Juice Fast Progress

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fred 62

I can't believe we just drove all the way to Silverlake to take yoga class, and pay for it. JUNKIES!!!! It was hot, the people were hot, feel great after class (though sore), the usual. There's a LOT of fear and anger about the school being closed and there being virtually no information. I can understand it, but I'm not sure what good it does other than making people more upset. We can't change this situation, and all the feelings of entitlement and outrage in the world won't change anything right now. I've heard the phrase "class action lawsuit" more than a few times today, and I sorely missed my home in New Zealand, where as far as I can tell, they don't have lawsuits.

But - to the important business. On the way home from class, we ate at Fred 62 in Los Feliz - near where I used to live - and it was WONDERFUL. America may be largely responsible for the impending collapse of the world, but damn they make a mean omelette. It's magical to be able to order breakfast and actually get it cooked properly! It was a dream. We were surrounded by LA's beautiful people - hip kids with absurdly gorgeous bodies in their magnificent costumes. We ate lunch with Edson, a brazilian from Sao Paolo (sorry if I spelled either of those wrong), and his energy and lust for life were just magnificent. We were all talking about people's attitudes about all of the sexual chemistry that's bouncing around... I, being chaste and innocent and very much taken was opposed, of course - but some of the guys here (and a few of the girls) have some serious hard-core booty call PLANS. STRATEGIES. I was kinda shocked - I suppose partially because Bikram forbade it - I'm of the opinion that we should stick to the plan if we want the most out of it, but I think that makes me old fashioned. Nonetheless, the sexual chemistry conversation led to Edson's passionate monologue on how much he loves kissing, and it was fairly breathtaking. It's really no fair that all you require is that magnificent Latin accent and a deep passion for, um, deep passion and you're suddenly breathtaking. I'm going to have to learn to fake that accent. So to summarize, American omelettes are great, Brazilians love to kiss, and all milkshakes should be malted.

I'm a little weirded out by how achey I am - I'm doing yoga, aren't I supposed to be all loose and flexible and feeling great? I do feel pretty great, actually - but with a lot of aches and pains. Nothing to be done, I suppose.

So much Yoga Drama!!! Why isn't there a Bikram Teacher Training Reality Show?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Not only has tonight's evening class been cancelled, but tomorrow's morning class has been cancelled as well. It's ironic - just as I started to get over the hump and started to feel like I was able to approach classes with integrity and strength - without fear - we have no classes!!! And of course all that fear needed a place to go, so I'm spinning around in my head... what if training gets cancelled? Rumors are spreading - mostly the fire code/occupancy violation rumor, which is a bit scary due to its basic unfixability - but also at least one of the "Bikram's computers were being taken out of the business for investigation" rumors floated up to our apartment earlier.

A fellow yoga student, Suzanne, suggested that this is all just part of the process - perhaps not a planned part, but still. We can't take anything for granted, and we do have to take our focus and discipline into our own hands. A bunch of people are planning to drive to a nearby Bikram studio - the studio city location - for class tomorrow morning. I'm planning to tag along, because clearly I AM A JUNKIE. Like everybody else here.

This shift in perspective is kinda valuable - I think I'll be less inclined to find fault with the intensity of this process, now that I know how much I crave it in its absence. Plus - it makes the time seem longer - I still can't believe it's only been 4 days, it feels like a month.

Fortunately for all of us, Rob Schneider's "The Animal" is on the movie channels tonight - for FREE! Can you BELIEVE IT? I'm going to go savor the humor bounty...


Imagine you've just completed yoga class - you're lying in savasana, your mind is calm, you begin to relax.... and then a fireman opens the studio door and yells, "Everyone has to leave this room IMMEDIATELY and evacuate the building". Then remember how much you are (or aren't) wearing. I'm to the point where what I'm wearing is only trivially more than a speedo. So almost 300 yoga students are standing in throngs ouside the building, waiting to be let back inside, only to be told - the studio is closed, please go home. Not HOME home, thank god, but back to the apartments. And now I'm all worried we might have to miss tonight's yoga class. Instead of relishing the break, I'm hoping we have another class? What the HELL is THAT???

