in the mirror and say, "holy shit, I am a yoga teacher now?" There's so much relief in saying it, feeling it, especially after what we just accomplished. On the flip side, there is an added pressure, an unspoken responsibility that we now have to ourselves and others. How we are perceived and how we choose to perceive others are now one and the same, no higher, no lower.

It's hard work to gain the perception you want; we idealize ourselves to already be great at this, but we have only just begun.

If you're not working hard now in your practice, you are not trusting the process. They were right all along in posture clinic; the practice of teaching is so much more than dialogue.

With Love & Gratitude,
the Other Melissa 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Loss & Teaching - Class 8

Yesterday was the most picture perfect day of the summer thus far. Blue skies + magnificent breeze + no humidity = ideal Hamptons climate. For reasons I can't share publicly, there was an utter contrast in my heart yesterday. I found out on Tuesday that Sari Weinstein, mother of my most special and long-time friend Suzanne, had passed early Sunday morning. She battled Cancer with the strength of an army. She was a very special mother, wife, grandmother, teacher and leader within her community. Her loss will be felt for years to come and her footprint on this Earth will never be completely filled. I haven't seen Sari in years, but who could forget her contagious smile and gorgeous red hair? She loved long days at the beach with her family and was a friend to anyone who crossed her path. Her remarkable legacy was marked by the boatloads of people who have been hovering over 24 Alma Lane since her funeral. When I pulled up my car last night, not a single spot remained on her street to park. Children flooded the streets, immune to the sadness of great loss. I found myself jealous of their innocence and began to reflect on the class I had just taught 2 hours prior to arriving at the Weinstein's.

Bikram students, new or seasoned, are a lot like children. They are innocent and naive in their practices. They don't have the ability to turn off their minds yet; they are active and can surprise you at every turn. Last night, a student said to me after class, "I wanted to kill the person next to me because she was jumping ahead and not moving with the class from pose to pose." This is the greatest challenge for most yogi's, just to listen, just to be and not let others steal your peace.

So I took this lesson to heart while paying my respects last night and just listened to what anyone connected to Sari had to say about her. I teared up on several occasions. How could you not? Fred Weinstein was retelling beautiful stories of the trips he took with his wife. They loved to travel; anywhere and everywhere by the beach. They liked what they liked and no one could ever steal their peace and love for one another. I find this kind of connection very rare today, so when I see it, I am utterly fascinated.

The beautiful thing about teaching yesterday, as always, was that for 90 minutes, I put my heartache out of my mind and body and put all my focus and energy into my students. If they listened to me for even a fraction of the time I spent listening to Suzanne, Lori and Russel last night, then I know I did my job.

RIP Sari. We will all save a spot for you at the beach and Sue will be sure to leave your top down!    

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Life, My Day & Class #7

Another peaceful Monday morning in Southampton. My typical day out here begins at around 7am, just like in Teacher Training. I'm not quite sure what Bikram did to me out in LA, but for some reason, no matter when I got to bed, under most conditions, my body's natural alarm clock goes off at 7. At first, I was really bothered by the fact that I exist just fine on only 4 hours of sleep, but now I've come to embrace the productivity those extra hours in the morning afford me. Just call me Napoleon!! I'm getting it all done and have time to hang and relax with family and friends, which feels so much more rewarding than it used to.

Job number 1: Hydrate.

Job number 2: Make sure to eat at least an hour before teaching or taking class.

Job number 3: Take care of mom's plants before leaving the house. While at first I was kind of bothered by this extra task she put upon me, I have grown to love the Geraniums, the Purple Fountain Grass, the fresh basil and mint. I've come to rely so heavily on fresh mint in my yoga water bottles. It's so refreshing with a little lemon and ice....ahhh!

Job number 4: Work on all domestic maintenance. This is one thing I don't need or have to do in the city because my living space is so much smaller. We don't have real kitchens to cook in or our own laundry machines to do countless loads of wash in. No one actually takes out their own trash (the porters in our high rises do this) and we wash our dishes by hand since dishwashers are another commodity not always found in NYC apartments.

Job number 5: Drive. I'm a car person. Always have been, always will be. It gives me so much pleasure to have actively used my car daily for the past four months. That's unheard of as a New Yorker, and while I like walking from place to place very much back home in the city, there's nothing like driving past a priceless sunset or a sunflower field on the way to or from work. My commute is 10-15 minutes by car give or take the traffic (on the back roads of course). I love it and will miss it terribly come the fall. Driving also gives me the chance to listen to the Bikram dialogue, which I recorded on my iPhone and can play through the car's audio system via blue tooth. I can effectively rehearse 2-3 postures + Pranayama Breathing before I reach the studio. This exercise gives me the confidence I need to start my classes with enthusiasm and accuracy.

