Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another Studio Beckons

I have been asked to teach at another nearby studio! Needless to say, I am thrilled and SO honoured that the studio owners have asked me to join their team :-)

So I went and taught my first class there last week which was really nerve wracking but I was able to settle in and find my "groove" fairly quickly. It was strange just working out how loud to speak and hearing my voice out loud in a different room and seeing how people would respond to the dialogue and to me etc.

By that I mean that although we all say the "same" dialogue everyone has their own style and when you practice at various studios you will see different ways that some of the postures are approached, different techniques and rituals etc. Balancing Stick / Tuladandasana is a good example of how teachers have different timings for when they clap and how to get the class into the posture. (I wont bore you here with my detailed analysis of each part of the pose but perhaps just keep it in your mind when you get a new teacher or go to a different studio for a class.)

Anyway, my feedback on the class was really good and the Owners said it was clear I knew my dialogue really well (including the Left sides - a direct result of you guessed it - more study!) and that my timing for 2nd sets was good etc. Which was SO great to hear because I have worked really really hard and STILL spend hours studying the dialogue. So it was great to have that hard work recognised.

And I have to say, that I feel my confidence growing with each class. Yes, I still get my Left and Rights mixed up and make mistakes but I can recover much quicker and don't get a sick feeling of panic when my mind goes blank. Yikes! It really helped that I sat down and planned my 2nd sets. That is, as there is no "definite" way to do these (its just left up to us as Teachers to break them down from the 1st set) I took the time to plan them out and work out what lines I need to say and what I can leave out. Ever the Perfectionist eh! You would have thought that Yoga would have beaten or at least sweated that out of me by now huh? No such luck.

Something else I have been working on is starting to read / write up notes for additional information I want to add between the postures (while in Savasana) in an effort to help the yogis in the class understand the posture better. I know that for me as a beginner, that I was eager for any information that was going to help improve my practice and often I found that I didn't really understand where the effort for the posture needed to come from etc. I.e. I can remember the first time I realised that Standing Bow Pose is a back bend?! It made a HUGE difference to my posture once I figured that out and went into the posture thinking of it as a back bend rather than just trying to balance on one leg and kick the other one up behind me. :-)

So my learning and teaching journey continues.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Month On....

Firstly, thank you so much everyone for your continued support and interest in my teaching journey. I have been out of the TT yoga bubble and home back in the real world for just over a month now and so this post is well overdue.

So it is with a glass of wine in hand, (hey some vices even yoga & 9 weeks of TT didn't stop :-) that I settle down on the couch and sign back into my Blog with the intention of sharing my thoughts about my teaching experiences to date. Which actually feels a bit weird I have to say. I guess because while I was at Training "blogging" was a way to record the day's events and maintain contact with the outside world it seemed so normal, but now seems almost a little narcissistic. In saying that, so many of you "on-line" yogis took the time to follow my Blog, shared your thoughts and offered words of support, and have asked me to continue writing so I feel I would like to maintain that contact with you. And who's to say that we might not find ourselves standing together with our toes on the line in the same hot room somewhere someday :-)

So, here goes.......in the past month I have;

Started my new 9-5 corporate job and am teaching one class a week at my home studio - which makes 5 classes to date. Though I would love to have more classes I have to say that between work, my own practice and studying the dialogue (yes STILL!) my life is pretty full. Also, as there is an abundance of experienced teachers in our area, and all the four studios in the city (Brisbane) had students at Training, there are plenty of eager fresh teachers vying for work so I am lucky to have the classes I get :-)

In saying that a fair number of my fellow Trainees are teaching full time and I have to admit to feeling a little jealous of their new careers. Unfortunately for me the reality of having a mortgage to pay and the cost of Training to be paid off its just not feasible for me to only teach yoga as a means of earning a living. Unfort but true, and something that is really discouraging and heartily debated. Considering the cost of Training and the "weight" being properly Bikram certified carries, the pay is pittance. When you add up the time you are at the studio, at least half an hour prior to class and half an hour afterwards, the hourly rate is pretty crap. Lets just say I could take a 6 week course and become a "Personal Trainer" at the local gym and make more money. Which just seems to be an accepted fact in the Bikram world. So teaching is definitely a labour of love - and something I knew ahead of time and as a new teacher don't have the power to change.