Rumors abound - somebody smelled smoke, there's a burnt out transformer, though the one we heard the most was that Bikram's studio is in serious violation of fire codes, filled over capacity... if this experience gets shut down now, I'd be so crushed. But for now... at least I get a nap! Yahoo!!!!!

Over the first hump...

What a difference a day makes.

Today's first yoga class was taught by Bikram's wife, Rajashree. She had heard of some of the nuclear fallout from the evening before, and taught the most caring, compassionate, but stong class I've ever taken. And I don't mean just in yoga, I mean period. I felt like she was my great-grandmother, and that she knew exactly everything that was wrong with us and addressed it immediately and effortlessly. She asked us, just as class began, "Are you scared?". And the entire class said "yes", immediately - me with them.

The class wasn't easy, and I sat near the doors, which were left open, but I stayed strong and found strength I didn't have yesterday. I feel this blanket of calm around me that I don't remember having before. A quick intrusion from the ill-voices said something like, "Yeah, but in two weeks when they crank it up, it'll suck...". But the positive voice, which is getting stronger, replied, "They taught the class this way today because that is what they knew we needed, and could do. And when they crank it up in two weeks, it won't be because we can't take it, but precisely because we can."

But let's make this all out to be TOO serious. Today's magnificent hyperbole included these fantastic claims:

1. Bikram INVENTED DISCO. Actually INVENTED THE WORD DISCO, and opened the "World's First Disco Club".
2. Bikram came up with Chippendales Dancing.
3. Bikram has his own, the "world's largest", private city in india, which cost 60 billion dollars to build.

There were more, but I can't remember them all. They were hilarious. But, again, it's weird - the exaggeration is SO extreme that you actually come around the bend and wonder whether or not the things he says might be somehow partially true - did he maybe inspire disco, and the way he uses language might, if translated into his mother tongue, be closer to the literal truth? The fact that I spent a non trivial amount of time today trying to figure out how Bikram might have tangentially created Disco is hilarious in and of itself. And I suppose all of this comes from the fact that, somehow, you WANT to believe Bikram. I suppose that's why we're all there, among other things. As Anika said, behind it all, the heart is there.

I'm finding - and I hope those of you who are doing Bikram who read this can understand this - that the most important sentence in all of the dialogue is, "99% correct is 100% wrong". I've had to basically start over with most of my poses, and really ask myself if I'm adhering to ALL the parts of the instruction. And I'm finding that the poses require more stength when I'm doing them correctly, even though I can't go as far into them, but they cause less fatigue, and my breathing and heartrate stay much more in control. Understanding how pointless it is to even attempt something that looks like the pose, but that you know truthfully is incorrect - is making a huge difference. I'm finding that it requires letting go of some of the pride associated with feeling like I do the pose well, whether I do or not, and MUCH more difficultly, accepting that I must have patience, and that the improvements will take a long time to manifest. (Ironically, just grasping this idea showed me improvements across the board, in small and subtle ways).

Bikram gives us philosophy lectures for 2.5-3 hours each night, after our second yoga classes. They are difficult, peppered with his fantastical claims, weaving in and out of Indian and Hindu mythology and ancient teachings that he only touches on briefly. Also, most people seem to be either discarding the teachings altogether as silly nonsense, to be made fun of on the way home, or alternatively - blindly agreeing with it, in keeping with the culty aspects of all of this. Woven throughout yesterday's and today's lecture, though, was this idea: Yoga is the union of Body, Mind and Spirit. The mental discipline (Raja Yoga) provides the ability for the mind to control the body and help it achieve greater health and beauty through physical discipline (Hatha Yoga). When the mind and body have united in this way to create a beautiful temple that the spirit will want to reside in, a harmony is reached that is the very definition of life.

