Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Heading East

Am just about to shut down my computer and attempt to shove everything into my car.  THIS should be interesting.  Cars are always bigger than they look, right?!

Hitting the road and heading back east today.  Stopping along the way in Zion, Bryce Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Chicago... should be a good trip!  Five nights of camping and hiking mixed in with four solid days of driving.  My sister is with me and has burned lots of CDs of ridiculous 80s music to keep us entertained.

Have tons of stuff to write, lots of half finished posts, but no time for that now!  Will probably be silent for a couple of weeks.  So be good.  Drink your water.  Lock your knee.  And I'll catch you on the flip side...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Peak Experience (In Three Parts)

"Every moment is the peak experience of your life." - Diane, Week 5


1.  Friday, July 16th

On Friday afternoon, I taught my last class in Fresno, after a week of teaching doubles there every day.  The class started at 3:45pm, and it was the smallest class I taught all week, with only 12 students.  All of them had already taken my class earlier in the week, and I knew almost everyone by name.

It was a slightly mellow afternoon class, but it was a strong one.  Standing series moved pretty quickly - smooth, efficient, relaxed.  I loved having the smaller class size, because I could actually see each individual body.  Without thinking about it too much, I started throwing in little bitty individual corrections here and there - feet 2 inches closer, leg down 1 inch, hips down more, more, little more, and there!  Right there!  Hold it!  Yesss, that's it.

I remember that in separate leg head to knee pose, I told the students that they really have to get the forehead touching the knee, and I saw one gentleman in front of me who was struggling to do it, but not quite getting there.  In the next set, I told him to open his legs more.  It's a simple correction, straight from the dialogue.  It worked - he touched his forehead.  But the great part was when he came up out of the posture with this look of discovery on his face and blurted out, "That helps!!"

I don't remember too much of what I said, but I remember having an easy rapport with the class.  I knew that we were connecting and that the instructions were getting through.  I don't know how I can tell, but that connection is so tangible.  When it's missing, you know, and it kind of sucks.  When it's there, you know, and it's awesome.

Just one week earlier, I'd written in my teaching notebook that I couldn't even imagine giving individual corrections throughout a whole class.  Where would you start?  How do you know when to correct?  When not to correct?  Which students are doing the most they can, and which students can do more?  But one week and a dozen classes later, I found myself starting to do it without even thinking about it.  I just knew what to do.  Which is such a weird solution, right?  If someone had told me, "Oh, you'll just know," I would have said, "Well, thanks a lot!"  That's like asking me to believe in the tooth fairy!  But it works.  It happens.  When I get in there, I know what to do.  Not all the time, but sometimes.

Bikram always asked us, "How do you know if something is right?"  The answer was, "If it WORKS, it's right."  When the students come out into the lobby, give me big smiles, totally worked out, totally relaxed, tell me that they learned something new, then I know that I'm doing my job right.  Because it's working.

It wasn't until hours later that a thought occurred to me: I probably just taught the best class of my life.  A month ago, I couldn't have taught anything like that.  Wow.  Progress.  It feels so good.

Peak experience.


2.  Saturday, July 17th

By a stroke of luck, I got the chance to spend a day hiking at Yosemite before driving back home on Sunday morning.  I went with two people who I'd met during the week, both students at the yoga studio.  One was the 22-year-old girl who had hosted me during the week, the other was an older guy who's practiced yoga for a few years and goes hiking and backpacking all the time.  We took a 22 mile round-trip hike from Yosemite Valley up to Cloud's Rest, a peak at almost 10,000 feet.  I'm pretty amazed that I was able to pull this off!  (All yoga.)

It was a hot, sunny day, perfect hiking weather.  The path started down in the valley near a river, and climbed up alongside a giant waterfall for the first hour or so.  We could feel the spray from the waterfall - it soaked us, actually! - and we could see the constant rainbow that was created over the stairs.  Then we continued up, past the waterfall, along the river, up into the tree, climbing higher and higher.  We stopped and snacked by a lake.  We saw some deer and some wild turkeys.  A butterfly landed on my friend's nose.

As we got higher, we had new views of the entire valley every time we turned the corner around another switchback.  I don't think I've ever used the word "WOW" so many times in my life.  Every time I looked at something, I just said "WOOWWW!"  Everything was so beautiful, it was almost impossible to process it all at once.

The last half mile ascent was tough - lots and lots of stairs, steep ones, in the sun - but when we got to the top, we had this amazing 360 degree panoramic view of all of Yosemite.  We could see the valley, the lakes, the mountains beyond the valley.  The sky.  I lay down on my back on the rock and watched falcons fly above my head.  One of them flew so close that I could see each feather on its wings, and I could hear the wind rustling in the feathers.

