So far, this is the best thing I have ever done. Period. Even during the times when the Process is very weird and exhausting, I am absolutely thrilled to be here. This week has been giddy and delirious and hilarious, I've learned tons already, and it feels completely right.
We’ve been asked to not blog too much or spend too much time communicating with the world outside the yoga bubble, which I totally understand and respect. During the week, there’s not even TIME! No time for anything extra!! I want to blog a little bit, of course… but I will try to be selective and not give everything away. (Gotta leave some surprises for you guys who are coming in the fall!) So here are just a few highlights from the week...
Fairy Tale Beginning
As I drove up to the Hilton, my only reaction was HOLY SHIT!! I'm going to LIVE in this place?! It’s huge and sprawling and very VEGAS. It took us about 15 minutes just to drop off my luggage, figure out where to park, and find the way to the front lobby. There, I met up with a woman from my hometown who I’d talked to via phone and email a bit. Right away, she said, “You have to see this!!” She took us to these fancy elevators in the center of the lobby that could only be opened using a specific room key. On the way up, she told us that the hotel had been full when she came to check into her room the night before, so they’d given her and a bunch of other yogis a “little upgrade.” To the PENTHOUSE VILLA on the 30th floor. When we walked into that suite – HOLY SHIT!!
It was literally a fairy tale palace. The place was about 10,000 square feet, on the top story, with a full view of Vegas. It was decorated with marble statues, Greek art, tapestries, carpet, everything, you name it. We counted 7 bathrooms, with three steam saunas and a Jacuzzi. There was a courtyard in the center, open to the sky, with a heated pool and an Astroturf lawn. There were giant flatscreen TVs in pretty much every room, two bars, and several huge living rooms with couches, armchairs, and a baby grand PIANO. We basically just ran around like little kids, laughing our asses off. The place was absolutely unreal. Dazed looking yogis from the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Australia were milling around getting to know each other. One older gentleman sat down and played the piano for a while. He was really good. Unreal.
When my roommate Anna arrived, a bunch of us piled into my car and drove to Trader Joe’s. (I bought half the food in the place. I filled my cart to the top.) We were all giddy and getting along great, and we got completely stocked up for the week before it was even noon. Then we had registration and orientation, and thing really got rolling. Between the orientation and the welcome dinner, we moved all our stuff out of the villa and into our bedroom, which is smaller, but still quite nice.
On Monday, I was awake at 6am. I studied people’s names, read my dialogue, read the first chapter of How Yoga Works (I am reading one a day), went down to the pool and made a new friend, then came back up to my room and showered. We had “Bikram’s orientation” at 10:30am, where Bikram made his first appearance and gave his opening lecture. He introduced pretty much all of his major themes and told a couple of jokes for good measure.
Then we were free until our first class at 5pm, and we made awesome use of our free time. I sent messages to a bunch of trainees, inviting them to come study half moon with me and Anna in our room. We ended up with a group of nine people studying together, and it was a blast! We had one guy in the group who had just opened up the dialogue for the first time ever, we had people who were solid but needed review, and we had everyone in between. We did a lot of “round robin” style practice, going around in a circle with everyone saying a paragraph or a line. We also had people practice delivering the whole posture on their own, with three people demonstrating. The person saying the posture had to stand up on our footstool and hold a banana as a microphone. It was awesome! We spent a lot of time laughing our asses off, and it was really productive for everyone. At one point, one of the guys just flung his arms up in the air and hollered, “Everybody together!!!” which is the first line of half moon. I loved that. Study groups are FUN.
I was floating on air for the first class with Bikram. I hung back and definitely took it easy (which everyone, including Bikram, told us to do). But it was such a rush to be in the big tent with everyone for the first time. We weren’t actually all there on the first day, since some of the European students were still stuck in the airports in Europe due to the volcanoes in Iceland. But all together, there will be THREE HUNDRED FIFTY EIGHT of us. Largest training ever!
Short Hair Rocks
At this point in the training, posture clinic is all about the first posture, half moon. The dialogue for half moon (the right side bending only) is about one page long, and every single trainee has to deliver that page of dialogue on stage in the lecture tent, in front of all the other trainees, and get feedback from Bikram. As you can imagine, this process takes some time. We actually got through 89 half moons on the first day (Tuesday), which was some kind of record.
And yes, I DID get up and deliver my dialogue in the first session! I was the 20th person or so. I was just SO ready to get up there and DO it. I’ve wanted to do this for such a long freaking time. I’ve actually had dreams about being on stage, doing half moon for Bikram. (Dork!) So yeah, I was just ridiculously excited and had tons of adrenaline in my body. The anticipation was crazy. But doing it... that was the best. I can’t even describe the feeling. My body was actually shaking a little bit the whole time, but I felt totally confident and in control, and I had SO. MUCH. FUN. I sped up, I slowed down, I went louder and softer, I milked every single word for meaning, and I grinned like a fool the entire time. Before I even finished the last line – I was still on the last “push” – this huge SCREAM of applause went up around the room. I guess everyone really liked it!! Thank you, guys!! Bikram just grinned, turned around, and said “What you guys think?!” and everyone clapped some more. Then he said that I have a very charming personality, and there is “only one thing.” He had me turn back around and said, “From the back, doesn’t she look like a high school boy?” (My hair is super short right now.) I cracked up laughing, spun back around, and started joking back and forth with him, taking the teasing, tossing it back, and threatening to my hair off altogether. It was FUN. Then we broke that off, I stepped back into the line, and he gave me a smile and said “Wonderful.” It was perfect.