My understanding of all of this is obviously incomplete, and a lengthy discussion of how these things were related to Karma Yoga was beyond my ability to distill just yet. But part of the explanation included a stern admonition from Bikram that we (his students) are confused, uncertain, unhappy, unrealized because our lack of mental discipline lets the negative voices run rampant. And I was immediately awash with reminders of how much I hate what I see when I look at myself in the mirror - how I begin almost every class thinking that I might not be able to make it - how I spend my days at work wasting so much of my time instead of achieving a purpose, staying on a track, whatever that track may be. A rapid downward spiral occurred, but then... I was reminded of something I told Clodagh when I first met her. There is one thing I am certain of, beyond even my occasional certainty at solving technical puzzles: I have a good heart. I deeply and truly want my loved ones to be happy, above all things, and I am quick to open myself to new loved ones almost all the time. I think about whether or not my abilities as a yoga teacher might help my grandfather not suffer, help my uncle find himself, help my father find strength... that sounds judgemental, I suppose. So much of my daily mind is filled not with "how do I get a better stomach", though it is most certainly there, but... will I be able to do something to make people better? And that positive feeling drowned the negative feelings out. I feel stronger because of it. Weird.

Man, where is the humor? This shit is getting pretty dry... Okay, tomorrow's post: All Ass N Titties, no airy-fairy stuff.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Operation Successful. Patient Dead.

What on earth have I chosen to do. What on earth have I chosen to do.

Today was the apocalypse.

I don't have time to write a great deal because we didn't get out of our last lecture with Bikram until 11:30 pm. We left the apartments at 7:30 am. There were three hour long breaks during the day. The rest was machine gun fire.

At one point, after they CARRIED the second person out of the room, Bikram looked around the room at all the people lying on the floor instead of staying in the poses and noted that it looked like a Vietnam battlefield. One of my roommates, Am, lost consciousness and was unable to move for about 20 minutes. Radical electrolyte depletion.

Because I have to be somewhat brief, I'll try to stick to the most poignant elements of the day. First of all, I had class this morning with Emmy Cleaves, who is somewhere between 80 and 90, a concentration camp survivor, and though wonderful, a SERIOUS hardass. She noted with disgust that our class was "pathetic". She did provide a staggering amount of information in the class, though - I felt like I was beginning again for the first time with all the new information. She's been teaching Bikram's Yoga classes for 33 years.

The other reason I felt like a beginner again today was that I got my ASS KICKED, surgically removed, and handed to me. Rodney Leonard Stubbs (achewood reference..) may as well have been there. I was on the floor or checked out 60% of the time. I was fighting for breath, fighting not to pass out, stunned and overwhelmed by the heat, and just beaten, beaten, beaten. And then the second class came and I struggled to stay conscious as yogis collapsed around me. It SUCKED.

But - a few things happened during all of this that made me tangibly aware of what's happening to me, how I'm changing, and how wonderful this all is in the end. The hotter the fire, the sharper the sword. After the first class, as lay on the floor barely able to get up from savasana, a nagging voice appeared in my head and said, "you're not going to make it through this. This isn't for you, you're not a physical person". And I immediately was reminded - hey - this was EXACTLY what my very first class at Anika's studio was like. I felt exactly the same way - performed just as poorly (relatively speaking) and felt just as overwhelmed... and I knew then that I would make it through this, because I made it through that same despair the last time, and with way more against me. And I realized vividly... the fact that I began my yoga journey from a place of weakness and inability - something I had been ashamed of because I wanted to be good at it right away - is the greatest gift I could have received. Because now I know how much stronger I can be than the voices in my head tell me, I have PROOF.

And the second revelation of the day - one that brought clearly home how quickly this environment is reshaping me... At the beginning of each of the savasanas in the second class of the day - the heat of the room was destroying me - my hands, arms and feet were stinging from the heat, and the fight-or-flight mechanism in my head was SCREAMING at me, GET OUT OF THE ROOM. People were leaving quite a bit, everybody was low-key, there's no ego... but Craig, the head of teacher training, said something about being able to look yourself in the eye and truly say "I needed to leave" vs. "I wanted to leave" and the strength we would gain from knowing we never left the room during all of teacher training. Craig also told us that the number one thing we could do is train ourselves to respond to panic by making a conscious effort to breath slowly into the stomach - not the chest - and give ourselves the gift of breath. So when the screaming voice was telling me to leave - I yelled back (in my head) NO. One time, I actually got up and started to leave and then came back. And I made it to the end. It did not get easier - but now I KNOW, I absolutely KNOW that I can defy the negative impulses - and if those are removed of their power - they'll lose strength, fast. Can you imagine what stillness of mind would be like if the negative voices were quieted to a murmur, or gone entirely, and if we had the ability to tell them NO?