Peak experience.


3.  Monday, July 19th

After teaching class this afternoon, I spent about an hour scrubbing my bathroom.  Apparently, I'm not the world's cleanest person, because that was how long it took to get my shower all sparkly clean again!  I turned on the Jodhaa Akbar soundtrack for background music, a little piece of teacher training in my ear.  I opened all the windows, and still nearly got myself drunk after inhaling copious amounts fumes from the "Scrubbing Bubbles."  (Those work great, by the way.)  I just kept thinking, "That security deposit is mine!  One thousand dollars for a clean shower!"

I'm moving out of this house in less than two weeks, and the whole place needs to be returned to the relatively pristine state that it was in before I got my life all over it.  So this means that a good portion of this week will be devoted to cleaning and purging - throwing away extra junk, selling everything that I don't need, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  I spent the better part of my afternoon on my hands and knees in the bathroom, spraying various chemicals all over the place.

Peak experience??

Well, this one's not so obvious.  But sure!  Why not?  I mean, what am I really doing here, underneath the piles of Windexed paper towels?  I'm cleaning all the clutter, getting rid up all the build-up.  I'm getting ready to turn the page on a new chapter in my life.  I'm making a big change, yet again, and I just know that I am doing the right thing and moving in the right direction.  I'm heading to a new place when I can live my life as a yoga teacher.  Everything that I do right now moves me in that direction.  Even when I am just scrubbing the shower, I am doing my duty, my sacred work, my "right action."

What could be better?

So, yes.  I say yes.  Why the hell not?  If that's not a peak experience, then what is?!

Peak experience.

Definitely a peak experience.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Have Dialogue, Will Travel

Been taking the show on the road this week!  I'm up in Fresno right now, where I've been teaching twice a day since Monday (and practicing every day), and I am having a great time.

It's in the triple digits outside, so I've spent a lot of afternoons hiding in coffee shops (which is where I am right now).  I meant to go exploring yesterday to see some tourist attractions, but I was kinda wiped out and ended up just taking a nap instead.  Such is the life of a full time yoga teacher!  Lots of naps.  As it turns out, naps are very important, since teaching 2 plus taking 1 is very similar to practicing 3 classes every day.  Putting out lots of energy.  I get lots of it back - teaching is a great high - but I'm still pretty sleepy in the afternoon.  Bikram always made fun of us for sleeping and eating so much at training.  Well, that's basically all I want to do these days!  Yoga, sleep, and eat.  Yum.

I'm teaching my 30th class tonight - can you believe?! - and even though I still have tons to learn, I'm feeling comfortable with my classes here and I'm having FUN when I teach.  Everyone is surprised to find out that I'm a new teacher, because I've been teaching with a lot of confidence.  I keep remembering Bikram when he talked about his own confidence: "I am most confident man in world!  Is not arrogance, is confidence!!"  I'm not as confident as Bikram - NO ONE is as confident as Bikram!) - but I feel good, because I know that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, and I'm doing it well.  I'm teaching solid dialogue, I've figured out my pacing (mostly), I help the new people, I'm enthusiastic, I smile, I make them sweat, I make them laugh.  I always know what I'm trying to do, even if it doesn't come out perfectly.  There is plenty of trial and error - sometimes I'll say something and get a bunch of blank stares, and then I'll just make a mental notes saying "ok, that one went down like a lead balloon, try something different next time."

But mostly, I just say the dialogue.  It's amazing how little you have to add to give the class "personality."  I really don't say anything extra during the postures, except occasional little corrections, but I'll talk about benefits in between the postures on the floor and I say whatever comes to mind, and then people come out and say that they loved my personality.  This is kinda neat, because I'm barely using ANY of my own words - I'm just teaching the way I've been taught.  And smiling.  Not all the time, but a lot of the time.  :)

Also, holy crap, I appreciate the dialogue more every day, because it makes my job so much easier.  I can't imagine teaching without it.  The dialogue speaks to EVERYONE, so as long as you're saying the whole thing, you're taking care of your regular students, and that frees you to focus all your mental attention on the newbies or the ones who are struggling.  So for example, I might spend all of eagle pose watching my new students like a hawk, figuring out how to help them out in the next set.  I might not be thinking about the rest of the class at ALL.  But as long as I'm saying the dialogue, the rest of the class think I'm still talking to THEM.  I was talking to one of the students after class the other night, a regular student with a really strong practice.  She knows exactly what she's doing in class, so I didn't have to watch her at all.  I mean, I SAW her, but I wasn't focusing on her specifically - but after class, she said that it felt like I was talking to HER the whole time.  Holy multitasking skills, Batman!  I've figured out the secret!  As long as you keep saying the dialogue, EVERYONE thinks that you are talking to JUST THEM.  Muahaha this is amazing.  I am everywhere at once.  Brilliant.


