Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ultima Give-Away Wrap-Up

Congratulations to my 5 lucky winners:  Clortie, Tiabla, Brandy, Greg, and and Mindy!  Greg and Mindy, please email me back with your mailing addresses.  The rest of you, your goodies are already in the mail.

I wanted to give free stuff to ALL of you, of course, but I only had five sample boxes to give away.  Sigh.  But if you're still interested in trying the stuff, they DO have free shipping on order over $30.  And as Annie Law posted in my comments section, there's also a limited time coupon that'll give you $7 off your order AND free shipping.  Just go to their online store and use the coupon code "yogayoga".  Thanks Annie!

Happy hydrating!  Hope you're all enjoying your weekends.  Personally, I am spending my Sunday night eating pasta and watching "House" re-runs on Bravo after teaching a string of 5 classes this weekend... woo hoo...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Easiest Job in the World

I'm going to start this post off by contradicting myself.  Lately, I've noticed that teaching can be hard work!

At first, fresh out of training, teaching was ridiculously exciting.  Every time I went into the studio, I was like "omigod omgod I get to teach again!"  I'd be nervous, I'd be excited, I'd even be tripping over myself a little bit.  New relationship jitters.  You know what I mean!  And I've been traveling around a decent amount - I've actually taught at ten different studios now! - so the constant variety has definitely kept things new and interesting.

But even with all this, a certain amount of.... repetition.... starts to set in.  Let's be perfectly honest.  We teachers say the same exact thing, sometimes word for word, every single day.  So yes, there are times when it feels repetitive.  Yes, there are times when it's tiring.  Yes, there are times - just like practicing - when it's time to go to the studio and you'd rather just sleep in a little longer or stay home and watch TV (but skipping out is not an option now!)  Yes, was a moment when I read someone's chipper Facebook update saying "I'm teaching class tonight!!!!!!" and I just thought, "Uuuuuuuuuuuggghhh... I wish I had your energy!"

That last thought mainly crops up when my teaching-to-practicing ratio gets off, by the way.  Word to the wise: the surest way I've found to put myself in a cranky mood is to teach a string of classes in a row (like more than 3 or 4) without practicing in between.  Even if I practice in the morning, then teach 2 in the evening and 2 the next morning, I can kinda feel it by that 4th class.  So I am learning to be clever about scheduling.  Clever-er.  I don't think that's a word.  I am learning to be "more clever."


Here's the saving grace: just like practicing, teaching can GIVE you energy when it goes right.  And I mean TONS of energy.

I was talking about this with my friend Teri last week, who has taught for 5 years and opened a studio 2 years ago.  We were talking about teaching by the dialogue and how it's not rocket science.  In fact, I kind of want that on a t-shirt.  "Use the Dialogue.  IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE."  As Bikram says: "Just say what I said!!"  So I was saying, "You know, with all due respect to the amount of time and effort that everyone puts into this job, it's pretty damn simple.  I mean, you already know what you have to say.  It's kind of tiring, but it's not rocket science here."

But Teri's answer was even better.  She said that no, it's not rocket science.  And when you do it right, it's not even tiring!  You get so much energy from your students, from their successes and breakthroughs, from seeing their bodies change.  She said, "This is the easiest job in the world."

This morning, I kinda hauled my butt out of bed, grabbed an apple and a couple crackers, and rolled down to the studio.  High ho, high ho, it's off to work we go!  Opened the studio, turned on the humidifier, signed in the class, made introductions, gave smiled, fired up the microphone, started pranayama breathing.  The usual.

It was one of the most awesome classes I've ever taught.  Not because of anything amazing that *I* did.  I just did my job.  But I did one thing right.  I helped a woman who had the wrong hand placement in fixed firm.  Just flipped her hands around.  Simple correction, but it got her down onto her elbows much more easily.  Then I told her to relax her head, and suddenly she was all the way down in the full expression of the posture, surprising the heck out of BOTH of us!  It put the biggest smile on her face.  Then she grabbed both her heels in camel - I think that might have been a first time for that, too - and wow, it was like someone had lit up a spotlight inside of her.  It was SO cool.  I don't have a better word.  Beautiful, maybe.

