Thursday, April 30, 2009

"And it's hard, also..."

Just found this news segment on the little boy who won 1st place in the youth division at this year's international championships.  He competed at the So Cal regionals to qualify, so I got to see his routine twice.  :)  He is SO freaking good, and so adorable.

Cute, cute, CUTE!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sunday - My heart is like an open highway!!

Added a couple pictures to the last entry!  And before I continue the weekend recap, I have to mention one more thing about the posture clinic: I am really enjoying the after-effects!  Spending a day talking about yoga is great, of course, but the real payoff comes in the classes AFTER when you get to put everything into practice.  My postures are SO much better this week than they've been in ages.  I did the best sets of standing head to knee tonight that I've ever done at this studio.  And also, randomly, locust and full locust were the BEST they've ever been, and those were postures that we really didn't even cover in the clinic!  But here's why that makes sense: as we were going through the postures, Diane kept making the point: "Now your standing bow is automatically going to be better in class.  Why?  Because you just improved your standing head to knee." "Now why is your balancing stick going to be better?  Cause you just improved standing bow."  So I can't explain WHY this happens, but I definitely think the improvement in my floor postures has to be from the corrections and adjustments we made in the standing series.  Cool, right?

Now, onwards!  Or rather, backwards.  Sunday morning I woke up at 9am after a totally luxurious 7 1/2 hours of sleep, made some tea, and drove about 5 minutes down the street to take the 10am class at Bikram Headquarters.  It was HOT as anything - like, definitely at least 120 degrees - so I got a hell of a workout since I am not conditioned for such a hot room!  But class was good.  I raced out as soon as class finished, threw on a sundress, and drove down to LAX to pick up my dear friend Allie!

Allie is out here for the Bikram Teacher Training in Palm Springs.  I know her from advanced classes back in Boston.  She is a total sweetheart with a killer practice who is in love with the yoga.  (If you're reading this Allie, hi dear!  Love you!)  I haven't seen her in ages, so we planned this as a little girlie roadtrip from LA to Palm Springs.  I took her from the airport to a BIG California Whole Foods, where we stocked up on fruit and snacks, and then we made a stop at Manhattan Beach, where she stepped into the Pacific Ocean for the first time!  Then we hit the road out into the desert, and spent the drive catching up, talking about YOGA, and singing Bon Jovi at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down, heading east on highway 10 at about 85 miles an hour.  It was fantastic.  I think we'll both remember it forever.  

We got her to the hotel - which is gorgeous and amazing - a couple hours after she was supposed to check in - hehe.  Fortunately her roommate was there on time and was totally on the ball!  We went and found the orientation, where people has just started speaking, so I got to hang around and listen to introductions from Rajashree, Lynn Whitlow, and Jim Kallet.  (Bikram wasn't making his grand entrance til Monday.)   It was really cool to look around the conference room and see these 325 people who were about to embark on this crazy journey to become teachers.  They all had already made the decision, and they were on the first steps of their path.  It's hard to imagine what the next 9 weeks - such a long time, but also SO short - will do to them, how they will learn, grow, sweat, cry, laugh, change.  I had expected it to be really bittersweet for me, to be there at the beginning but to not be a part of it, but I was surprisingly ok.  I felt a little bit removed, like watching everything through a pane of glass, but mostly I was happy for Allie, and for my other friends who are in the training, and for the people who I'll never even meet but who are about to do amazing things with their lives.

After all the talking, I helped Allie get settled into her room and we did some unwinding.  Her room has a freaking BALCONY.  And yes, they have a fridge.  I'm sure there will be snags with the new location along the way, but they seem to have a fairly sweet set-up.  Then there was a little welcome banquet, which mainly consisted of carrot sticks and watermelon... hm.  I knew QUITE a few people, actually, so I made a bunch of introductions between my west coast and east coast friends.  Allie was really hitting it off with my friend Lauren - I hope they will be buddies there.  They decided to take off with their roommates and hit Trader Joe's, so I came out to the parking lot with them and made my graceful exit.  I felt like a mom leaving her kid at college!!  I love those girls so much and I know they are going to be amazing.

Then I drove back home - another 4 hour drive, starting at 7pm!  Whew!  The coolest part of the drive was at the very beginning.  As it turns out, there is this giant wind farm out by Palm Springs with hundreds of these huge wind turbines spread out across the hills.  On the way back towards LA, there were these incredibly strong winds blowing across the highway, and the wind turbines on the hills were silhouetted in front of a bright red and orange sunset, with wisps of grey clouds blowing across them.  It was one of the most surreal, alien landscapes I've ever seen... and at such a surreal kind of moment in my life, driving AWAY from the beginning of that teacher training program that I've been longing to go to.  It was... cool.  The rest of the drive was LONG but uneventful. 

Guess that's it for now!  Oh, but now I am being tempted to go back to visit during the training sometime next month... Diane told me when she will be there and said I should come take a couple classes... we'll see... :)

Welcome to Cali, Allie!!

Happy smiling face. (This is a very post-yoga-class photo!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Saturday - Posture Clinic with Diane

Ok, I'm going to make an ATTEMPT to write something about my weekend!