Job number 6: Teach! Today I taught my seventh Yoga class with ease. My mentor, Lienette, did not practice with me today, so I relied on the candid feedback from my loyal students, which I'm happy to report was super positive. When I leave the studio, I always feel this tremendous sense of accomplishment and relief. My day officially begins when my class ends and depending on what time of day I teach. That beginning can sometimes be as late as 8 or 9pm and it's worth it!

The people who pass by the yoga studio, to practice or to ask where the best place in town for a wax is, never cease to amaze me. Just two minutes before class started, a long lost friend from U of M walks into the studio to ask about waxing in town and we embraced and screamed when we saw each other. She will be taking my next class on Wednesday. I love this connection that yoga brings to my world. Not just with my own body and mind, but with the bodies, minds and souls of others. You give back and then the Yoga gives back tenfold. Amen!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pause. Reboot. Teach - Class 6

It's been eleven days since I taught my last class....the longest week and a half of my life. I missed teaching so badly and didn't realize it until today. Before I give you the skinny on tonight's class, I just want to say how fortunate and blessed I am to be given the gift of teaching. I will never, ever take it for granted. Sometimes life throws you long stretches of silence, unrest and way too much time-to-think. While at first the reprieve can seem like a vacation, ultimately you become trapped in your own jail that exists only in your mind. Your girl has broken free and is back in full force with new lessons and pearls of wisdom to share.

Tonight's 4:30pm class was a beautiful group of seven strong practitioners. I did not ask about injuries at the beginning of class, but have started to "read" the bodies to try and figure out what people are struggling with. I kept my pacing back and forth to a minimum by leaving markers for myself on either side of the room, that way I could deliver one set of each pose on either end of the studio so my energy is spread evenly throughout the room. I have grown accustomed to teaching from the back of the room, so today I tip toed to the front on occasion to familiarize myself with the different angle - fun!

I'm feeling more at home in the studio itself. After bonding with the hard wood floors and high-tech laundry machines, I made friends with the art gallery owners next door. While everyone rushed back to the city late this Sunday, my day was only beginning. My yoga light went back on and now it's blue skies all the way out from where I stand.

I received the best compliment a teacher could ever get after class. One of my students thanked me for "a few new tips." Yes, that's right, she said "tips" plural! Could it be that after all this time, after all my hard work and practice, everything is finally gelling? 

As Lienette reminded me earlier in the day, "everything is exactly the way it's suppose to be in each moment." I can't try and dish out every single pearl of wisdom I know in every class, but they will all  come out over time and hopefully keep the students coming back. 

The last major milestone of the day was I received my first paycheck as a teacher and all I can say is I've never been paid before to do something I love. Does it get any better than this? I think not...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Class 5

Picking up where I left off on Monday was no easy task, especially when I sandwiched a trip back home to NYC in between. I left the Hamptons for the first time since I arrived June 30th. I spent a total of 32 hours back in the city and used every single minute to take care of business and get things done. I got a quick glimpse of what my future job (starting in the fall) would entail, ran errands, took Ish's class and got a much needed night's rest. 

I spent my car rides to and from the city working on my dialogue. What did we do before iPhones? I have the entire dialogue on voice notes, so I can hear myself and practice along rather than mindlessly singing along with Nicki Minaj for the 100th time. I am still in the process of mastering the skeleton of all the poses, which is the mandatory component of each pose that you absolutely cannot afford to skip, especially when you have new people in your class like I did in the last two classes.

I also worked on general corrections and additional dialogue where I could. I've been learning the same 90-minutes of prose now for almost 4 full months and there are days when I can't look at or hear another word of it, but when you have the right people supporting you and driving you to be better, the motivation comes automatically.

Tonight I taught what I thought was my best class thus far. My nerves were beaten by my confidence in knowing the dialogue a little bit better than the last time. I had a very strong group of students today, which always helps, including a studio owner from DC, Rasa (a teacher from NYC), Lienette (my studio owner) and a ton of other regulars. And of course, I had one first-timer who inspired me with his ability to just be and not need me as much as I was expecting he would. 

One of the things I was told to work on for this class is not to spend too much time with any first-timer. It draws the energy and focus away from the rest of the class; not to mention I lose my pace and spot in the dialogue. Check! My newbie didn't really need me anyway. He was so strong, but sometimes when you least expect it the first-timers can hang and surpass expectations. It was total luck of the draw in this instance.

I regulated the heat "perfectly," tonight said Lienette, which is always half the battle. You need to consider the outside temperature just as much as the indoor temperature when working the heat in a hot yoga room. If more than three people are down on the floor, you've lost the class. These are just some of the details I did not learn in training. 

