The Beginning of the Journey (Weeks 1 & 2)
Here I AM - Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, fall session 2011. This has been the plan for about a year and a half - I've been thinking on it since spring 2010. And since then its been a bubble of excitement for the training, the process, the experience... until about a month before. Thats when the doubt, the nerves, the fear started to creep in. I was getting very anxious about leaving Matt and the pups for 9 weeks - what would I do without the ones I spend every day with? Was I really ready for something so emotionally jarring, physically challenging, spiritually moving? I spent the week before leaving in tears anytime I thought about leaving... it was tough and not something I expected to struggle with when I initially committed to the training.
BUT, here I AM. The departure was hard, so hard. I sobbed saying goodbye to the pups, saying goodbye to Matt and spent the entire plane ride and first night in LA teary-eyed, filled with sadness and anxiety. But again, here I AM.
I'm now done with my second week of the training and WOW! - it is NO JOKE! Not that I expected it to be a piece of cake but its been a big adjustment, no doubt. The schedule is grueling. We begin at 8 am with our first 90 minute practice in the hot room (105 degrees with 40% humidity - which undoubtedly ends up being quite a bit hotter with 400 people in the room) followed by a small break after the class before our first lecture usually beginning between 11:30-12. Then onto our 5 pm class in the hot room, usually taught by Bikram himself. We break for dinner after that then back to the lecture room until late night - 12 am, sometimes as late as 2 am or LATER (or would that be earlier since its already next day?). We get most of Saturday off and all of Sunday. This time is used to do laundry, grocery shop for the week and study.
The doubles (practicing twice daily) haven't been too bad each day. I've felt pretty physically prepared. Its the late nights and less sleep that have been an adjustment for me - learning to go on 6 or 7 hours (sometimes only 4) of sleep each night when all my life I've been a consistent 8-hours-of-sleep kinda gal. But I AM adjusting and truly trying to do it with as little complaining as possible as complaining drains the energy and strength from the body and I need all of energy and strength. It is what it is. And I WILL get through it. I have faith in my body to hold onto the strength and let go of the weakness. The yoga gives me energy, so doing 2 classes each day, I don't need quite as much sleep.
I am SO grateful that I have been practicing the Paleo eating lifestyle for the past 6 months. It has made SUCH a big difference in my practice, energy and RECOVERY. As we pushed through our first week of doubles, many trainees found themselves sore, dehydrated, cramping, sick feeling, losing appetite... and I am dead serious - I felt (physically) GREAT. I didn't get any soreness, I felt full of energy all day and was (and still am) sleeping so soundly. Paleo keeps me so balanced - protein, good fats, fresh fruit and vegetables (the good carbs) and little to no sugar. Nothing processed, no dairy, no starchy foods. It is AH-mazing how well the system really works. I haven't had to take any special supplements, as the staff often recommends extra sources of electrolytes, potassium, sodium... I am getting all of my nutrients from REAL, fresh food. And my body is thanking me - it feels so good, so clean. Thank you Robb Wolf (author of 'The Paleo Solution')!
The biggest adjustment has probably been living out of standard hotel room with a roommate - sharing a small space with someone I don't know all that well. It is a major change from my comfortable life, living with my husband whom I've known all of my adult life and am very accustomed to, not to mention in love with. My roommate and I have about a 25-year age difference and come from different life experiences (as anyone). We are also at very different places in our yoga journey; where I have been practicing very consistently for the past 2 1/2 years at many different studios, she is just getting to her 6th month of practice spent at one studio only. So, the teacher training experience is quite different for us both especially in our approach to getting through it. This is definitely challenging but in a good, character-building sort of way. It is really developing my patience. It is helping me to focus on staying focused on the positive, always setting a good example, watching that my thoughts, actions and words are loving and giving as much as I can... it is a lovely lesson in acceptance and letting go of what I cannot control.
Overall, the experience thus far has been wonderful. And by that I do mean - wonder-filled - lots of changes, questions that don't necessarily have answers, different and new feelings and sensations, old things and habits that the Universe is nudging me to let go of, moments of complete humbling and growth. I've been connecting with so many wonderful new friends on the same journey, learning a little something new and different from each of them, sharing strength and love. This human connection is an important part of this process and very powerful when you can branch out and connect. I find myself gravitating towards just the right people that I need in my life at that moment, its a fantastic phenomenon.
I really tried to come into the training with as little expectation and judgement as possible - this has really helped me to be able to keep things in perspective; whatever the situation, IT IS WHAT IT IS - not necessarily bad or good - there for growth.
I've also tried hard to keep my patience with the process and hold back any complaining about the long hours, late nights, the intenseness of the heat, the practice, the lectures... my eyes are being opened to how powerful just experiencing the situation is instead of judging and complaining about how difficult or challenging it might seem. By quieting myself in this way, I'm finding a whole new side of love and acceptance within me - oh, and incredible inner strength and willpower. It really lessens the difficulty of the training and allows me to stay focused on evolving as a yoga teacher AND as a human being. In many ways it is much like being in the hot room for my yoga practice - I watch my mind, my thoughts and don't let them wander or chatter, staying in a meditative state where nothing can break my focus or steal my peace and hence I have a much better, deeper, more fulfilling practice. I keep thinking to myself, "this experience is making me appreciate my normal life EVEN MORE and see it for how truly comfortable and good it is, I won't ever complain again when I get home!"
The humbling - the beautiful thing about this training is that its very humbling. With 400 other trainees, from ALL different situations and walks of life, 40 different countries, men, women, young, old, gay, straight... there is simply no room for ego. Well, not if you are really interested in evolving and growing in your yoga. You leave that shit at the door.
Practicing in the hot room with 400 other people is HOT, the hottest I've ever felt in my life at times. But its so powerful and humbling - being brought to my knees at times, sobbing after class from nothing more than just emotion - "energy moving through the body" (via Rajashree Chourhury, Bikram's lovely wife), face beet red, liters and LITERS of sweat pouring out of the body, wanting so badly to get up and walk out but staying and just being there, even if I have to sit out for a posture... so humbling.
And always, the way to make it through is to come back to the BREATH, prana - the life force - the stillness. Not worrying about what's happened, what I've done, what I couldn't do, what is coming - none of it matters. All that matters is the exact moment, the NOW. My presence in that, letting go of everything else, letting every past moment die - realizing that the holding on does not serve me. For me, coming to know these moments is how I can connect with the Divine. It is where God is in me, where I feel that love and power the strongest. What a challenging process but feeling it for even just a moment is worth all the struggle.
Two weeks down, seven to go. And I am filled with a lightness, a happiness. I am really coming to know and SEE my higher Self. Each day I am being challenged, broken down and slowly built back up - revealing my inner strength, the stuff waaaay deep down that we mostly underestimate all of our life. I am learning to simplify my thoughts, one thing, one MOMENT at a time, no attachments to feelings or outcomes, no expectations or judgements. I am getting small glimpses of my ability to have NO desires expect to BREATHE and FEEL - that is all. And that is enough.