Anyway, in spite of that, I am LOVING teaching. Granted, I am still just trying to get the dialogue out as best as I can, get everyone in and out of the postures safely and finish the class on time, (Insert anxious smile here) so I am not ready yet to add my own personality to the class. And it may not happen for 3-6 months yet. Oy! Depending on how long it takes me to get an "as close to" verbatim dialogue class out. Then I can officially start making corrections and adding my own style / comments to the postures etc.

So, how can I describe the experience of standing on the podium and actually leading a class? First it is weird in that no-one looks at you and you get very little response from anyone other than their movements. No-one maintains eye contact with you, no-one smiles and it looks like no-one is enjoying themselves. I have to constantly remind myself, that its Bikram yoga! No-one should be looking at me, no-one ever smiles (or rarely) and its bloody hot hard work, so no-one is enjoying themselves! Therefore if all of the above is (or isn't as the case may be) happening then it means you are doing your job :-) That, and maybe my jokes just aren't all that funny?

Though I am feeling much more relaxed about teaching a class I am suprised at how hard I am finding it to keep the dialogue fresh in my mind so that it comes out naturally. I am still struggling with the floor series. The postures in the Spine Series are all very simliar and for some reason just won't stick in my poor wee yoga brain. i.e. Is it Go up, much more higher, more up, or Come up, look up, go up, Vs, Come up, everybody go up, come up, everybody come up???????? Argh! Now while it all asks for the same movement, the ever perfectionist in me isn't happy to "wing it" and just say, "come up, come up, come up, change" and wants to get it right. Which is a good thing right?

So I have a copy of the dialogue in my briefcase, a copy in my car and a copy at home and pick it up and study a random posture whenever I can. Ah, the life of a new Bikram yogi eh? Certainly if I was teaching more often it would probably be a different story and I would imagine the dialogue would become more ingrained but for now it is what it is.

In terms of timing, I am starting to manage it better and finish the classes on time. Whew! I have to admit that some of it is pure luck, but I have my time markers ie. when "party time" should occur, what time you should fin the standing series, etc but a lot of it is a fluke and I have no idea if each side of the 2nd set is the same length of time or not? While the first set is pure dialogue it is up to me to "cut and paste" the dialogue and make up the 2nd set as I see fit. WT ???????? So in saying that, I need to tape my class, and then take it so that I get a feel for how I am doing. Oh dear................yeah must get on to doing that eh!

Another thing that is really interesting is the different energy a class can have. Now I know from my own practice that each class can be SO different and more often than not it has nothing to do with whomever is teaching, but rather with how I am feeling, what I have eaten, my own mindset etc. But I do know, that having a teacher who can motivate you and help you forget how crap you might feel, how hard you might be working, how tired you might feel etc, is a god-send and so I aspire to be able to do that for yogis in the class.

For now though, its baby steps for Moi and I just have to concentrate on getting the basics right before I start adding my own thoughts and insights.

I find each class an honour and a pleasure to teach and I am thankful that people put aside 90 minutes in their day to come and spend time in our studio and I can only ask that they enjoy their class with me and want to come back again.

Namaste Yogis


Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Teaching Journey Begins

So after 2 years of dreaming, after countless hours spent on my own practice, countless hours spent studying the dialogue, and 9 weeks full time at teaching training, my yoga journey has come full circle and I have taught my first ever Bikram Yoga Class on Saturday, July 2nd, 2011, 4pm.

I have to say I absolutely LOVED it! I am still buzzing. It made all the tears and frustration of TT worthwhile (dare I say it).

I was so anxious beforehand and have to admit to having spent the last week prior to the class with that bl**dy dialogue ever present in my hand (to which my Mother who was over visiting from NZ can attest to), but have to admit that was more to my being a perfectionist and wanting to teach the class as near to perfect as I could rather than being anxious about the actual teaching of the class. After 9 week of training it was SO frustrating to realise that nothing - nothing! - of the dialogue that I had learnt at TT had stuck in my brain. It seems my short term memory was only good for that. Short term. That is to say, that the Floor Series which I learnt day to day while in LA (i.e. generally read twenty or so times over before I presented it in dialogue clinic) did NOT stick in my brain for anything more than the few minutes required to step up and recite it.

Anyway, in spite of that, I felt as prepared as I could possibly have been for the class. There was nothing else I could have done, no more hours I could have possibly crammed or re-read the dialogue.