I made good time to San Diego - got there in just under 4 hours. I left at 7am and pulled into the yoga studio at about 10:50am. (The posture clinic started at 11:30.) I blasted my mix CDs on the way down and had a great old time by myself in my car, so happy because I was on my way to see Diane. Anyone know that song, "I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who'd walk a thousand miles to fall down at your door"? I had that one on heavy rotation. What a GREAT driving song.

So I was at the studio nice and early, put out my mat, made myself some tea, and was putting away my stuff in the locker room when I heard a familiar voice from the front lobby. Naturally I came screeching around the corner and barely gave her a chance to see my face before tackling her in a hug. We crashed on the couch (not literally, I'm not that violent) and sat around talking (and snacking on my trail mix) for a good half hour before getting down to business.

I've never been to ANY posture clinics before so this was a fun new experience for me! I dunno how other people run theirs. Diane started off by introducing herself and the process a little bit, and then we all got up and did a single set of pranayama, half moon, awkward, and eagle, so she could "see what she's dealing with" and so we could all be a little warmed up. I actually managed to find the hottest spot in the room (unintentional!!) so I got a solid sweat going before noon and didn't really stop sweating til after class... 6pm-ish.

Then we just started going through the postures, and man, there was SO much great information and so many people totally changed their postures, and there's no way I can convey more than a tiny fraction of it. You had to be there. To give you an idea - I think that after the first 9o minutes, we were still on awkward pose. The 3rd posture out of 26. Needless to say, we did not even really MAKE it to the floor series - we got thru about triangle in the first 4 hours, and then zipped through floor bow with Diane making just a few KEY points on the postures in between.

Here are just a COUPLE technical notes so as not to disappoint the yoga nerds. (And because I am a nerd myself.) I hope I am getting all of these right.

- Pranayama breathing - talked about how the arms/hands act as LEVERAGE against the chin. This strengthens the neck, which improves backbends, because the way to get a deeper backbend is to strengthen the spine. So there you go, right from the beginning: better pranayama = better camel pose. How cool is that?

- Half moon backbend - this may be controversial, but I have been testing it out and it definitely works for me. When you start the backbend, there is no need to clench your butt right away (which a lot of instructors will tell you to do). First lengthen and bend. THEN, in the SECOND half of the dialogue, when it says "inhale, stomach, legs, hips, everything push forward to the mirror," that is where you turn on those muscles. Diane says they are your "gas pedal" to go deeper into the posture.

- Padahastasana - eyes to feet. Where your eyes go, your body will follow. Try it.

- Standing bow pulling - ok, this is one that I've known forEVER, but I am always ready to get on my soapbox about it. The first step of the posture is to charge your body forward, while kicking your leg back, until your chest and abdomen are parallel to the floor and your two feet are in one line from the side. THIS is where you get the balance. Once you are down there, then you can kick and stretch and kick and stretch and balance forever. I've been a little shaky in this one lately, but something about hearing it explained correctly again brought me straight back into it - and good thing, since Diane had me get up and demonstrate how to do it right!! I had been afraid she would do that, but it turned out that I can still do it fine. (And got quite a few "holy shit"s out of the room, which always cracks me up and makes me feel good about myself... hehe.)

- Cobra - my favorite pose, and apparently Diane's, too! Yippee. She says that once you understand this one, you love it forever. Anyway - all the confusion in this pose always seems to be over the weight in the hands. But the dialogue says weight in the hands - so if you weigh 140 pounds, there should be 140 pounds in your hands. Ok? Then you come up - using 100% of your back strength - until your elbows are a 90 degree angle. So that means, you come up as far as you can using all of your back strength, still pressing hands into the ground, and then if your elbows are still not at 90 degrees, you can push into your hands to come up the rest of the way. This will strengthen your spine AND get you good compression in the lower back. Try it. If you're flexie like me, make sure you keep your belly button on the floor.

Here is the funniest thing that was said all clinic. Diane was standing behind this girl, helping her with cobra, and the girl came up into cobra wicked fast and nearly gave Diane a good head-butt. Diane jumps back laughing and goes, "Whoa! Never go out of first gear in yoga class! It's like a 747 taking off?! All the passengers would be shitting themselves!!"

Other great things that were said:

"Breathe, everything else is optional."

"You'd be surprised how much you get out of people when you don't ask them for anything."

"You can do it!!" (over and over and over in class)

"Just don't do it wrong!"

The clinic went until about 4pm and then Diane taught class at 4:30. Man... I was sweating SO much, and I kind of forgot to eat lunch, so I was feeling some INTENSE cardio once we got into the balancing series. I was like "ooh, shit, I'm goin' doooown!" but I never actually went down, of course. It's ok to feel like you're dying in yoga class. You would never BE so lucky as to ACTUALLY die in yoga class! Hehe. It was great to hear Diane's voice out here in California, because it always makes me feel like I'm home. I like that. We travel, our teachers travel, but whenever we are together - wherever it is - that is home.