After class she came out with this big smile on her face, and I couldn't stop smiling either.  I was so excited for her, excited WITH her.  I was high for hours after that class, pacing around the living room, drinking a totally unnecessary iced coffee, raving on the phone to another teacher about the amazing experience I'd just had.  Because after the first 59 classes, here's what I finally discovered: when your students have these breakthrough moments, you get to ride along with them.  It was like it was ME, having that brilliant experience for the first time.  It felt JUST like that.


This is the easiest job in the world.

Time to go do it again!


Also, the Ultima giveaway is still going on through the weekend.  Please see the last post for details if you haven't already entered your name!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ultima Electrolyte Give-Away!

And now for something completely different... who wants some free stuff??

No, I'm not gonna give you the shirt off my back, my collection of yoga books, or my footstool in the shape of a turtle.  That stuff is mine.  But I AM gonna give you some tasty electrolyte.  The folks at Ultima Replenisher have offered to send out 30-packet sample boxes to five of my lucky readers!  *drumroll, please*

Now, I don't normally do the whole product-placement thing on my blog, but I have very affectionate feelings towards this company, since their product basically kept me alive during teacher training.  It's a powdered electrolyte that you can add to water to make an instant sports drink.  It's super convenient and it works great.

For the yogis heading to teacher training next month: I had three 90-serving canisters of this stuff with me, two in lemonade flavor and one in grape, that I polished off during the 9 week course.  These canisters are surprisingly TINY, they weight less than a pound each, and they will last you for a quite while.  I was dumping this stuff into my water bottle by the scoopful in Vegas, and I never got dehydrated out there, which was quite a feat.  Also, I was drinking it constantly and I still didn't get TOO sick of the taste, which was quite impressive.  The lemonade is definitely my favorite.  It just tastes like... lemonade!!  Aaah, lemonade.  Tastes like a summer afternoon.

For the "normal" folks practicing at home: this is actually an ideal supplement for the times when you're feeling kind of depleted after a sweaty class.  It's not super sugary and it's not overpowering - it's just enough to pick you up and get your body chemistry back where it belongs.  It's a nice alternative to Gatorade or Coconut water, which can be sugary (and pricey!!) habits.  And it's great when you have a canister of the stuff sitting by the fridge at home, because you can just scoop out as much or as little as you need.  No more stopping at 7-11 for Gatorade on the way home (which I am soooo guilty of doing).

Also, they have free shipping!  Hooray!

So here's how this give-away works: just leave a comment on this post with your name and email.  You have until... hmm... let's make it Saturday.  Then on Sunday I will randomly select 5 names, let you know if you've been chosen, and get those freebies in the mail to you on Monday.

Thanks to R at aliveinthefire for directing the Ultima folks to me and convincing them that I am very busy and important.  (Hehe.)  If you're looking for something more to read, go and check out her blog!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Here It Goes Again! (Thoughts on preparing for TT)

"Opinions are like belly buttons.  Everybody has one." - Unknown
"It's kind of a long term process." - Bikram

I just got caught up on blogs and Facebook and all that, looked at a calendar, and realized that the next teacher training session starts in less than one month.  WHOA!  When did this happen?!  Has it really been more than two months since my class graduated??  Time flies.

I remember the month before I went to training so well.  A lot of WEIRD things happened in my life that month, and I don't think I was convinced that I was actually going to training until I pulled into the hotel parking lot in Vegas!  I couldn't wait to get started.  I also remember that, towards those last few weeks, EVERYBODY had different advice on what I should be doing to prepare for training.  God bless them all, but it got to the point where I started thinking, very aggressively, "Okay, I get it!  Everyone has a fucking opinion!!"

So here comes my fucking opinion, for all you wonderful, crazy people who are about to take the plunge into the world of teaching Bikram yoga.  You can take it or leave it.  But after reading through your thoughts, worries, and questions, I do have a couple of things to say!