Did I say something about travel?  I guess I might as well mention this now: I'm leaving California at the end of the month!  Eep!  I gave my official notice at my studio last weekend, and now I am working on telling all my friends and packing and all that.  (If you are my friend in California, and you just learned this news through the blog, I apologize about that.)  I'm packing up the car and driving cross country with my sister, back to the east coast.  I will be teaching at an [undisclosed] studio on the east coast.  Not in Massachusetts.  Sorry.  I WILL be visiting Boston and Northampton in the middle of August, and then I'm going to a completely new city where I can settle down and teach full time for a few months.  (The studio in my town right now does not offer ANY full time teaching positions, maximum is 6 or 8 per week, and I haven't even been getting that much.  Hence all the traveling lately.)  I am super excited about this move!!  There have been lots of signs lately showing me that I am moving in the right direction.  I'm not going to tell you guys where I'm going right now, because I don't feel like being stalked, but if I'm in your neighborhood, you will find out about it.  :)

I'm also saving my frequent flier miles for a visit to San Diego in the Fall, to visit the next teacher training session!!  I can't believe it's starting in only 2 months!  It is CRAZY weird to be on the other side of it now.  I'm having so much fun seeing all the new training blogs and discussion boards popping up all over the place.  SO excited for you guys!  I'm trying to come out for a full week sometime in October, so I can sit in on posture clinics, take classes, come to lectures, and laugh at you as you try to stay awake through Mahabharata.  HA!

More later!  Many new adventures coming soon!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

If You Take a Yogi Hiking...

... you'd better watch out, because she will not feel any heat at all and she will want to run up all the trails.  Energizer Bunny mode: activated!!

The alternate title for this post is: "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the (Balancing) Stick"

So I had a GREAT time up in Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park with my sister this week.  We were up there for 3 days and 2 nights, which was the longest break I've had from yoga and teaching since before teacher training.  Did NOT teach Bikram yoga to any of the squirrels or bears or deer, but thanks for the thought, guys, love ya lots.  (We DID see a bear, by the way, but only from the car.  Saw plenty of deer, though!)

The first couple days ended up being kind of low key because my sister got kinda carsick/heatsick and was down for a bit.  Important note to fellow yogis: for people who are not Bikram yoga freaks, 95 degrees is considered pretty hot.  When you do activities outside with normal folks, it's a good idea to check on them and make sure they are not dying.  Lesson learned!!

Happily, she made a good recovery, and on the last day we went on a great 9 mile hike in King's Canyon, along the river, up to a huge waterfall.  It was SO beautiful there.  Absolutely ridiculous.  Every time I visit one of those parks, I end up making crazy plans for how I'm going to become a park ranger when I retire from my job someday.  (Because, like, there's such a high demand for retired yoga teachers as park rangers.)  My other crazy dream is that I will sell my house (assuming I ever buy one), buy an RV, and go spend a few weeks in like EVERY national park.  Because I love them all.

But seriously, here is the ridiculous thing: after I spent all day hiking, I still didn't feel like I'd had a real workout.  I used my legs, I used my lungs, I moved my body... but it was so EASY.  Everything was in such good working order that running up a mountainside was no big deal.  I had to almost run up the rocks just to get my heart rate going, and it still didn't feel as intense as that dizzy heart-pounding feeling that happens right around balancing stick pose in Bikram class.  At the end of the hike, I was thinking, "That was a great walk!  But boy, I could sure go for a good workout right now."

I got back into yoga class yesterday morning, and it felt so fantastic to move my spine again.  (Did I mention that I must have spent at least 20 hours driving over those 3 days?)  From the very beginning, half moon pose, my body was going "ouch ouch ouch" but also "yes yes yes"!

And balancing stick... this one is my most hated posture.  I don't know why, but 9 times out of 10, I am totally miserable about being in the posture and I can't wait for it to be over.  My arms hurt, my shoulders hurt, my heart is pounding like crazy after standing bow, and I feel like I'm having a fricking heart attack.  Which is actually the POINT of the posture - flush out the horseshoe artery of the heart, give yourself a mini heart attack in 10 seconds so you don't have the big one later.  However.  I have never enjoyed this experience.

Until yesterday!  Because as it turns out, there is NOTHING else I can do that has the same effect on my heart and lungs.  I kept trying to get a similar feeling when I was out hiking, and I couldn't get even close.  So yesterday morning, when I felt like my heart was attempting to make a kamikaze leap out of my chest after standing bow, I just thought, "yessss, here it is, here we go," and then I KILLED it in balancing stick.  It's not like I got any BETTER at the posture.  My posture is exactly the same.  But I was actually HAPPY about doing it, for once!  After a few days without it, my body was totally craving that heart-pounding feeling, and I enjoyed ever second of it.  (All "ten seconds" - hah - that is such a lie.)  At the end of the posture, I just thought "phew... now THAT is real exercise!"  It felt soooo good.

