Saturday, October 10, 2009

Week 1 and done :)

Woo hoo!!! I can't believe, still can't believe that I'm actually here. I'm in Vegas. I'm at the Bikram yoga teacher training.

For those of you who don't know much about bikram, it's very intense. It's a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, done in the same order each time. It is a very challenging practice, starting with a standing series and then moving to a floor series. This is done in 105 degree heat and 40 percent humidity. Those are the idea conditions. The class is designed to last 90 minutes and that's what you would experience in a studio.

It has taken many of us, the trainees, years to get up the strength and stamina and mental desire to practice every day, let alone twice a day. And here I am, here I stand, after one week of mostly doubles, with a single class this morning, Saturday, after which I am free (!) till Monday morning.

The trek out here was good. I have never traveled with that much stuff before in my life! My big checked bag was one pound away from the limit. However I'm very glad I brought everything I did. Upon arrival you could see many yogis at the hotel rushing to check in. I arrived moments before the orientation was supposed to start. After signing in and picking up my materials, they pushed back the lecture a few hours. Everything here runs on Bikram time. That means everything happens according to when the boss wants things to happen. My roommate is a fellow yogini from Vermont and we have been having a wonderful cracked out sleepless sober time here in Vegas.

On Monday it began. We did not have class Monday morning because they were still trying to get the heat right in the yoga room. We had our first lecture with Bikram. The setup is... we're all in the hotel in pairs. The locals from Vegas are staying at home, and I don't envy them that. It seems very difficult to me to have feet in both worlds, to have to drive home, etc. We have a HUGE HUGE HUGE practice tent. It's a semi-permanent structure, set up outside, with tons of heaters and steam machines pumping heat in. There are 302 of us students and many visiting teachers and staff. When we practice it can sometimes be up to 375 people in the room. Mostly it's like 315 though. The tent is set up outside the north wing of the hotel a short walk away in the parking lot. We do not have to go anywhere near the casino to get there. Across from that tent there is a smaller tent with many chairs set up where we have lectures and more lectures and late night lectures.

The schedule is: Get up at 7, make a smoothie, sign in for class from 8-8:25 and class starts at 8:30. Then we are free till 12, when there is sign in for 12:30 lecture, or later, posture clinics. That goes till 4pm and we rush to our rooms to get back for a 4:30 - 4:55 sign in for 5pm class. We're then free for dinner till 8:30 0r 9 when we again sign in for a late night lecture. Wash, rinse, repeat. It's grueling.

Why? Firstly, practicing bikram twice a day is, on its own, one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. It's tough. Secondly, those late night lectures??? Twice this week we were there till AFTER 3AM. It is the definition of torture for me. I feel sometimes that it is so pointless. However we are told over and over to "trust the process" and suck it up. They wake us up if we fall asleep. I have already been tapped once on the shoulder by one of the staff and given the "open your eyes" signal.

The lectures are sometimes Bikram talking, sometimes he shows us Bollywood movies, and we did get to see our first taste of the Mahabarata the other night. This is an Indian epic that's many many books squeezed (!) into 92 HOURS of hour long episodes. We watched the one that is the Bhahavad Gita (oh forgive my spelling on that please.) It was Arjun's conversation wtih Lord Krishna and it was played after a lecture on Karma Yoga. The takeaway was this - do your duty and don't question. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Many of you know that I had a recurrence of an injury right before I left for training. I am currently wrapped with ice on my knee and arch of my foot, which I do after each and every class for at least 20 minutes, and pop some advil. I am extremely happy to report that after one week I am still standing. This is such a challenge for me. I lasted through six classes without significant muscle spasms and pain (icing, massaging, trying to keep the knots out when I wasn't in class), then the seventh (or maybe it was the sixth class) I got muscle spasms in the foot and a lot of pain during the standing series, especially on the one leg balancing poses. I talked to the nurse immediately. She said do what you're doing, you have a good handle on it, sit when you have to and don't push it so hard that you can't walk. I was in tears, very very upset that night. I was less worried that I wouldn't make it through than that I was not going to be able to push myself and improve during practice. But this is my yoga here - managing this injury, trying to make myself stronger, stopping when I have to to ensure that I don't do damage.