And the weight... is falling off me like I have the flu. It's nuts. Last - but not least - I performed "Half Moon Pose" (Ardha Chandrasana) in front of Bikram today (as did many other people). I have to go faster, and I started off without all of my confidence but found it as I went. My next one will be stronger.

Pictures soon... I have taken a few, but cannot find the cord to attach the camera to the computer. D'oh!!!

Monday, April 10, 2006


Well, here we go!!!

Bikram is, well, everything everyone proclaimed and warned he would be. He's unbelievable. My first impression of him, to my great surprise, was a combination of, "He's handsome/He's ridiculously fit/He's fucking 60 years old????" Subsequent impressions were:

1. He is wearing snakeskin shoes, a skin tight black lycra t-shirt with silver spirals on the shoulders, and skinny-guy pants.
2. He is wearing a rolex, or something about as shiny.
3. Wow. He really likes to brag. Not that he doesn't have a staggering amount to brag about, but the onslaught of hyperbole and exaggeration (which we were warned about) seems to diminish the impact of the indisputably amazing things that he's done.
5. Goddamit, I still like him.

Not that I don't want to like Bikram, but this is the weird part about all of this. It feels very... culty. There were moments when I saw myself in the room, nodding in agreement with everybody else in the class with something Bikram had said, and it just felt so strange. I had a weird revulsion to the way it all appeared, from an external point of view. It reminded me at times of The Organization! The P.P.R.!!! Power Through Positive Real Estate!!!! More than once. I'll have to learn to take what is good and disregard superficial similarities to bad images for me.

I suppose more significantly, though... I MADE IT THROUGH MY FIRST YOGA CLASS TAUGHT BY BIKRAM!!! I want to hug Anika and Eric for preparing me for this. I had this weird suspicion that they were gradually increasing the intensity in our studio of late - and whether or not that was with my impending journey in mind, it worked. I did every pose as best I could. I didn't fall out of standing head to knee, though I couldn't extend... I didn't fall out of standing bow, though I did let myself out twice (I did come back in, though). People were dropping left and right!!! I made the mistake of putting my mat DIRECTLY beneath the heat vent, which was exactly like holding a hair dryer about three to six inches away from the face for two hours. Bikram's classes are LOOOONG. Singing. Stories. Poses randomly held for way long. And I made it! We were so smushed together that the girl in front of me (who was kinda like an evil yoga-snob Sabra) hit me with her leg twice as she fell out of standing bow. It wasn't her fault, she couldn't have avoided me, but the annoyance vibes from her that followed (there was nowhere for me to move, I was hitting people left, right, and behind) were kinda unnecessary. But... NO DRAMA!!!!

However, all of this pales in comparison to the best thing that happened today. Allen - this one's for you. We had the Chief of Medicine of all the UCLA Medical Schools and Hospitals and Extensions come to speak to us about how to prevent hyponutremia (loss of electrolytes) and over/under hydration. He also answered many general medical questions, all with the same basic answer, "this practice, in my medical opinion, works better than anything else I've seen for prevention of sickness and disease and injury". However, there was a lengthy Q&A session following his talk, and people were asking random, bizarre questions about various electrolyte replacement solutions. A woman had her hand up solidly in the back for like three minutes, and when he finally called on her, she just belted out in a slightly weird, loud voice:

Dr: "What?"
Dr: "I'm sorry, but what do you mean? Mangos? They are a good source of electrolytes, yes."
Dr: "I'm sorry, I still don't understand".

Then he took the next question. This is the most wonderful thing that could have possibly happened today. OBVIOUSLY the universe congratulating you, Allen, on completing your first yoga class. Namaste, bitches. Namaste.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

It has BEGUN

Wow. This is much more than I thought I was getting myself into... so my WHOLE LIFE is going to change? I thought I was just going to get a nicer stomach and... and... Really, I knew this was about making a big change in my life, I guess it just feels more real now. And we haven't really even started.