I just think it's so awesome, that feeling that comes at the end of a good Bikram yoga class.  It's the feeling of a TOTAL body workout - the feeling of using EVERY part of your body, inside out, from the bones to the skin, coccyx to the neck, fingertips to the toes.  (Yes, I do still talk in dialogue.  All.  The.  Time.)  Five years of practice down so far, and I'm still amazed by the completeness of that 90 minute class.  It's nice to get away from it for a few days, because it makes you appreciate it even more when you get back.

Having fun at King's Canyon...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Real World"? Not really...

"I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the top of my lungs
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you've got to rise above..."
- John Mayer

Does life ever go back to normal?  I have my doubts.  Or maybe I just need to change my definition of "normal."  What IS normal, anyway?  (From over here, you look upside-down...)

And here's another question.  When you get everything that you wished for... what do you wish for next?  In the fairy tales, that's where the story ends.  Happily ever after, finished, no more, nothing here to see.  But what does Cinderella do when she wakes up the next morning?  She marries the Prince at the end of the story, right?  (I'm a little rusty on my fairy tale knowledge.)  So then she's a fricking Queen, with a whole kingdom to manage!  That's gotta be a whole other crazy adventure.  Politics to navigate, servants to manage, crazy people to deal with, and all kinds of other tasks to deal with!  Bet it made sweeping the fireplace seem easy, in retrospect.

You know what I mean.


It's still totally crazy that I am teaching yoga as my "job" right now, but it also feels really... well, normal.  I know, I'm contradicting myself.  But it feels natural.  I'm doing all the crazy things I used to do with my spare time - spending all day at the yoga studio, driving around LA, going to Bikram's classes, hanging out with friends from yoga - same thing.  But now I get to go up on the podium and teach sometimes!  And now this isn't just how I spend my "spare" time - it's how I spend ALL my time.  (In my spare time, I do crossword puzzles, go hiking, and watch Doctor Who with my sister, in case you were wondering.) I'm doing exactly what I like to do...  All.  The.  Time.

The actual teaching is getting smoother, I think.  Taught number 20 tonight.  Wow.  I taught at 3 different studios in the past week, including two classes at Headquarters. (Bikram was totally in the building for the second one - he watched a bit from the lobby.  That wasn't weird or anything...!!!)
I've had some really big, fun, high energy classes.  The craziest was probably the one a week ago when I had 41 students and TEN of them were brand new.  I felt like I worked as hard as everyone in the class put together, just saying the dialogue, keeping the energy moving, and doing crowd control over the 25% of the class that was distressed about the heat and trying to escape.  Hah!!  The 4th of July morning class was a really good one - had a bunch of friends in town visiting (Greg, Lindy, Ayesha, Ricardo: shout-out!!) and that made it exciting and fun to teach, because none of them had taken my class before.  It was a fun class - people were awake, working hard, good energy.

Teaching is so much like practicing - every class is totally different.  My mood changes, of course.  Some days I feel like BOOM, rock and roll, let's go, let's do some YOGA!  Other days I feel more low key, like okay, let's just do this nice and quick and clean, no fuss, no mess.  I had one class where I was just kind of spaced out and I actually fucked up my dialogue a couple times.  After that one, which I thought was a total trainwreck, one of the regular students commented that it was my "best one yet."  Go figure!

But the BIG wildcard is the mood of the CLASS.  Because now, I'm not just dealing with mySELF when I go into the room, I'm dealing with everyone.  When you practice yoga, you know that your body is going to be different every day.  But when you TEACH, you might have 40 different bodies in the room, and THEY are all different every day, too.  And the different combinations of people - how many are new, how many are young, how many are injured, how many are tired, how many people are in the room - those things all make a big difference, too.  I've noticed that you have to tune into the mood of the room, or the class feels weird.  There was one class that I taught where I was really excited to teach, but it felt like the students were just feeling like "uuggh, let's get this over with," and that was a weird class.

Anyway!  This has been kind of a rambling little update.  I'm trying to keep up with the blog, maybe once a week or so.  (I miss the routine of teacher training, a bit.  Can you TELL I lack structure in my life right now?!)  I'm going on a camping trip for the next couple of nights up in King's Canyon - hooray! - and then next week I'm going on sort of a "working vacation" to another Cali studio where I'll get to teach twice a day for the whole week - yay!  This is work?!  I like it...