I am so lucky and blessed to have many yogi friends who made the effort to come to the class - some travelling from other studios, so I thank you all for your support. It made the class all that much more special for me to have you all there. There were 40 yogis in total for the class which for our studio meant it was very full. Nothing by TT standards of course (you could easily fit perhaps another 10 yogis in there by TT standards) but I have to remember that for most peops having someone else's sweat flicked over you and having no room in front, behind or on either side or your mat, actually freaks a lot of people out. :-) Another note for anyone considering going to TT - loose ALL sense of personal space, get used to having NO space either side of your mat, get used to feet on or very close to your head in Savasana, your feet on or very close to someone else's head in Savasana and being up close and personal with yogis you don't know.

So prior to the start of class, I asked my Angels of Expression to be with me, took a few Pranayama deep breaths before I walked into the studio and then stepped onto the podium and said those infamous words that I had worked so hard to have the right to say - "Hello. My name is Stephanie. Welcome to your Bikram yoga class".

And then went from there...............

I have to say I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! Yes, I messed up a few times. I didn't always get my lefts and rights correct. When you're facing peops its the opposite to your own L&R which you get the hand of pretty quickly but when peops are in postures and all twisted around I found it bloody near impossible to figure out sometimes. So my apologies because if it was confusing to me it was prob more so to anyone listening and trying to follow (especially the beginners). (Which gives even more influence to the question - why didn't we bloody practice this at TT?)

Yes, there were a few moments when I had brain farts and couldn't think what the hell came next. It was so different just "saying the words" for the postures than doing them and so a few times I couldn't remember if we had done 2 sets etc. And in the floor series had to "quietly" ask one of my fellow teachers if we were up to Fixed Firm? But all in all I felt really good about the class and certainly the applause at the end confirmed that. I managed to get them on the floor in 55 mins (the recommended time is 54 mins) and we were in final savasana in 90 mins. Not bad considering I had never "practiced" the dialogue for a full class and just fudged my way through the 2nd set of each posture in terms of timing.

I want to extend a big THANK YOU ALL for your positive feedback and comments. For Sean and Jodie, the studio owners for letting me teach my first class at your studio and to my friends and fellow yogis. For those who didn't even know me but made the time to come up after class and thank me and tell me how much you enjoyed the class. I can't tell you how much it all mean't to me. It has been a dream of mine for so long to teach Bikram yoga and so was such a wonderful experience to be able to fulfill that.

So my next class is Satuday week. I am now back in the "real world" working full-time so that is soon enough for now. It gives me time to polish my dialgoue and get a better feel for those 2nd sets. I have to add that I can't wait. This feels so "right" for me and I hope that it is the beginning of a long wonderful journey. :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Finally I am home. It is the best feeling in the world! Never before have I wanted to get home so badly. Usually I want my travels away to continue endlessly and dread coming back. Needless to say, not this time.

My Partner greets me at the airport and we head off to the Surf Club, one of our favourite haunts, as we had planned. So much to say and yet I am unable to find the words. After weeks of sleep deprivation, sleep finally comes. I sleep away countless hours for days and days until I don't feel exhausted anymore. He sits with me in silence often, over the next few days and just gives me a hug when I get that "lost look" as he calls it. Slowly the words come and I start to feel alive again.

I feel so different and yet nothing here has changed in 3 short months. I catch up with friends and fellow yogis, but struggle to find the words to surmise my experience in reply to their questions of "how was it?".

Now a week on I am starting to feel ready to re-join the real world. Eventually I fire up my laptop. There are heaps of messages from all the Trainees now out there teaching or about to. It seems we all felt the same afterwards and have spent a lot of time sleeping and studying dialogue.

My first class is on Saturday. I am excited and anxious about it. All those floor postures I learnt while at Training only stayed in my short term memory and so I am having to re-learning them. It takes hours and I feel more and more anxious and frustrated that they aren't sticking in my long-term memory as quickly as I would like. Ever the perfectionist, I need to learn to chill! It is frustrating though when I think of the countless hours wasted that could have been put to better use.

But onwards and upwards. I don't think I will ever make sense of my whole TT experience but I hope to at least be able to make peace with it. Not so easy when I look at the mounting credit card debt and the floor postures still unmemorized. Sigh.... Grrr..... Sigh. I try not to have too many expectations about my teaching journey, but hope that it makes it all worth while. That it confirms, always, what I held on to so tightly through training, that the yoga works and that I love it. I hope that I always feel what an honour and privilege it is to be able to share that with other people and change their lives in some way as they move through their own journeys as mine has been changed.