Bikram did say that the real yoga would begin after training and he was right! Beyond getting them to stretch their spines like a pearl necklace, There are so many other pearls of wisdom that I'm dying to share with my students, but I am not ready for that yet. One of the reasons I started this blog was so I could remember all "the gifts" Bikram gave us over the course of 9 weeks. You would think I would have already gone back to read every last juicy detail contained herein, but I haven't. I cannot overload my plate right now. Most days, I feel like the busiest unemployed person in town.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Double Monday

After practicing yoga on Sunday, I got the question that most seasoned teachers dread, but us newer teachers, who just got off the teacher training wagon salivate over - "Do you want to pick up another class tomorrow night?" 

Even though I was already teaching the morning class, and needed to head back to NYC, I agreed on the spot because I want the experience. Practice is practice, let's face it. Whether you're teaching or taking class, we are all on a journey. It is totally different every single time, yet the words are the same. This is why I love Bikram.

I also have a confession to make. This week was very hard for me emotionally. Two people I love very much are no longer a part of my life. The two are completely unrelated to one another, but none the less, I am deeply saddened by their absence in my world. So much has changed since my return from teacher training. I miss the simplicity of our yoga bubble more than words could ever express. At training, friends valued one another so much for support and we weren't allowed to have lovers, so there was never any concern over losing one. 

It's right about now that I hear Bikram whispering in my ear, "see, I told you guys you would miss me...." The only good part in having a heavy heart is that it can only get lighter. When you teach Bikram Yoga, it's never about you, it's about your students. So today I was forced to let go of my drama and focus on the bodies and beautiful people in front of me.

First, the 9:45am class. Let's be honest here people, if you are able to take this time slot in the Hamptons on a Monday morning, your life does not suck. You are already way ahead of the game; this is truly the life out here. No more running back and forth between the sweltering city, no more sitting in rush hour traffic. I set my own clock, I beat to my own drum and so do my students out here. There is something very different about the energy mid-week in the Hamptons. No one is in a hurry. Everyone has time for yoga, even if they have children because obviously they can afford 10 nannies to pick up the slack for 90 minutes. 

Surprisingly enough, there is very little ego out here. I was expecting the Upper East Side, Type A crowd and all I see in my students is love and gratitude. No judgement, on my part or there's. How did I ever get so lucky? At least that's how I felt as I floated out of my first class this morning. It was just the right amount of people, perfect weather inside the room and out, and I only had one other teacher in class. 

When Lienette, the owner, takes my class, tension automatically creeps up. My nerves surprise me. I trip on words and poses that usually give me no issue. Such is life. They say it means that I care about what I'm doing, and that is putting it mildly. 

I love talking to people about their injuries, especially when I've experienced something similar. Finally, a purpose for my anatomy knowledge that I gained in training. The before and after part of the class is really where the yoga takes place. Like-minded people interacting on a few benches underneath the stars or the blue sky. Whatever time of day, there is always big smiles, open minds and of course, freshly cut watermelon to hydrate us. Thank you Lienette for creating such a wonderful atmosphere.

Back to the class itself, I really can't say anything bad about my morning class from a dialogue perspective, but my timing was a bit off today for the first time. I ran about 10 minutes over because 45 minutes past the hour is an odd time to start class (but it works for peoples' schedules out here), so the minutes need a little extra counting going forward. I thought I was going too fast at one point, when really I was perfectly timed, so I slowed down to make it up. In the end, no one noticed and everyone thanked me.

There was even a "spy" in the 9:45 class from Bikram NYC who shall remain nameless, but I'm excited to see what the feedback will bring my way.  Lienette did not take my morning class, so I knew I'd see her later at the 6pm. She taught me how to check people in and work the register tonight. After 12 years of moving and shaking in corporate America, I can't tell you how great it feels to be brought back to the simplicity of a good job, one that might not pay for the Hamptons house itself, but feeds my soul and helps heal others in the process.

Something about having my new BOSS in the room and knowing that I'm being watched trips me up. My voice cracks, I forget the dialogue and grab for things I should not say. If you're not a teacher, you would have no idea that I was slightly off my game tonight, but I knew and of course, she knew too. But like any good yoga mentor, we talked it out after class and she gave me the most helpful feedback; most of which is common sense and I already learned at training. As in life, when you're nervous, things just don't come out the same. I'm actually trying to remember the critique as I type this and it's hard. I think I'm just emotionally exhausted. I gave everything I had in me today to my mother, her best friend, Cathy and the 20 students I taught.

I never thought I'd say this, but I really love my job and will continue to progress as I teach more. I will give you the feedback in Wednesday's blog before or after my 4:30pm class. 