It is very hard for me, ms. competitive, to look around and see everyone kicking ass while I have to sit. The reality is that many people do sit down and take breaks. It's a marathon, and most people will sit at some point throughout the training. But I am very happy to say that after backing off a bit and sitting WHENEVER the pain comes in a certain, twingy, spasmy way, I do feel way stronger than I did a week ago. I am working my foundations in the standing poses - tightening the leg muscles all theway up to the stomach and trying to pull that arch up off the floor and sink my four corners of the feet down to have the best foot structure I can. When I can't do that stuff because I'm tired, I don't go too hard or I sit or I stand still. I may look like a slacker, but I know that if any teacher comes up to me and asks, I am doing what I have to do, and that the nurse has a note from my podiatrist.

I hate to be in this position, but frankly, I feel that I am getting stronger every class and that maybe by the end of week three my foot will be way stronger, strong enough to make it through the full standing series, no breaks. I did do the whole class the first couple of classes but that's what landed me in pain. The room was also not properly heated for the first few days so they were clear that we were to start slow. Now that week one is done, we are getting pushed and corrected more and more and more.

The final piece of the puzzle is the dialogue. I have a 46 page script of pose commands that has to be memorized and delivered verbatim throughout the training. We do the first part of the first pose in front of Bikram - all 300 or so of us. Then we break into smaller groups and do posture clinics each afternoon, where we recite the pose while other traineees perform it exactly as we say it (like if we miss a key line, they have to do what we say anyway, which is meant to show us that if we don't say it right we may be asking people to do unsafe things.) We have a panel of teachers watching us and giving us feedback (read sharp criticism.)

I am pretty happy about this part of the training. I have good public speaking skills and a good voice thanks to singing and radio production. I feel relatively prepared, having recorded myself delivering the dialogue and edited it down into something I had in my car for the last few months. I'm familiar with all the dialogue, though I don't have it all memorized at all. I actually went third on the first day doing dialogue in front of bikram and he said to two girls ahead of me "shake her hand. You need her energy. She was giving it all to the class."

That was awesome. Totally horrifically nervewracking but awesome. We're still days later getting through the 300 of us doing the posture in front of Bikram and him giving comments on voice and delivery and memorization.

So the rest of the posture clinics start week 3 and that's when it will get crazy. We have NO TIME to sleep let alone memorize except on the weekends. So tonight we're ordering pizza and working a few postures ahead to get some in the bank. They come fast and furious so I hear and the standing poses are long and hard to memorize. I'm a good coach though - I make my roommate do it many times with me when we practice so it really sticks. I can't wait to teach.

So that's the deal. I am heading to the pool soon then off to do some shopping for food. We get a $610 meal card giving us $10 a day to spend in the hotel and restaurants supposedly providing one meal a day, the rest we must fend for ourselves. Of course nothing in the hotel is $10. I filled my waterbottle with cranberry juice the other day and it was $10. So I make oatmeal, pb&j, turkey and cheese sandwiches, that kind of stuff, in the room. It's nice to go out for dinner sometimes though.

Finally, I want to talk about what it's like to be doing this in Vegas. It's crazy. We have to walk through the casino and the sports book room with the huge TVs and men screaming, drunk, to get to the buffet. I did catch Lester getting pounded the other night in the first Red Sox playoff game the other night Jonas - sorry to see it but you asked me to think about seeing some post season baseball and so I did look. There are pictures of ladies on all the walls like cheesy hotel art and they're all supposed to be high class "call girls" I guess. Then there are all the ladies walking around in sequins and four inch pumps. The line for the Barry Manilow show (he is in residence here) the other night scared the crap out of us. We were worried they were waiting for the buffet and we only had an hour till lecture. They were not. They were a wild pack of Fanilows roaming the first floor of the casino/hotel. That's what they call the Manilow fans. Fanilows. No comment. Many jokes to make with that though :)

For anyone who is sending me anything, letters are ok. Any packages have specific instructions so that I don't get charged $5 to pick them up.

Address to: Scott Nelson, Bikram Yoga
then my name
Hilton, Vegas (I don't have the address handy).

Not that anyone has to send anything at all :)

I really miss my family, Jonas and the kitties, Brian and Monica and the new baby(!) and just everyone. But I'm safe and sound and strong and happy. Sleep deprived, but happy. We had last night off late night lecture and went out to the diner and bounced around, happy, sober, and giddy. One week down. Eight to go. This is an amazing experience and I'm grateful for it.

1 comment:

jgules said...

You are so awesome! Wow, that sounds like a killer schedule, but I bet you are the best kind of roommate to have! Those postures are not going to learn themselves, you will be an awesome coach for you and your roommate! Wahoo! What awesome challenges. I'm glad to hear the foot is recovering and I think you have a great approach. Don't rush to do the whole standing series again... just come to it gradually. Go you! You roxorz!~