Monday, July 09, 2012

The yoga bubble: Part 1

It’s been a little over three weeks since the end of Bikram Yoga Teacher Training Spring 2012 and I’ve yet to write about my nine week experience in Los Angeles because … well, it’s difficult to put into words, to be honest. Briar, my fellow trainee from Bikram Yoga Chiswick summed it up best with these words “… [I] feel like nobody in the real world understands what we've been through. It sounds trivial if I explain it in a way they understand; pretentious if I give it the justice it deserves.”

She’s right - but I’m going to give it a bash anyway.

My home away from home for nearly 10 weeks.
Training was without doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The days were long, grueling on both the body and the mind. I was left with aching knees and tight hamstrings, I went deaf in my left ear for almost three weeks due to the amount of sweat pouring into it. I fell ill for two weeks with a sore throat, temperature and a hacking cough that I could not shake.

And yet despite that it was the most brilliant, memorable, utterly bonkers and wonderful time of my life - a true life-changing experience. It sounds corny, but I honestly feel as if I returned from LA a different person from the one that had left almost 10 weeks earlier. Looking back, training wasn’t so much about learning to be a yoga teacher so much as it was about learning to be a better person and helping us to unlock the innate skills that all of us possess - allowing us, as Bikram would say, to grow “like a flower petal blooming.”

None of this was apparent from the word go, however.

The first day or so in LA was a bit weird, to be honest. I arrived on the Friday and registration wasn’t until the Sunday afternoon, so I had a bit of time to kill. I checked out Redondo Beach (where The OC was shot) and scouted out the local shops on the Saturday, before meeting a fellow UK trainee named Dave in the evening which, even if he’d turned out to be an absolute arsehole was lovely simply because I’d literally not spoken to anyone aside from the hotel staff since arriving; as it turned out Dave was utterly brilliant and one of the main reasons that I ended up having such a memorable experience at training.

By Sunday afternoon all the other 400-odd trainees had arrived and we set about registering and collecting our trainee binders and anatomy books (gulp!). The atmosphere in the Radisson hotel was genuinely electric because none of us knew what to expect.

My folder of yoga knowledge and my baby dialogue; the latter was a constant companion throughout training and even as I write this it's sitting on my desk within easy grasp.
The real beginning came the following day, however, when we were introduced to the man himself for the first time. I distinctly remember the moment Bikram came into the lecture room - the silence that descended as he strode in, donned a microphone headset and for the enthusiastically uttered the words that we would hear so many times and mimic so often in the weeks that followed: “Check, check! One, two, three, four … HI GUYS!”

Bikram is such a remarkable character, far more so than I thought he would be, and I’ll write more about him another time. What I remember from this first appearance though, was that he was very welcoming, inordinately proud of his new shoes, and wore a very sparkly, expensive-looking Rolex. And a few hours later we were all in the Radisson’s ballroom (converted to serve as a hot yoga room) taking our first class from Bikram.

What I remember most about this class is that at some point about halfway through I had to throw my hand up in the air to call for help; I was cramping up from a combination of too much effort, hyperventilating, and being too hot (not in a good way for a change). One of the staff teachers helped me out of the room and sat me down outside to recover. While I got myself together I couldn’t help but think how my teacher Mandy had told me that she’d walked out of her first class with Bikram years before and now here I was doing exactly the same … and then I inexplicably burst into tears.

At this point one of the other staff teachers came over and asked me what the matter was. Through my tears I tried to explain that I was so far from home, that I didn’t want to walk out of Bikram’s first class and felt as if I was letting myself down as well as my friends and teachers who’d encouraged me to come to training. I expected this teacher to put a reassuring arm around my shoulders and tell me it was OK; instead she looked down at me and said “if that’s all you’re worrying about you need to man-up and get back in the room.”

I had been *this* close to thinking I couldn’t cope with training and giving up before we’d even really started, but those words shocked me into doing exactly what I’d been told to do. This teacher’s name was Kat, and on graduation night I told her this story and thanked her for what she’d said to me; without that shock to the system it’s quite likely I would’ve been on the next plane home.

(The tears, by the way, were not me just being a wuss; we were later told that it was highly likely training would lead to us experiencing what was called an ‘emotional release’ - basically an unexpected emotional breakdown, for want of a better term. Some people had them halfway through, some right at the end; seems I got mine out of the way bright and early)

Anyway, I went back into the room, somehow finished the class, and then staggered out wondering exactly how the hell I was going to manage two classes per day, along with lectures, posture clinics, and late-night Bollywood movies for the next nine weeks.


Lamb Lye said...

That was a good little read, Tim. I look forward to hearing more!
Did the cramps go away after a while? I've heard it said that drinking water helps with cramps...

KLee said...

Tim Tim~ it's nice to read about each of our TT experience. Reading your blog brings back memory of my first days at TT, making new friends and trying to remember their names. LOL Keep writing ^_^

Tim said...

Lamb - Yeah, the cramps go away quite quickly; it's just too much oxygen in your blood so you need to get slow your breathing and chill out a bit!

Kevin! More to come - just need to find the time to write it!

Anonymous said...

Crumbs, sounds like an old fashioned "EST" type brainwashing thing, where they break you down and make you into something else for money - Rolex watch etc. Are you sure you're OK?

Tim said...

Yeah, I thought it was a break you down to build you back up sort of thing; it was such a good experience though and undoubtedly changed me for the better. Hey, maybe one day I'll have a bling Rolex!