After a brief trip abroad, Bikram is back in Hawaii.
You can't help but miss him when he's gone..
Unsurprisingly, he returned with much to say…..
So, we are back in late night lectures.
'Bikram lectures' cover a myriad of topics.
He’ll spend an hour speaking on India, philosophy, yogic practice and principle...and then he’ll launch into a thirty minute explanation of how the Volkswagon Beetle came to be…at one o’clock in the morning….while we sit on smelly, damp carpet…the wetness of someone else’s sweat soaking through the bottom of our pants. Forty five minutes will be devoted to the human body and its miraculous capacities…and then an equal amount of time is allotted for a story about his best friend, Shirley Mclaine. (or as pronounced by Bikram, Shirley MAC laine). Not a new Shirley McLaine story, mind you. A repeat. A rerun. An encore.
At first I thought he was forgetting that he’d already shared the tale with us. I am now absolutely certain that he forgets nothing. We could, at this point, repeat these stories verbatim along with him. Amazingly, repeating the dialogue verbatim still eludes us.
The saving grace of it all is that the guy is hilarious. Honestly. Hands down, one of the funniest people I have ever listened to. The facial expressions alone are priceless. He just plants himself up on the elevated barca-lounger they bring in as his make-shift throne…dressed in something closer to a disco ball than a t-shirt….sometimes he drinks tea, other times coco cola…he ceremoniously smoothes his hands over what remains of his hair before slipping his head-set on and settling in for the night...
And then he talks.
And he talks.
And he talks.
Sometimes, when my exhaustion overtakes my patience…when the hours pile up...when I am so tired I can barely lift my eyelids up after I blink….when I want nothing more than to pull a fire alarm and get the hell out of that room…I swear to myself that I will not—I repeat NOT—laugh at anything he says. I refuse. I will not encourage this behavior. Nope. No way. No how. Not going to laugh. That’ll show him……
Within minutes I am holding-my-side-tears-running-down-my-face- laughing. You can’t not laugh. Its impossible.
And, somehow, the comedy manages to relax you enough to last a while longer. In the same way you can't make a fist while laughing....you can't hate someone while laughing either...
The other night Bikram was ranting about having invited some of the staff over to his room to watch Indian movies with him until five in the morning…and they’d all fallen asleep. He was impervious and shocked that they would do such a thing…fall asleep at three in the morning!!!…the sheer audacity!!! I can picture it perfectly. A room full of overworked, unpaid visiting yogis crashed out on the sofa and floor of a suite here at the Ilikai—either sleeping or in a clinical coma—while the Indian Energizer Bunny sits in the middle, spine straight position, munching on some popcorn, sipping some soda…he probably vacillated between laughing at the movie and staring, dumbfounded, at the peaceful children napping around him. I bet he threw popcorn into their nostrils and gaping mouths… put their hands in warm water to see if he could make them wet their pants…froze their bras. Trust me, were life a seventh grade slumber party…Bikram Choudhury would be the last kid still awake, eating everyone else’s candy, and pulling pranks.
I’m pretty sure these lectures are 50% necessary wisdom and 50% just keeping Bikram company while the rest of civilization rests and facilitates vital organ regeneration.
On more than one occasion, he has reflected upon his epic battle with the clock. It is the single frustration that seems to genuinely upset him...to authentically bring him down.
He is profoundly upset at the rapid passage of time and how much it limits that which he can do…in Hawaii…in L.A…in Tokyo…on planet earth…as a human being…as a yogi.
He’ll devote only a few melancholy minutes to this feeling (and usually follow up with a Shirley story)…but it always grabs me. I want him to have the time, too. It makes me a little sad. Sad for him. And, more importantly, sad for ME because it tends to indicate that the night ahead will be long and that sleep is for losers…and by losers I mean we, the 310.
Most of us say we don’t have enough time, but what we really mean is that we don’t have enough energy. Our potential is interrupted by our bodies. The one can not keep up with the other. Our physical resources tend to drain long before our mental resources…
For Bikram, though, I believe it truly is about time. Even taking some exaggeration into account, he seems to never stop…he seems to never sleep...seems to never stops working. And he mourns the pace of the clock the way other people mourn the pace of their children growing up. Time is, to him, a thing both precious and slippery, always slightly out of grasp.
Our mathematical equations put him in his early sixties.
And it’s a surreal number to reconcile because his physical output is that of a teenager.
His energy is boundless and rapturous.
It is stunning. It is technicolor. It is enviable...almost magical.
We had a quartet of old school yoga broads in town last week and I loved them all.
They altered the chemistry of the place the moment they landed.
With the exception of Joni, from Texas, they all arrived clad in khaki and patagonia…their faces near free of cosmetics. The have practical haircuts and no-nonsense sensibilities. Joni veers slightly in her refusal to go totally au-natural. She’s a Texas girl. I’m a Texas girl too (born and bred), so I get it.