Next step - my teaching journey begins...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The City of Angels

So I have spent the past few days staying in downtown LA. Needless to say it feels SO good to have moved out of the "XYZ" Hotel. (I don't want to name it for obvious reasons) Living near any airport was never going to be a pleasant experience and the "XYZ" LAX was no exception.

It feels strange to be back in the real world. I still feel a bit dazed and numb, like I haven't woken up properly yet. I wear street clothes and put on make up for the first time in weeks. My clothes hang a bit looser than they used to. I look in the mirror and notice that the woman in the reflection looks older. Her face is thinner, there are more wrinkles and a sadness in her eyes. No sign of the infamous yoga glow that Bikram yoga is supposed to give you.

I feel exhausted but sleep doesn't come easy. After 9 weeks of staying up till 2:00 a.m. my body has adjusted to this time clock and I can't sleep until well after midnight.

I can't wait to get home and sit in my lovers arms on the beach and let the ocean soothe my soul. My Mum is coming over from NZ and we will have a week together. I can't wait to see her and talk about everything and nothing. Till then I am walking around The City of Angels. I have been to Chinatown, Little Tokyo and the historic district. The architecture of the buildings is beautiful and I take tonnes of photos feeling romantic and whimsical, until I nearly trip over a homeless person sleeping in the street. A reality check.

I should be out celebrating and my friend from NZ comes to take me out. I find it hard to connect with the "real world". I want to drink wine, a lot of wine. But at the same time I am scared to "let go". to start feeling, to let the tears come. I fear I won't be able to stop them.

I still feel soul-less and unfeeling.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Post Grad Musings

Some people have asked me to share in more detail what it is that I found so disappointing about my training. Now while I don't want to continually just point out the negatives about everything here, in light of the fact some of you are considering coming to TT I will share my thoughts. In doing so, please take the following with a grain of salt and before making any decisions I would talk to other recent graduates to get their perspectives also. :-)

A bit about me and my background so that perhaps you can better understand where I am coming from. I have been practicing Bikram yoga 5-6 times a week for 3 years now. The studios I practiced at, both in Auckland and the Gold Coast, are hot, disciplined, and dialogue driven. That is to say, no-one leaves the room, we are encouraged to loose our "distracting" habits and I am blessed to have practiced under the guidance of some brilliant teachers who recognise how and when to push me and inspire me to improve my postures.

I regularly do doubles, and for the month leading up to training I practiced 11 times a week so that I could get my head around what that was going to feel like and how my body would respond, what I needed to eat, how to stay hydrated enough etc.

Certainly in the initial years of my practice I had many emotional / mental break-throughs both in and outside of the hot room that I feel the yoga helped me handle. That and I put aside time to "work on" some specific issues I felt I needed to change and so I feel that the past few years have been a real turning point for me in terms of personal, emotional and spiritual growth.

Perhaps because of this, I didn't have any major break-downs or break-throughs while being here at TT. Certainly there were times that I would come out of Camel posture with tears but I feel they were a result of the immediate situation and exhaustion rather than anything major I had to work through.

I found the physical challenge manageable. Yes, some days I felt like I had been hit by the yoga bus and there were the occasional classes that were incredibly hard but that was mostly due to the cranked up temperature rather than my physical capabilities. Again, I came WELL prepared for this. Some yogis came having only practiced 3-4 times a week and never having done a double. Also, I listened to my body. I didn't "freak out" about the fact we were doing 11 classes a week and ate what I needed to stay fueled and hydrated but did not stress out about it. I kept my diet simple, ate only when I was hungry and did not make any radical changes.

I was able to practice with no attachment to any particular spot in the room, and only took water with a squeeze of lemon juice into the room with me. It quickly became a well known fact that the left side of the room was hotter than the right side of the room and so you can well imagine the fight for mat space on the right hand side. That and some yogis agonised over the exact mix of water / Gatorade / Coconut water / Juice / Ice etc etc, and took extra towels, tissues etc etc into the room with me. I felt exhausted just watching them set up and arrange everything "just so". Some advice for potential trainess - practice non-attachment at home, stand in the hottest corner of your studio and try a few classes at the back of the room where you can't see yourself in the mirror (you will go weeks without seeing a glimpse of yourself in the mirror while here).