We were sooo happy and beat after class. Diane was staying with two very sweet women (sisters) who ended up inviting me over to their place for dinner and cooking for the two of us... spinach salad, rice, baked potato... mm, perfect. That gave us a couple more hours to talk yoga and catch up, which was lovely! I didn't want to leave, but my bed for the evening was at a friend's house up in LA, so I really had to get going! I eventually left at maybe 9:30pm, ended up sitting in traffic for 45 minutes at 11 o'clock due to a horrible traffic accident on 5 North, and got to my friend's place at 12:30am! She was sweet and made us some tea. She is another yoga student - her Saturday had consisted of taking class from Bikram in the morning and then lying around her apartment for the rest of the day feeling destroyed (which sounded great to me!) We chatted for about an hour, and then I passed out on her couch at 1:30am and slept the best sleep I've had in MONTHS.

EDITED: By popular demand (ok, by one person asking politely), now with a few pictures!

Diane on her perch. :)

Bunch of people working on bow - body down! Looking good!

Standing bow! (This is not my full expression, don't have a shot of that.) Diane had me demo it once (for fun? hehe) and then asked me to do it again going just partway in, to show the "two feet in one line"

This guy wanted to know, "what is more important in triangle, the elbow on the knee or the fingers touching the toes?" The answer was, "who do you love more, your son or your daughter?"

Monday, April 27, 2009


Amaaaaazing weekend. Wow. Will put together a couple of posts about it when I pull my brain back together. So much travel, so much yoga, so much good time spent with amazing brilliant people.

Right now I just want to say that on Saturday and Sunday combined, I spent about about 7 hours sweating and I drove 755 miles across pretty much all of southern California!! Left at 7am Saturday, got home at 11:30 last night, passed out a hour later, and was back in an engineering lecture at 10am today. Now I have no idea where I am and I think my brain has whiplash. Hee.

MUCH more later!

Friday, April 24, 2009


I dunno if that acronym is widely known outside of geeky academic circles, but it stands for "keep it simple, stupid!" - basically the colloquial/practical version of Occam's Razor, which says that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

I think this is spectacularly good advice for yoga practice.  

It kinda reminds me of a Bikram quote: he asks, "What is the most important thing in your life?" (a bunch of people answer yoga, spine, breathing, health, etc...) He answers himself: "Your LIFE, you idiots!!"

I was hanging out in the yoga room after class last night practicing postures (mainly standing bow pulling) with the girl who had just taught class, who is getting to be a good buddy of mine.  It was SO helpful to just chill out, play with postures, and go back to basics.  Yoga really is fun for me.  I know it's not that way for everyone, but for me, even when it's as hard as it gets, it's still basically playtime, and I start to get in a little bit of trouble when I loose touch with that.  So it was really good to have some fun with the postures and figure out how to make them better.   Guess what... all I have to do to improve my standing bow is forget about everything except "kick and stretch, kick and stretch, kick and stretch," and all she has to do is forget about everything except "body down, body down, body down."  It's always, always, ALWAYS the most basic things that we need to focus on, and they are ALWAYS things that come straight from the dialogue.

So that's my public service announcement for the weekend - have fun, remember it's just yoga, and keep it simple you idiots!!  And I'm off to San Diego and Palm Springs!!!  xoxo

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Sort of?"

For some reason, this conversation from a year and a half ago popped back into my head last night, and I still think it's awesome.

.... talking to teacher at front desk before class....
Teacher: So what's new with you?
Me: Well, my knee (kicking leg) is sort of locked in standing bow now!!
Random (awesome) guy listening in: Wait, wait, wait. "Sort of" locked?!? Your knee can't be "sort of" locked. That's like being "sort of" pregnant!

OH! Touche!!! That is SO right.

Anticipating the weekend...

I have another awesome yoga weekend coming up! Exciting...

I had a dream last night that I was at a yoga seminar with Diane, one of my favorite yoga teachers (and human beings) ever. I woke up with the dream in my head and was happy when I remembered that in two days I WILL be at a yoga seminar with Diane! I'm driving (4 hours) down to San Diego on Saturday morning for an all-day posture clinic and class with her. (Good job, brain, you actually know what's happening.) She owns a studio near Boston, but she is one of about 10 teachers authorized by Bikram to lead posture clinics, so she travels for seminars a lot, and when she told me she was coming out to SoCal I didn't even think twice before calling the studio in San Diego to sign up!

Wish I could describe her well, but it is hard to do. A few facts - she started practicing Bikram yoga in 1985, the year that I was born. She went to the second ever teacher training when Bikram started doing them in the 90s, so yeah, she is one of the originals. She is on the staff at the teacher trainings, and she seems to make a pretty awesome impression there cause she has QUITE a reputation and following. I kinda knew her reputation before I met her, so I was a little shy when I first went to take her class, but now we get along like a house on fire. She is loud, funny, perceptive, compassionate and loving, takes no bullshit, and know more about the yoga than anyone I've met with the exception of Bikram or Emmy. I used to go out to lunch with her and a bunch of other teachers after classes and everyone would just talk shop for hours and go through ridiculous amounts of pickles. I learned soooo much at those lunches - tons of information to soak in. Saying goodbye to her last August just SLAYED me. She called me "my little baby!!!" and I hugged her like 5 times. I have kept in good touch with her since I left, saw her over winter break and again in LA for the yoga championship weekend. She has kept of with my whole saga of "am I going to teacher training in the fall?" "am I going next week?" "am I going in 5 years?" and she has pretty much been unconditionally supportive.