I want to talk about the dialogue and posture clinics.  Ok.  Memorizing the dialogue is always kind of a hot topic with the teacher trainees, and by "hot topic" I mean "the only thing on your minds from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep."  My advice for pre-TT is to quit worrying about how much you've memorized and focus on how you're memorizing.  (This advice is totally unoriginal, by the way.  There will be people at training telling you this until they're blue in the face.  I'm just giving you a heads up.)  Once you find a solid memorization technique that works for you, your life will be busy, but not so stressful.  Whatever technique you choose, you will get better and faster at it with practice, so don't worry if you're not super fast at first.  Just find something that works for you, and you'll be fine.  There are tons of ideas out there, which I won't go into.  But seriously, it doesn't matter if you've learned the whole thing at this point.  Just start with half moon and go from there!

Next, posture clinics.  I had a huge revelation about posture clinics recently.  Here's what I realized: it doesn't matter if you're good at posture clinic.

Wait, what?!

No, really, it doesn't matter.  You guys are kind of missing the big picture.  I realized this over the past month when I got the chance to take classes from some of the people from my own training.  I think I've taken class from 9 of my classmates so far.  And here's what I saw:

- There are people who had verbatim dialogue at training who have gotten a lot "looser" very quickly.
- There are people who were amazing in posture clinic who are having a tough time actually teaching.
- There are people who teach exactly the same way they did in posture clinic.  Some people who started good are still good, and some people who had trouble still have trouble.
- There are people who struggled like crazy in posture clinic who are now teaching AMAZING classes with full-on, verbatim dialogue.

Basically, it's all over the map.  But it's not random.  I want to talk about the last case, the guy who couldn't get through posture clinic but has started teaching amazing classes.  There were a few things that made this happen.  First, he comes from a great, supportive studio where the students are behind him and the owner gave him lots of classes.  (He's taught about 40 classes so far.)  You HAVE to teach as much as you can after training.  Second, he comes from a studio that teaches by the dialogue.  And third - this is the part that took me by surprise - he did actually learn the dialogue at training.  He worked super hard and spent tons of time studying.  He just couldn't get it out of his mouth during posture clinics because they stressed him out.  But he still studied the dialogue, and at the end of the day, that's the part that matters.  I was shocked at how well he knew the dialogue when I took his class last week.  He was awesome.

So get your focus off the posture clinics.  You're not studying for posture clinics.  You're studying for teaching.  BIG DIFFERENCE.  Your job is to study as well as you can, so that you are prepared to teach class when you step out into the world as a yoga teacher after 9 weeks.  The posture clinics are a means to an end.  The posture clinics are just another teaching tool.

Don't get me wrong, the posture clinics are totally useful.  You learn about delivery.  You learn about studying.  You practice teaching postures on real people.  You practice being nervous.  You practice teaching when you're tired.  You practice faking it when you're not really feeling it.  You practice being excited.  You practice being TOO excited.  You practice getting through the posture when you're not sure what to say next.  You practice taking feedback, some of it helpful and some of it less so.  You practice patience.  You practice performing under pressure.  You practice hearing the dialogue.  You practice saying the dialogue.  Most of all, they force you to study the dialogue.  The more engaged you can stay, the better off you'll be.  But please remember this one thing: none of it is about posture clinic, and all of it is about teaching!!

And just like practicing, teaching is a lifetime practice.  Teacher training is just the start.  After I taught class this morning, I spent the afternoon at a restaurant down the street eating "Eggs Rothko" (so hipster), drinking coffee, and re-reading through the entire dialogue, noting down the parts that I want to go over.  Last week, I taught class for three different teachers whose opinions I really respect, and they all gave me constructive feedback with things to fix, things to tweak, and things to keep doing.  You don't have "just nine weeks" to learn this stuff.  You just have nine weeks to learn it in a highly controlled environment, before they set you loose and you start learning everything out in the real world!

So that's my opinion.  That's the stuff that I've figured out so far.  You'll figure this out all on your own, eventually.  In the future.  You have to see it for yourself to REALLY believe it.  It's fun.

Oh, and for fuck's sake, I don't want to hear anything about people doing crazy double classes the week before teacher training!  At this point, your practice is your practice.  It's not gonna change much between now and training.  Keep practicing a moderate amount, keep figuring out that memorization stuff, but do yourself a big favor and take it easy for the last month!  There's no point in killing yourself at home.  They'll kill you plenty when you get there.  When Bikram tells you to start killing yourself, then and ONLY then, you can start killing yourself for real.

Alright, that's enough from me!  No more opinions.  Have fun.  I'll see you there.  :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Come out exactly opposite the way you went in..."