True story: At the age of twenty, I was on a bus in the jungles of southern Mexico being hijacked and held at gunpoint by four men with bandanas wrapped around their faces. They were what one would actually call “bandits”. Or, “banditos” if you want to say it in Spanish and add some local flavor to the story. As the gunmen were working their way up the aisle, robbing each of us blind…I quickly stashed my passport underneath the seat cushion. And my mascara. I feared for my life. I believed I might die on that bus. Literally. But I hid my mascara in the unlikely event I made it out alive and wanted to look wide eyed and awake the next morning.
We understand each other, me and Joni.
The first one to arrive, Lynn, scared the crap out of me initially. She taught an evening class during which she took the most aggressive “no water” stance of anyone occupying that podium to date. At one point she said she wished she had a be-be gun so she could shoot anyone she saw drinking water. After many people continued to drink, she looked out upon us, disgusted, and said, “I remember a time when the students of this practice actually listened to and respected their teachers.” We sulked and smirked on our mats. Our lazy little minds drifted off to a large rock we’d seen on the beach…which coupled with a rope and a pier meant this problem could be taken care of…cleanly and quickly. We geared ourselves up for floor bow and quietly practiced our alibis in our heads.
I couldn’t sustain my anger. Turns out, she's great.. Lynn is a ten year old boy trapped inside of a full grown woman. She was, at one point, the owner and director of four of the most successful Bikram studios in San Francisco. During lectures, she hovered in the back of the room but quickly leapt to the front, excited and urgent, if she needed to interject something.
Lynn fears no one. She’ll rip the headset right off somoene else's skull if she has a thought to contribute. Her voice is slightly high pitched, quick, and immediate. During one lecture, the topic of the yearly asana competition arose. The guest speaker expressed the opinion that all competition is dangerous and bad. Lynn wasn’t having it. Lynn is one of the primary organizers of the annual event and she thrust her hand up into the air and spoke her mind. Afterwards I saw her bound out into the lobby and grab Craig, the director of education. Frantic and full of energy, I see her arms wildly gesturing and hear her exclaim to him, “CRAIG! THE GUY DISSED MY COMPETITION!!!” It was adorable. Just plain adorable.
She might kill me via death by dehydration, but I will go to my grave still smiling over that momentary exchange.
I twice saw Lynn walk up to students working on their dialogue during off hours and proceed to sit down and graciously help them out. In her free time. Which may not sound like such a huge thing…but it is. It is huge. And (with the exception of personally fanning someone-geisha style-during floor series) it is as generous a gesture as a person can extend in this environment. You have no idea...
In with the mix is Martha, from Minneapolis. Martha is everyone’s accessible older sister.
You curl up in the palm of her hand as she tells you stories of her own training and evolution as a teacher. According to her, no one has ever been (or will ever be) as disastrously nervous as she was. She’s super granola, Martha. You’re pretty sure she squeezed this trip to Hawaii in between a couple of politically motivated sit-ins and a stint as a guest lecturer in the women’s studies division of her local university. She’s hosting some sort of all-femaie-yoga-retreat in Minnesota. We’re all invited. Well, those of us with vaginas anyway….Not liking Martha is akin to not liking peace.
Joni, from the lone star state, is your high school drama teacher in spandex. She’s animated and ballsy. She is pure Texas. She is every woman I knew growing up. The sort who could lift a car off a child while simultaneously maintaining her manicure and only slightly perspiring. She’s blonde. She gives you an equal blend of criticism and hope. She wants you to do well…but at the same time she wants you to do it right. They all do. They all want it done right.
Letitia (Laticia?), from New Mexico, is right up there with the others. She’s the most recent arrival and I haven’t had her in clinic yet. But Leslie did… and she said she’s a maniacal stickler for the dialogue and will level you over one misplaced word. But then she’ll launch into a story about her own training rashes and fever blisters and failures while you sit there laughing your ass off and feeling deeply understood. She’s none too p.c. and won’t hesitate if the word “asshole” is called for…
The striking thing about these women is how much they own this place upon arrival. The staff here, the people we (the students) regard with deference and low grade fear, are just kids some of these ladies saw go through training themselves. The staff was wrapping up their high school finals when a couple of the women were opening their first studios. They’ve been at this a while, they know how it works, they are intimidated by no one, they love the yoga, they’ve dedicated much of their lives to the practice and instruction of it, they want it done correctly, and they regard it as their job (for one, two weeks, whatever) to make sure things are done right around here….and, oh, I just like these gals. I just really really like them. Even when they’re kind of bitchy. Especially when they’re kind of bitchy.
My roommate ran into Joni and Lynn downstairs over the weekend and chatted with them briefly. Apparently, according to the broads, our group has had the least theatrical weeks five and six they’ve ever seen. The suggested that, in L.A., you couldn’t walk into a bathroom during those legendary fourteen days without finding someone breaking a mirror and using the shards to attempt a wrist slit. People weren’t just sobbing on their yoga mats, they were truly borderline insane. I can’t decide if I feel proud of our relative sanity or petrified that what I’ve seen these last two weeks is the new standard of mental health. We all seemed pretty bent to me. I will say that having heard some of the stories…I will never look at those already certified (or as well call them, the poor Los Angeles kids) the same.
I’ll just wonder which of those who’ve taught me all these years was one of the lunatics climbing out on a window ledge and threatening to jump. I have a short list of suspects already. Kyoko?