So yeah, this is one of my favorite people ever, and I get to spend all day with her on Saturday and I'm stoked. :)

And THEN, on SUNDAY, I'm going back up to LA to pick up a very dear friend of mine at the airport and drive her out to the teacher training facility at Palm Springs! AHA, I get to spy! She is going to this training session and their orientation is Sunday. It was cheaper for her to fly into LAX than Palm Springs, so I told her to do that so we could hang out and have a mini road trip. I'm gonna take her to one of the big LA Whole Foods and to the beach, and then we'll drive out into the desert and she gets to start this huge new adventure, and it'll be great to see her off. I may be tempted to try to stow away under her bed, though... I shouldn't tease myself like this so much... but I think it will be really fun.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Something Borrowed / "I used to be really into nostalgia..."

I was super tired before yoga class tonight and managed to arrive at the studio without any shorts. I wasn't too concerned about this, since there always seems to be an extra pair of shorts SOMEwhere. As it turned out, I went to ask the teacher at the desk if she had an extra pair of shorts, and the woman who was signing into class at that moment said "Oh, I have some shorts, you just have to go and get them from the parking lot. It's a silver Ford Focus." And she handed me the keys to her car. I love small-town yoga studios. So class was saved - yippee!

For some reason, this made my tired brain remember the first time I ever did a Bikram class wearing a borrowed outfit. It's a class from last winter that has stuck in my brain really clearly. I had fun remembering it. Good nostalgia.

I'm almost positive that it was December (2007) and it was a Tuesday. I was on a double shift at my restaurant job, working lunch and dinner, and I had given up on making it to yoga that day because there wasn't an early enough class to go before work, I only had a couple hours between shifts, and I wouldn't be done working til late at night. But unexpectedly, it was snowing. It snowed pretty hard, and no one was expecting it, so the restaurant was very quiet during lunch and I was finished way earlier than usual - so early that I had time to walk from Faneuil Hall over to the Chinatown studio and take the 3pm class.

I was so excited to do class that day because it had not been in my plans at all, and I was pretty new to the daily practice thing, but I already missed the yoga any time I went a day without it. So I was in a great mood as I pushed my way through the quiet, unshoveled streets, with no yoga supplies at all, towards the studio (which, in the last couple months, during which I had started work-study, started practicing every day, spent a couple months being coached on my postures before standing on stage, and participating in the regional championships, had unexpectedly turned from a yoga studio into a second home.)

The studio was quiet, too, when I got there 20 minutes before the class was supposed to start. I borrowed black shorts and a red Lululemon top from Jen, the instructor for the class. (She was not yet my lunch-every-Thursday, cross-country-phone-call friend that she would become by the time I left, but we had started to get to know each other and we already liked each other a lot.)

One of the studio owners, Brad, was there to take class, and he was in such a great mood that he decided to tease me about everything. (I adored Brad - and still do - like a cool, slightly dorky big brother - a little weird, but my kind of weird!) I put down my mat in the room and he said "hey, you can't practice there, you always go there! Go somewhere new!" So I said "ok, fine!!" and moved my mat to the other side of the room, almost on top of his. There was only one other person in the room and he told her "I can pick on her (me) because she's going to go and become a teacher soon!" (I had sat down with Brad a day or two earlier to explain that as much as I would like to go to teacher training, it wasn't going to happen now because I had too much going on in my life... in one ear and out the other? But I kind of loved his stubborness just because it was so obviously motivated by pride and affection... ) Then he said "let's do no water!" and I said "ok!" and he stuck our water bottles back in the lobby.

Then class... class was just fantastic. Tiny class in the small yoga room, maybe 6 or 8 of us all together, me and Brad side by side in the front. Jen's voice leading us with the dialogue, sweet and insistent, precise and encouraging... lock the knee, lock the knee, lock the knee. The big fat flakes of snow falling quickly and quietly out the windows behind us. The cozy warmth of the room. Our yoga was powerful, focused, simple, passionate, relaxed. I was so incredibly comfortable and happy and safe in that city, that room, that mat, those clothes, my skin, my breath.

90 minutes later... quick shower, back into the black shirt and slacks, and back through the snowy streets, shoveled by now, to work the dinner shift like nothing happened. But, you know... something happened.

And the only moral of this story is that forgetting your shorts is no reason to miss a yoga class!

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Slogan

I saw a GREAT company motto this weekend that I think we should steal for Bikram yoga:

Forget fear.  Worry about the addiction.


By the way, that is the slogan for Trapeze School New York.  They have a school down at the Santa Monica pier, and I always have fun watching the kids practice on the trapeze when I'm visiting there.  That is something I would sure love to learn someday if I ever had the time and money for it!  Actually, what I really want to try is silks... that thing where you are hanging from basically two long pieces of silk and you wrap yourself up in them and twist into all sorts of cool poses and shapes.  One of my ballet friends does that stuff in New York, and she's been trying to convert me, but it hasn't really worked out yet since we live on opposite sides of the country now... but it looks like really hard and FUN.