When I arrived, there were already several dozen or more people waiting outside - still a half an hour early - and my first reaction was, "I don't belong here. These are those really PHYSICAL people - the dancers, the athletes... there's no computer geeks ANYWHERE!!!" Even though I'm starting to have more of a connection with my physical self, my self image is still that of a non-physical, "stay-inside" type person. As I waited through the next half an hour, more and more and more super fit people showed up (and a few people that looked a bit more like I do...), and I just couldn't believe how many of us there are. 226 people.

We got to hear introductory speeches from everyone, most notably Bikram's wife Rajashree and his daughter, who called her father "a psycho" and then we sung happy birthday to her. We also got a short talk from several of the teachers including Craig, who was very emboldening. He also stressed how those of us (me VERY much included) who don't have the dialog memorized and effortless are going to have difficulty, so though he made me feel stronger with the rest of his talk, the net result is that I'm MORE terrified than I was.

I live with 4 other roommates in a 2 bedroom suite at the Toluca Lake Oakwood Estates, and it's pretty nice, although cramped. I have two roommates Am and Benz (unknown spelling) from Thailand, who insist they would like to cook for us, and I'm sharing a room with two guys, Daniel and Derrick, both American. I don't know very much about them yet, but it feels just like University felt freshman year - all excited, grand imagination about how big/overwhelming/awesome everything's going to be, living in close quarters with total strangers. Of course, now that I know that I am a loud sleeper, I worry for their sanity and whether or not I'll get stabbed or suffocated in my reverberating sleep.

Tomorrow we meet Bikram. He's been suitably overhyped at this point, I'm assuming he'll levitate into the room, and then breathe fire over us while he sprouts dragon wings. Or something like that.

A quiet day at the beach

My first day back in America. I'm staying at the "Loews" hotel in Santa Monica. It is gigantic and impersonal, but beautiful and shiny as well. It's on the beach, looking out over the ocean, and the weather has been unusually calm. The ocean looks like a mirror. When we were flying in, the ocean was so clear you could see the reflection of the plane below, and see straight into the water to the bottom when it got shallow enough. It made LA look somewhat tropical...

Being back here brings with it all the usual culture shock, which I suppose has ceased to be shocking since it happens every time I return. The place is so BIG, so crowded, so manic, etc. My favorite "America" moment so far has been the commercial for a painkiller on TV. It showed a woman playing tennis, and Mr Voice said, "Alice is a TENNIS ELBOW PAIN SUFFERER" (with a note of disapproval from Mr Voice that anyone should feel pain). Alice says, "When I hit the ball, the pain hits ME". Then the painkiller is introduced - blood red box - and the voice over notes that the effect on pain INCREASES with each dose. A handy graph fills the screen, demonstrating that the amount of pain killing goes UP as you take 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 doses. Then Alice returns, smiling, and says "After I took PRODUCT, I can't feel the pain!!!". She grinned a bit maniacally and went back to her tennis. There was no opponent. Just balls rocketing towards her from off screen.

But, every complaint must be balanced with appreciation: MEXICAN FOOD. I had huevos rancheros for breakfast as I sat on the balcony and watched the waves crash on the shore, past the boardwalk. And breakfast was SPICY AS HELL. And it was served with perfectly brewed filter coffee that just kept coming. I'm wired as hell - the perfect way to begin yoga boot camp.

I'm still really nervous, and convinced that I won't be able to make it. But there was something I saw yesterday that made me really glad to be here at this time and place learning to be a yoga teacher. There's a sorta "designer yoga" place (not unlike where I did yoga for the first time in Larkspur Landing) called Exhale near the Santa Monica Boardwalk. Meticulously designed, very shiny - expensive yoga clothes for sale in the foyer, and outside, a GIGANTIC SIGN showing a very bouncy dude with a ponytail and the words, in huge block letters, HIP HOP POWER YOGA. I nearly fell over in the street laughing. Sweet.

Last night, while sitting in the hot tub and looking out over the ocean, I met a very friendly guy named "Kyle", who's a freshman at Southern Oklahoma State University, studying Business Management. He was visiting California, for the first time, to see his older brother graduate from Marines Basic Training camp. He had the stereotypical reaction to LA and California, but without the stereotypical disapproval. He seemed genuinely pleased at seeing all these different kinds of people. I was happy that he was so friendly and introduced himself. He wished me luck in my yoga adventure.

3 hours to go...