The biggest saving grace and the one thing I can not stress enough for anyone preparing to come here - I studied the dialogue and had learnt the Standing Series BEFORE getting here. That was indeed a life saver! It meant I got to sleep when others didn't - pure and simple. More sleep = less stressed. Many people did not even learn beyond Half Moon before getting here.

So in light of all this, I arrived here in the best possible physical and mental condition that I could. Also, by nature I don't tend to be a drama queen. I choose my battles and so long as it doesn't compromise my personal values am more often than not happy just to let things lie, rather than waste too much energy fighting something that isn't going to change.

So, what did I come here expecting to learn and gain? A deeper understanding of the postures, how to de-construct them and really understand how they are to be performed. To learn how to deliver a well constructed, professional, motivating class that would push the regulars to grow in their practice and inspire the newbies to come back again tomorrow.

So what did I learn?

Out of 9 weeks we only spent 4 hours on the very last night going through the postures with Bikram. Out of all the postures he only had Half Moon & Triangle demonstrated for us. I expected all of the postures to be broken down for us and to go into depth about why we do them the way we do etc, what to look for, how to improve them. I expected this to be the basis of our learning and still have many unanswered questions. Why do we do Triangle the way we do it rather than the way others practice it? In Cobra my shoulders don't stay on the floor. Does this matter? How can I improve this or is the intention enough?

In dialogue clinic we only ever did the right side of a posture. We did not practice delivering the dialogue for the left side of a posture, did not practice two sets of anything or put any of the postures together. The timing of each posture was explained to us in about 5 mins at 2:30am on the very last night. Now granted none of this is rocket science but we were constantly told to go out and teach a class asap after graduation and yet we have not even come close to practicing the delivery of the dialogue for a full class and how to get students in and out of the room in 90 mins?

Instead we got hours and hours and endless hours of Bikram's view of the Western lifestyle versus the Indian way of life. All I will say, is it is not a very nice viewpoint. And after hearing it time and time again over 9 weeks it became increasingly hard to stomach. When he would keep us up till the wee hours of the morning to share stories of his shopping trips of how he would drop over $40K on a diamond watch and choose to buy Bentleys on a whim, versus sharing his incredible knowledge of yoga with us, it was again hard to stomach. When you had to stay up till 4am to watch a Bollywood movie versus learning dialogue or anything of value, it was........you get the idea.

Some people have said that his intention is to push our buttons and to try to get a reaction out of us, to see what would upset us the most etc. After all, they say what annoys you about a person is a reflection of yourself. Now while I agree that often we don't like in another person what we don't like about ourselves I just found his comments racist, sexist, chauvinistic and incredibly offensive (and I've spent the past 15 years working in the building industry and have come across plenty of chauvinistic sexist men on building sites so am not easily offended anymore). And delivering them in the style he did just made you switch off and tune out after a while.

If he wanted to push people's buttons and see how they would react why not have an organised debate over a topic close to people's heart (religion or politics) and let people argue both sides and then see how heated and passionate they get and what reactions are invoked. Instead we got a dictatorship style lecture where it is a single sided view point with no chance for rebuttal.

It all seemed such a senseless waste of time, and to quote my roommate, "uselessly hard". All I can say is thank god for the yoga.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Name is Stephanie. I Am A Yoga Teacher

Why I love my Mum;
Namaste x

Hi there

By now perhaps you'll have that certificate in your hot little hand - what an achievement sticking it out.

I've followed your blog closely and have been very impressed by your words, and you should be proud of the revelations of your thoughts and processes. Your insightfulness, maturity, compassion, and learnings will make you the most fantastic teacher and guide for others.

It's definitely not the way you would like these values you have to be exposed - being taught by a totally dysfunctional human being - but you have had to dig very deep to survive as many others do to survive their nemesis. This process will have given you the life skills to understand and help others way beyond the functional teaching of yoga.

Kia kaha

lots of love Mum

Kia kaha is a Māori phrase used by both the Māori and Pākehā (European) people of New Zealand. It means forever strong and is used as an affirmation. The phrase has significant meaning for both the Māori and Pākehā people of New Zealand.

Linguistically, kia kaha consists of the desiderative verbal particle kia, which is used here as 'an encouragement to achieve the state named',[1] that is, an encouragement to achieve kaha or strength.