And if you think THAT sounds cool (as I wander farther and farther off topic), you really have got to check out some of the footage from Project Bandaloop.  They are an aerial dance group that does performances on the sides of skyscrapers and mountains.  Incredibly cool stuff.  Their demo reel is here to get you started: Bandaloop demo

Enjoy!  Forget fear, worry about the addiction!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Operation successful, all the patients are dead."

That is a quote from Bikram's 10am class yesterday.  He seemed fairly mellow, for him, but was still crazy and fun and great, and his class kicked my ass from LA to Boston and back again.  (HOT room!!)  

I am super proud of my roommate because she came down to his class with me and did ALL the postures.  She's only done maybe 10 Bikram classes in her life, and those were back in Sept/Oct in the studio in our town, which is much less intense than HQ.  I thought she did AWESOME, and it was fun to have her there!  We hung out on the beach at Santa Monica after we finished class and stopped at a juice bar, and we had fun lying around recapping the funny moments from class.  I liked her reaction to Bikram: she said that she could understand now why I say his classes are hard, because when he says to do something, you just have to do it.  No Choice.  Obviously, I parked my mat up in the front row with a couple of my L.A. buddies and just worked my butt off.  I think my heart started pounding sometime during standing head to knee and didn't really slow down until the final savasana.  It was great.

Took class back at my home studio at 10am this morning and pretty much just wanted to lie down for a nap during half moon, but kept on trucking through til the end.  Then I did something new (for me).  I never practice by myself, but the studio was empty until 4pm, and I had to be back there at 4 to work the desk, so I figured I'd just stay and practice by myself.  I hadn't done the advanced series in maybe 7 weeks (!!! I used to do it every week), I really want to go to the seminar in June, and Bikram's class definitely made me notice that I am NOT as conditioned as I will need to be to pull that off!

So yes - don't try this at home kids - I went ahead and tried the sequence of 84 on my own.  And it was actually really productive and I'm really glad I did it.  I definitely took it easy and felt things out - I've been working with my own body for long enough that I know how to avoid hurting myself.  So I just did the best I could and kept moving, and it felt GREAT to finally take my body through that full range of motion again.  I made all sorts of discoveries along the way.  I always forget how symbiotically the beginning and advanced series feed into each other.  One example: I'd been noticing that my tree pose seems to be worse (i.e. tighter) than it used to be.  Well, the tree pose position is basically the warm-up for lotus, and in the advanced series there's a whole sequence of maybe 10 postures done sitting in lotus.  So that's where my knees and ankles had been opening up when I did advanced all the time - and doing the lotus series again today, it was VERY obvious that they've tightened up again.  So that's fine.  I'm really glad to have that information because it lets me be honest with myself and understand what's going on in my body.  And I have to say, I'm not even really too bothered about it (which is weird).  It's just like... ok, I used to be at point B or C, and now I'm back at point A.  But I've gotten from point A to point B before, and I know how I did it, and it wasn't that bad, and it shouldn't take that long to do it again.  So now I kinda know where I'm at, and I'm cool with it, and I think (hope!) in a couple of months I can strengthen and open the things that need to be strengthened and opened, and then I can keep learning and moving forward.

And with all that said, I don't think my practice is TOO far from where I left it.  A few poses were depressing, a few were actually right where I left them, and the rest were just ok, not my best but not hideous either.

Now I am sleepy.  And this post seems to be nothing but ramblings about my own practice, but oh well.  Too sleepy to come up with a thesis.  Hope no one fell asleep.

The operation was successful, all of the patients are dead!

Edit to add:  OH!  I knew there was something I forgot.  I hung around after class and got Bikram to sign both of my yoga books - the orange cover "Hot Yoga" and my copy of "Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class."  It made me feel like a tourist but he was sweet.  He asked how to spell my name and then wrote "TO DEAR JULIANA, LOVE + PEACE, BIKRAM 4-18-09" and took up the entire page.  Hee!  Then he surprised the heck out of my roommate by stroking my face (yep) and blowing her a kiss.  Very affectionate, that man...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Interesting Life

It's Friday! This was a long week. Here's my motto for the weekend (credit goes to

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Karma Yoga - Susan Boyle

"I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive."

"Karma yoga" isn't just about the popular idea of "what goes around comes around." Bikram says it is your work or your duty; every person is put on this earth for a specific reason and must work to fulfill their destiny. Now, I don't necessarily agree with this idea, but I DO really like it, and sometimes I have to believe in it.

This video - yes, it's a 7 minute YouTube video - had me beaming from ear to ear tonight, first when my roommate showed it to me, and again 15 minutes later when I re-watched it. I have no doubt that this woman has just come into her Karma Yoga, and good for her. I love her. It is a stunning thing to see.

Check her out: Susan Boyle

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Puppy Love

I am in love with Bikram Choudhury and I am not ashamed to admit it!