Hello again!

Yeah, that was a long break.  And yes, I am back!

Of course, now it's been so long since I've written that I can't remember where I left off.  Whoops.  Let's back track a bit.  I feel like I need one of those "previously, on [insert TV show title]" montage bits, or something like that.

Previously, on my blog, I was packing up the car and leaving California - not necessarily "for good," but definitely "for now."  That was about two and a half weeks ago, and it feels like it was MONTHS ago.  After 3 National Parks, 4 nights of camping, 5 days of solid driving, 4 thousand miles (give or take a few), various detours, and too many Cliff bars to count, I am now sitting on the couch of my Dad's house in Massachusetts.  Listening to the rain outside the window.  Sipping on a glass of water, after taking class this morning, teaching class this afternoon, and having a lovely glass of Shiraz with dinner.  Life is good.

It's been really fun and strange to retrace the path that I've made over the past few years.  This wasn't the first time I drove cross-country.  Two years ago, almost to the day, I loaded up my brand new car, left from my Dad's house in Massachusetts - I have a picture of the car parked in exactly the spot where it's sitting now - and drove west towards California.  From Massachusetts, my best friend and I drove to Chicago, then took Route 66 and explored the Colorado Plateau, then Vegas, then Calfornia.  This time, I took a different route and had a different driving companion (my sister, actually!), but I hit a lot of the same spots.  Still drove past Vegas (though didn't stop there).  Still had an amazing time exploring and hiking the southwest - Zion and Bryce Canyon this time.  In Chicago, we still went to Millenium Park to take pictures with "the bean" (which hasn't changed a bit), and we went shopping at the same shop on Michigan Ave where I bought some postcards the last time I was there.

It feels kind of backwards to travel the U.S. from west to east.  The classic USA road trip ALWAYS goes from west to east.  Into the west!  Go west, young man!  Ride away into the sunset!  Traveling westwards was always exciting, watching the landscape change from the (less than thrilling) great planes into mountains and canyons.  This time, the scenery got somewhat less thrilling as we went along; we went from Bryce Canyon to the Rocky Mountains to Iowa to the Jersey Turnpike.  Hmm.

The payoff, of course, is that I LOVE the east coast.  Love, love, love.  I'm definitely an east coast girl.  I like the crazy weather, the bluntly straightforward people, the culture, the old cities, and the YOGA.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I still think the northeast region is the best part of the country (that I've experienced so far) for Bikram Yoga.  There are just so many great teachers out here, all of them teaching solid, clean, energetic, DIALOGUE-driven classes.  It's good to be home.

There's this concept that gets floated around a lot at teacher training about "completing the circle."  They tell us that in order to complete the circle (or perhaps The Circle), you have to teach your first class.  Until you teach for the first time after training, you don't have any closure on the whole teaching training experience.

Well, I've taught plenty of classes around California since training, and I guess I completed ONE circle, but it didn't feel like I'd completed THE circle.  Because I didn't learn my yoga in Calfornia; I learned it in Massachusetts.  But now... well, I am coming out from California exactly opposite the way I went in, so to speak.  Retracing my path, retracing my steps.  And naturally, inevitably, my path leads me right back to my front doorstep, and then to Boston, where this whole saga really got started.  Today, I taught at the studio in my hometown.  This one wasn't my original studio, but it's closer to the root of my travels.  And in a couple of days - tomorrow, actually - I will be teaching in downtown Boston and Harvard Square, at the same studio that got me involved in this whole "hot yoga" thing in the first place.

Circle completed?

I'm not convinced that "circle" is the right metaphor.  If you travel in a circle, don't you end up exactly where you started, like nothing ever happened?  That's not right at all.  EVERYTHING has happened.  And a circle is too linear, too one-dimensional.  You just go around and around, clockwise or counter-clockwise.  Simple.  Boring!

Maybe this whole thing is more like a web.  We travel on all these different paths, circling around each other, intersecting and diverging.  No matter which way we turn, we always get drawn back into the center.

Or maybe it's a spiral.  We go around and around, but every time we loop back around, we end up at a different point.  A little higher up, a little farther out, every time.  That wouldn't be bad.

Anyway.  That's what I've been doing.