Sunday, September 02, 2012

The yoga bubble: Part 4

So when all's said and done, despite all the late nights and early mornings, the punishing schedule and the moments when I just wanted it to be over and done with, Bikram Yoga Teacher Training was without doubt the most incredible experience of my life, and as we neared the end of our nine week journey I wanted nothing more than for it to carry on indefinitely.

Me and Boss, around the midway point, I think.
In those nine weeks I made friends whose company I have missed greatly in the time since we went our separate ways, was empowered with skills that have opened up an incredible new career for me (one which I love dearly), and discovered things about myself that I never could have imagined.

Our final class with Bikram was 90 minutes (or possibly two hours - he did like to stretch his classes out a bit) of hard work and joy. At its conclusion he sat on his orange chair (or throne, as I liked to call it) atop the podium and surveyed us as the song Love is Life - Pyar Karo from his album Bikram Lounge played loudly over the PA system and we went from 400 focused yogis to a bunch of sweaty, half-naked loons jumping and dancing around, crying, laughing, and hugging each other, relieved it was over yet saddened it was finished.

The UK crew moments after our triumphant final class.
All that remained for us as Spring 2012's teacher trainees was graduation.

The graduation ceremony took place the next day in the very same ballroom that had been outfitted to serve as our yoga room, the heavy weave carpet on the floor still stained with the sweat and tears of nine weeks worth of hard work. The ceremony was to last several hours, split between speeches from Bikram and some of the other teachers who had shared their time and knowledge with us over the last couple of months, and the actual moment when all 411 graduating trainees got their moment on stage to collect their certificate (our license to kill, as Bikram would say!) and have our photo taken with the man himself.

Pretty much everyone made an effort to dress for the occasion and I was no different. I'd packed a whole outfit specially for this last day, which to be honest could've been seen as a bit stupid seeing as I only got to wear it once and I could've done with more room for shorts in my suitcase BUT on the plus side, it was nice to actually tart myself up for the first time in what felt like forever. In fact one of the staff teachers, a lovely chap named Balwan, said to me with a look of approval on his face "I think you are the sharpest dressed man here!" Such a nice compliment - and yet it nearly all went horribly wrong.

Let's not beat around the bush: basically, around the halfway point of graduation I noticed I'd split my trousers. Yes: split my trousers. Let's put it down to the fact that nine weeks of yoga had a remarkable effect on my thighs because they fitted fine before I left for LA. Whatever the reason, there I was, minutes away from receiving my certificate in front of 410 other trainees and loads of other assembled guests with a massive hole in my trousers. My dilemma was thus: leave it, get up on stage and hope no one noticed, or scurry back to my room and change my nice suit trousers for my black jeans, in the process ruining my carefully planned ensemble.

Just as I resolved to head back upstairs and change, however, a third option presented itself. Passing fellow trainee Jo as we all headed outside for a five minute break I hysterically babbled something along the lines of "LOOK! MY TROUSERS! MY TROUSERS!!" at which point she replied "I've got a sewing kit in my room - I can sort it out for you."

And that's how I ended up on the eighth floor of the Radisson with my trousers round my ankles, clasping my hands over my gentlemanly parts (I was wearing pants, don't be pervy, but even so…) while Jo stitched my trousers and two other trainees looked on with 'what-the-hell-is-going-on-here?!' expressions on their faces.

Panic over, we returned to the ballroom in time to receive our certificates and graduate as fully certified Bikram Yoga teachers.

One of the proudest moments of my life.
As the ceremony ended I hung around by the stage taking in everything that had happened, not only in that moment but in the weeks preceding it. And it was then that I noticed Bikram himself standing just a few feet away, seemingly lost in the moment very much like I was. I'd spoken to him a few times during the nine weeks and on occasion flashed him a thumbs up if he walked past me; I don't know why, but it always raised a smile from him and a thumbs up in return, so given the opportunity I'd always do it; as an aside without doubt my most surprising memory of contact with him came in one of our final classes when he ran between us to get to the podium and loudly slapped me on the arse en route.

Anyway, here I was standing not so far away from the man who in such a relatively short period of time had had such a profound effect on my life, and then for some reason he turned to look at me and I decided one last time to give him a thumbs up (I'd come to the conclusion by this point that if he didn't know my actual name he probably referred to me as 'Mr. Thumbs Up). He smiled, a really big Bikram grin, and then did the last thing I expected him to do: he walked straight over to me, clapped me on the shoulder then shook my hand. We exchanged a few words, ending with me thanking him. I hope he realised that I didn't just mean for the certificate he'd given me minutes earlier, or even for the nine weeks of training. What I really meant was to thank him for helping me fulfil the potential that has always existed within me but which had, perhaps, gone unused for too long. He nodded, smiled again, and then was gone. It was the last time I was to speak to him.

Disco tits at the graduation party. Might've had a wee drink or, um … yeah.
Throughout training Bikram had always spoken about the 'power of self-realisation,' and for so long it made such little sense to me. But there, with my certificate in my hand and Bikram disappearing into the crowd, I finally got it. Because of him I had conquered my fear of flying just to get to LA to do the training, then put myself through nine weeks of killing myself in "Bikram's torture chamber" only to come out the other side a better and stronger person.

"You people," Bikram had said to us at the very beginning, "are the most intelligent people in the world. Ask me why!"

We had mumbled a collective "why?" in return, at which point he had smiled, opened his eyes wide and pointed a finger at us.

"Because you made the decision to come here to learn from me, THAT'S why."

He wasn't wrong. Going to LA, committing myself to this path, was the best decision I have ever made - the best thing I have ever done with my life.

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