I can only describe it as fantastically ridiculous, innocent puppy love of the purest kind. And I know that it's just a phase I'm going through, because half the teachers I know say that they have gone through it at one point, but so what? I'm enjoying the phase! Seeing him makes me happy. Hearing his voice makes me happy. THINKING about seeing him makes me happy. I just have such overflowing affection for that crazed little Indian energizer bunny, in all his glorious over-the-top inappropriate craziness and in all his moments of sincere, sweet kindness. I've got it pretty bad.

I barely hesitate to drive 2 hours each way to LA and back on an early Saturday morning when I know he's teaching class. And I don't even CARE if he notices me, or talks to me, or knows I exist. It's not like that. I'm happy just to be around him, in his class, doing the yoga series that he created for us. He already gave me the yoga. I don't need anything else from him.

And I love that early Saturday ritual that I've developed... sometimes every weekend, or sometimes every couple of month... rolling out of bed at 7am-ish, hitting the road at 7:30 still sleepy with my yoga mat in my trunk and a mug of tea in my cupholder, driving the familiar route down the 101 past the Santa Barbara studio and continuing south, down that stunning stretch of costal highway where the mountains rise up on my left and to my right there's nothing but the expansive blue of the Pacific, then up and over the mountains and into the valley, then into LA, where traffic on the usually packed 405 tends to be blissfully light on Saturday morning, windows down by now, a favorite CD playing, and then the exit to La Cienega, the crazy spiraling off-ramp, the long sketchy driveway from Sawyer Street that leads to the parking lot behind headquarters, plenty of now-familiar faces as I stake out a favorite spot in the huge room, and then Bikram strolls or bounces in, perches on his orange throne at the front of the room, and "check check check 1,2, good morning everybody, let's begin."

Guess what I'm doing this Saturday...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What sustains you from the inside...

An observation on my yoga practice:

When I first moved from Boston to the (unnamed!) town where I live now, I hated the yoga studio here. It suffered SO badly in comparison to my old studio. In my opinion, Boston just has phenomenal Bikram yoga studios, by-the-book, dialogue driven, brilliant teachers, beautiful practice rooms, huge community - I really had it all there. I was close to all the instructors, especially the studio owners, and I think I kinda broke their hearts when I told them I was leaving cause they'd had visions of me going to teacher training and coming back to teach for them full time. Anyway... my new studio drove me NUTS. I thought the instructors were TERRIBLE. I thought their dialogue was ALL WRONG. I basically couldn't focus on my own practice for months cause I would get so distracted by my own back seat driving, spending half of the class thinking about all the things I thought the teacher should be doing/saying differently and leaving in a lousy mood.

I knew I had to get over this.

What I just realized is that I pretty much HAVE gotten over it.

I realized this after class last night when a yoga acquaintance of mine from out of town came and took class with me. It was fun. I had a great practice. I loved the teacher, I appreciated a ton of the things that she said, and I pretty much just tuned out the few technical points that I didn't agree with, because that's not my problem. Was totally happy with the class. After the class, my visiting yoga buddy wrote to me saying it was one of the worst classes he'd ever taken and he was never coming back.


Back in September, that might have been my reaction too.

So what's changed? Have I (*gasp!*) lost my standards?

No. That's not it at all. I just gradually, finally, let it go. I still hear when things are off, I still notice the problems, and I still would like to do something about them, but now it flows off me and around. Like oil off a duck!! Hah. But seriously. Not all the time, but most of the time, I am unperturbed. Unperturable. Nobody steals my peace. My practice is my practice, and sometimes it's great, and sometimes it's a hot mess, and sometimes it's just ok, but it's MINE.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Happiness (!?)

Happiness! What a topic... hmm, I have so much to say... where to start?

I think people generally view me as a very happy person. I know this because they tell me so all the time. One of my favorite teachers was just commenting today that she really likes how I am always smiling during practice. This isn't necessarily like a big cheesy grin (which would be creepy), but she says I always at least have a really pleasant expression on my face.

Now, the yoga smile is completely genuine, because I am ALWAYS really happy to be at yoga! But I also know that I am really good at faking it. When I was waitressing, I usually had at LEAST one customer a day who commented, "wow, you are the happiest waitress we've ever seen, that's great!"... but half the time, I was totally miserable or pissed off and just REALLY good at covering it up. It is a skill that I developed deliberately, actually.

My point here is that I usually seem very happy, and in certain situations it IS genuine, but there's usually been SOME level of worry or unhappiness hiding underneath. It's easy to be happy while something good is happening (like a yoga class!), but the real test is when you're by yourself, making dinner, riding the subway, watching TV... what's on your mind then?

For as long as I can remember, I've always been waiting for SOMETHING to come along to make my life complete. Oh, life is good now, but it's REALLY going to be great once I get into college. Then college is okay, but I REALLY need to figure out what I'm going to do with my ballet career and what I'm going to do with my life. Then ballet is okay, but the money is non-existant and the hours really sucks, so what am I going to do NEXT? Then waitressing is ok, but I NEED to get into grad school. Then grad school is great, but I still NEED to become a Bikram yoga instructor! Always waiting for that NEXT thing that will REALLY make life great...