Of course, now I finally have a nickname from Bikram, and it’s “high school boy.” He’s called me by it at least four separate times now. I kinda love it! It’s a huge compliment to have a nickname, plus I always know whether he’s talking to me or not. I answered a tricky question right in class and he said, “Give a big hand for her, the high school boy!” Haahahaha. Fantastic. I’m sure he’ll “get me” later, but I’ve gotten nothing but compliments from him so far. When a second girl went up with short hair, who also did really well with her dialogue, Bikram said, “When the women cut their hair, they become powerful! They look like high school boy, but they all do perfect job!!”
Also, my fabulous fellow trainees have all felt the desire to reassure me about my hairstyle, which means that I got maybe 50 compliments on my haircut in a single day. My across the hall neighbor from Poland says, “You do not look like boy, you are beautiful woman!” I find this all hilarious. Thanks guys! I can assure you that I wasn’t feeling the least bit insecure about this, but your support is totally awesome. I’ve never had so many compliments on my appearance in my life. Thanks, Boss!
Diversity and Balance
I’d kind of dreaded the never-ending half moon recitations, but these posture clinics have been WAY more interesting and entertaining than I ever expected. For one thing, the posture clinics are a great way to get introduced to everyone in the training. We are such a diverse group. The youngest is 17 years old, and there are a least half a dozen people over the age of 60. People are here from all over the world; there have been times when the five people on stage have been from five different countries. It’s so much fun to hear the same words in all these different accents! It reminds me very strongly of watching the yoga championships. Everyone who gets on stage is doing the exact same task, but everyone performs it so differently, and you see so many different personalities shining through. It’s so much fun to see us taking these very first baby steps towards becoming teachers.
And BIKRAM has impressed the HECK out of me with a lot of his feedback. He can be blunt and he can be ridiculous, but he’s also been more subtle and professional than I’ve ever seen him. It’s like he’s finally taking us behind the scenes and showing us the first steps of how to construct a class. He’s talked over and over about balance, saying that you have to balance what your students WANT with what they NEED. He really looks for personality, energy, and variety. Not too nice, not too mean, not too silly, not too serious. He really is a master of his craft, and it’s so cool to be learning from him.
Who Needs Sleep?!
We watched the first of the Bollywood movies on Wednesday night. (Bikram’s waiting until Monday to start the lecture curriculum, because he doesn’t want to start without the students who are stranded in Europe.) The movie was loud and hilarious and we were all completely delirious the entire time. I mean, half the room was clapping along to the opening credit montage. Much more fun than expected. I was laughing hysterically for much of the movie. We were all running around singing the theme song (ironically/badly/enthusiastically) for days. LAAA, laaa…. La la LA la LAAAA, laaa….
Dear everyone who told me to bring earplugs: THANK YOU. The earplugs bring the volume down to a normal level, where I can actually watch the movie without jumping for cover everytime there’s a gong or a high-pitched noise. I brought them on Thursday night, when we watched another movie. This one started at midnight and seemed to be the longest movie EVER. Something about an adopted son and his father and mother and brother – ring any bells? Lots of famous Bollywood people in it. Anyway, we finished the movie and then Bikram made “one point.” Got back to our rooms at 4am. Didn't really care. Apparently this is part of that "Process" I've heard so much about, and I am just going with it!!
WHOA, Free Time
On Saturday we only have one class, and it was SO weird to be done for the day at 10am this morning! I spent most of the day at the pool, hanging with yogis and studying dialogue, and then I moved back up to my room, where I hung out with more yogis and practiced more dialogue. Tomorrow we have NO class, which will be REALLY strange! I'm planning to hit the Sunday brunch buffet, then Anna and I are going to take the shuttle van to do our laundry and grocery shopping, and then - you guessed it - more hanging out with yogis and more practicing dialogue!! I've finally, just today, found a couple of other people who are way ahead in the dialogue and want to practice spine strengthening series with me. Good!! I'm having a blast helping everyone else out, but I REALLY don't need to spend any more time on half moon with hands to feet! Hehe. They are both ladies who I know from this blog, actually, and we are meeting tomorrow night.
It's 8pm, I'm in Las Vegas, I have nowhere to be tomorrow morning, and all I want to do is crash on my nice fluffy bed with a journal or a book!! What a crazy week. Crazy and amazing. I'm so excited for the next one!!! By the end of next week we will be in our posture clinic groups! (I am in group 11.) It'll be fun to get broken down into smaller groups, get to know each other better, start getting more feedback, and start moving through the dialogue faster.
I love teacher training!!