Go in peace until then. Namaste 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July Class #2

Today, we're all suppose to reflect on the country and its independence, and the millions of freedoms we take for granted every day as Americans. Today I relished in my own independence and the amazing feeling of freedom I have achieved by cutting ties to so many heavy weights in my past. Yoga is, in the end, my salvation. So I got right to it at 6am this morning when the alarm went off and I got dressed to teach my second class this week. 

The weather was a mess. Humidity was super high. Thunderstorms had just rolled in and out. It was the steamy calm after the storm, so to speak. And I had really been up since 4:20am, let's be honest. My trusty mate, Keren Hart (Kez, have you actually taken his name?) rallied on her day off to be in my second class. I was so incredibly touched by Keren's enthusiasm, patience and loyalty. And most importantly, her feedback after class on what she wanted to see differently in a Yoga class. 

For starters, never inject the word "please" into the dialogue, except where it belongs. Bikram is not a "polite" form of yoga. This is why we all love it though, because it rocks us to our core. Since I've got the authoritative, bitchy, gangster part down, taking out my "pleases" should be doable. Check.

Keren loves hearing all the medical benefits that yoga gives to the body. Hearing that while in the postures reminds us why we're killing ourselves to do it right, in the heat. So, as the opportunity presents itself for me to learn more additional dialogue (which I love reading btw.), I will inject it into my monologue.

Timing was picture perfect 90 minutes. I got the flow down. Love my old school Timex wristwatch that I bought in Kmart an hour before class. It's really helpful to have a digital watch that shows the seconds numerically. 

Humidity and temperature were East Coast ideal. I finally got re-acclimated to consistently heated classes that challenge me so much more on a cardiovascular level. And of course, Keren and I had boat loads of coffee, before (during if we could have), and after. I saw familiar faces from my NYC studio. It's been wonderful to reconnect and see people's reactions to my return from training. Some days, like today, that positivity from the students is all that keeps me sane.

See you Monday at 9:45am.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My First Class - July 1, 2012

Back by popular demand....I couldn't live without you....I'm here to report on my first formal teaching experience. After doing some "pop-up teaching" here and there in the city for the past two weeks (which went really well as far as getting my feet wet and my confidence up), today I let the ball roll and surpassed everyone's expectations, even my own. BTW, pop-up teaching means I would take a friend's class and they would let me jump up and teach a pose or two.

I practiced all day on anyone who was around, those would let me use their bodies. We sat by the pool in the Hamptons sun, at my fabulous new house (rental) and ran dialogue and postures until we were blue in the face. Then I channeled my energy to face the toughest challenge of all, driving on 27 during the holiday weekend to get to the studio on time. That and making a quick stop at Kmart for all the house essentials; not sure which was more stressful actually. Once I got my digital, sweat-proof watch, I was on my way.

How many more times can I rehearse spine twisting pose? How many more hours can I sit at the Golden Pear hoping that no one sees or hears me reciting dialogue by myself. I've resorted to calling it the "Golden Prayer" because I look like a Hasidic Jew davening in the corner.

Ok 3:59pm, time to journey across the street and get the party started! At this point, it was do or die. The owner came right at 4:00 and we went through every last detail on how the studio functions. What's amazing is all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes at yoga studios. All the blood, sweat and tears that you don't see, that is part of being a studio owner. Hats off to all you owners out there. I respect and commend you for opening your doors to us every day.

At 4:33, my class was full with eleven students and the owner, but I love the number 11 so we'll call it that. The humidity and temperature were ideal today and, best of all, no beginners. No offense to all my novices out there, but beginners take extra time and practice to deal with when teaching. So with the stars aligned I began my dialogue and with the exception of one really strange, tongue twisted verse of Pranayama deep breathing, I can't remember a time in class where I felt off, out of control, forgetful - all the things I feared did not happen. Quite the contrary, I received 11 thank you's and a couple students in particular thanked me for my corrections. Wow! Could their be a better compliment? Just don't tell Bikram I gave (verbal) corrections on my first day..

So here's the feedback from the owner....I need a stronger set-up for Spine Twisting (last pose) and I over-compensated for a studio-specific set-up that the owner had me make in the beginning of Standing Head to Knee. But aside from that, my timing was great. At one point, I thought I was going too fast, but in the end, I finished with exactly 2 minutes to spare for Savassana.  To be honest, I never practiced the entire class in one shot and I never practiced my timing. Perhaps it was the mock class I took earlier in the week (taught by a fellow yogi from training) that went 20 minutes over...nothing inspires timeliness more than being on the receiving end of running a class over.  Not fun, especially in the kind of humidity us east coasters practice in.

Next class - July 4th. 7:45am Hamptons Hot Yoga, Bridgehampton. I can't wait to have you in my class.