A couple weeks ago, I started to suspect that something was changing. I was out camping with my roommate in the desert, and I saw a shooting star. She told me to wish for something, and I wished for... nothing. There was nothing at that moment that I wanted to change, nothing to fix.

Now that little inkling has developed into a true certainty: I am happy NOW, here. Of course there are still a million things that I plan to do in my future, but I don't NEED to do any of them now. Right now, there is nowhere to go, nothing to fix. I can be genuinely happy, all the time, for no reason. This is brilliant. This is a total game-changer. I'm driving around the California coast with my music on and my windows down, and I couldn't be happier. I'm at a party and I'm totally thrilled to be meeting all these interesting people. I'm at yoga with my heart pounding and my face on fire and I'm just delighted to be there. I'm in lecture at 10am on Monday morning trying not to fall asleep, and it's boring as heck, but I am still HAPPY because I am in the right place at the right time. That's something my favorite yoga teacher wrote to me in an email last week when i told her I couldn't go to teacher training this year: "you know you are always going to be in the right place at the right time." And wow - what a great surprise - I actually DO know that!

That's all for now... :-)

Sunday, April 12, 2009


It's never too bad, it's never too late, and you're never too old or too sick to do yoga and start from scratch once again, to be born once again...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Advanced Seminar: WANT!!!

So I get home this morning from a really great 7am practice to shower, eat breakfast, and get ready to go to class... but of course, since I am ADD like this, I have to check my facebook while I am eating my cereal. And when I get on facebook, the first thing I see is an announcement of the DATES for the BIKRAM YOGA ADVANCED SEMINAR in June!!

For those of you who don't know, this is a week-long seminar with Bikram and Emmy and all the crazy advanced pros. Two classes a day, one beginners series and one advanced. They haven't had it in like two years - last summer it got cancelled. Apparently it's pretty brutal, and awesome.


I mean, I don't need, I just want... but I REALLY want! So fuck it, I'm going!!!

The awesome thing is that it's going to be in Palm Springs, CA (as opposed to where they had the last one, which was Hawaii), so I can just drive there for the price of a tank of gas!

One thing nearly threw a snag in this plan: the seminar dates are June 28 - July 4. My Dad's WEDDING is June 28th. In Masachusetts. Uh oh. But the yoga part doesn't really start until the 29th (which is a Monday), so my plan is just to be on a plane at 6am that Monday, the time difference will work in my favor, and I can be in Palm Springs by Monday afternoon. I'll miss the first couple classes, which IS a total bummer, but I think it will DEFINITELY still be worth it!

And actually... the timing is kind of the icing on the cake... because I had ALREADY planned to be gone from school that week because of my trip to the east coast. So I will just cut the east coast trip short by a couple days, and extend the vacation by a couple days, and all I have to say to my advisor is "yeah, my Dad's getting married this weekend in Massachusetts and I'm going to be away for the week." No mention of twisting myself up into a pretzel at a luxury resort in the desert. :)


Thursday, April 9, 2009

You get what you need...

I had a great class tonight. Strong, precise, and relaxed. After class, I told my friend who had been teaching that tonight I finally got the yoga class that I had been NEEDING.

I have been obsessing listening to the Rolling Stones for MONTHS now. Just that one song: "you can't always get what you want... but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need." I think this more or less sums up a great yoga practice. You CAN'T always get what you want. But if you just try and try and try, you eventually do get what you need.

Some examples: what I WANT sometimes is to have these great rock-star postures. What I NEED is to take a step back, get back to basics, accept my practice for whatever it is, and appreciate the benefits that it gives my body. What I WANT is to go running down to LA all the time to practice advanced series with Emmy and get crazy new skills. What I NEED is to focus on consistency and maintenance and be happy with the times that I DO get to go see Bikram or Raj or Emmy. What I WANT sometimes is to drop out of grad school, go to Bikram teacher training immediately, and move back to my friends and my home studio. What I NEED to do is practice PATIENCE and commit to the present moment, do the things that I've come here to do, and believe that I will always be in the right place at the right time.

This is actually very, very encouraging to me, because I feel like as soon as you realize that you CAN'T always get what you want, it becomes OKAY to not get what you want. Yeah, so I want this to happen, and it's probably NOT going to happen now. That's ok. I'm still going to get what I need.

It finally occurred to me - TONIGHT - that this is one of the things that Bikram talks about all. the. time! He says that one of the most important things in all of human life is knowing the difference between "want" and "need." This is the basis for what he refers to as Self-Control, one of the five elements of a strong mind. YES - I am that slow!!! I managed to obsess over this idea for months before consciously connecting it with what Bikram has been saying all along. (Side note: I have these revelations about his comments more and more. I hear or read his words, they seem really straight-forward or simple, I store them in my memory, and then months or YEARS later I hear a great idea, or have one myself, and realize, oh my GOD, that is EXACTLY what Bikram said. Uncanny. I think he's on to something. Or a lot of somethings.)

Here are some of Bikram's words on "want" and "need": "Life can be heaven or it can be hell; it all hangs on those two words. If you can judge and make a decision between what you want and what you need, then you can have the best life."

IN CONCLUSION... I WANT to stay up late gabbing on the internet, but I NEED to get a good night's sleep, and the Rolling Stones are an excellent band. The end.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Morning Glory

So I am making a big effort to start practicing in the morning more! Right now, my schedule requires me to be at school at 10am on Mon/Wed/Fri, so the 7am Mon/Wed/Fri classes are perfect. When I started practicing, I basically worked nights, so I ALWAYS practiced in the "morning." And by morning, I mean noon. But those were the days when I ate dinner at 1am, so whatever.

Now "morning" means morning, as in getting up by 6am. It has been a long time since I did this!!

Schedule-wise, it is totally worth it, because I don't have to spend the whole afternoon stressing over whether I'll finish working in time to get to yoga class.

Practice-wise... ummm, I am just waiting for my internal clock to adjust. This morning was hilarious, because even 45 minutes into class, my body was just SO convinced that it was supposed to still be ASLEEP! Forget about balancing on one leg - I nearly fell over sideways out of TRIANGLE! Awesome. I also pretty much feel asleep DURING standing head to knee... I was in the middle of bringing my forehead down onto my knee and I saw the whole room kinda shift, like in a dizzy, falling-asleep way. Abort! Abort!

Yoga is still my favorite way to wake up. I just gotta start going to bed earlier...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On Patience

I love Bikram (the person) and I love his books. He makes me happy. So here is a comment from one of his books that made me laugh out loud the other day. (Emphasis is mine.)

"Suppose you have developed faith, self-control, determination, and concentration, but you still don't have the metal peace you seek. Why? You are lacking the fifth quality of mind. Your journey to Self-Realization will be a long one; it's not an overnight thing, like they FedEx it to you or something. This is a lifelong process you've just started; you are going to need patience."

This is so relevant to me, AND it is funny as hell. I can only imagine the headaches that Bikram's editor must have had when he was publishing this book... the man writes the same way he talks... I love it...

30 Days and Challenges

I guess the "30-day challenge" - 30 classes in 30 days - is a big part of the Bikram world.  Every studio has one.  The studio I'm at now started its Spring challenge last Wednesday.  I signed up because that's what I do.  I've never missed a studio challenge since I started really practicing.

I did my first 30 day challenge in September 2007.  Loved it.  Loved the yoga, loved the discipline, love the ritual of going to class every day.  My body felt great.  My mind was calmer.  So I kept going.  Went to (by my count) 380 classes over the course of the next 365 days.  Wasn't trying to prove anything, wasn't making a point,, wasn't doing it as a challenge.  I just like the yoga.  It's my practice.

Have had a LOT of major life changes since that Fall.  Started grad school the following year... moved across the country... left my studio... friends... family... my entire life, basically.  When I got to my new town, at the end of a cross-country drive, I went to the Bikram yoga studio and took class before going to my new apartment.  Got there just in time to jump into the beginning of a 60-day challenge.  Super.  The white-board sign-in for challengers keeps me honest.  I like it.

Finished 2008 strong, practicing like a lunatic.  Was back at my home studio over winter break, took maybe 13 classes there during the first week I was back, felt a little bit tired but mostly happy to be there.  Soaking it up.

These past couple months... grad school finally caught up with me and kicked my butt.  Lots of things happened in my head, good things and bad things.  But my practice... oh... I've felt like it was slipping away from me.  I haven't been working on crazy fun advanced postures like I used to do.  I've been running as hard as I can just to stay in one place, like someone turned up the treadmill too high and I'm about to go flying off the back.  I still miss my old teachers.  I miss my advanced classes.  I miss my balance.

This brings me to my point.  Over a 30-day period in March, I only practiced maybe 20 times.  Not enough.  That was a HUGE CHALLENGE.  It pretty much did me in.  My body felt terrible.  My sleeping patterns were all fucked up.  Some nights I couldn't sleep, some days I couldn't get out of bed.  I almost felt FAT, that dreaded f-word that I deliberately banished from my vocabulary a few years ago after being its slave for too long.  I missed the yoga like homesickness.

Last Wednesday, April 1st, the 30-day challenge at my studio started and of course I signed up.  It's only been going for 7 days now, which seems like a tiny blip after a year and a half of essentially daily practice.  I feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. Already.  Above all else, I feel this overwhelming sensation of relief.  Thank god.  I'm safe.  I'm back.  My practice is still here.  My yoga body is already re-emerging, so willingly.  It was all here the whole time.  I was here this whole time.  

I have so many thoughts and beautiful ideas and questions that are all tangled up together.  Not sure how to grab just one thread by itself.  Not sure how to talk about the yoga without talking about the things that are most personal to me, since they seem to have merged at some point when I wasn't watching.  

I wasn't really expecting this post to be so pensive.  I'm not exactly an "emo" kind of person.

To lighten the mood I will finish with an awesome comment taken verbatim from one of my favorite people: "If we could improved our postures every class, we became super yoga person too fast, it is boring. one step foward and two steps back, how am I feeling inside of me from yoga? WOW!"  :)