Sunday, June 3, 2007

this used to be a place you'd want to live...

Things are definitely lightening up here at the Ilikai. The end is near and everyone is chilling out.
We are down to learning only a few more postures, we’re significantly better at delivering the dialogue, and the rash has cleared. ( Okay…that last part was only in reference to me.)
Save the fact that I’m pretty sure every tenant, guest, and employee at this place hates the sight of us…the mood is improving.

I wasn’t joking when I said that this hotel is a delicate balance of yogis and the elderly.
Apparently there is an unwritten code that you can’t check into the Ilikai without some sort of floral one piece swimsuit or a walking device.
We all boarded planes thinking we were coming to a swinging island get away. Its more of an assisted living facility near water.
I love the old folks, don’t get me wrong. They make me feel much better about my body than most of my hottie classmates…so, my hat’s off to each of them…but we’re an unusual mix. They are accustomed to lounging by the pool in a quiet Hawaiian landscape…and we now routinely run directly from class into that pool and do theatrical cannonballs straight into the water still dressed in nasty yoga shorts. Why rinse off or put on appropriate swim gear when one can just sprint fully clothed into the deep end while, at the same time, tossing our sopping mats up into the air…careless about where they fall of who they hit and mame…

The elevators (as previously mentioned) are the worst. Our breaks are short and we pile 23 people into spaces meant for 10, maximum.
The first week or so, we’d stand back if an elevator was full or wait to be invited in.
We now enter the already packed space by screaming “MOVE!! I’LL FIT!!” and force our way in, knocking our bags and mats against the current occupants. Its not pretty. I have now seen, on more than one occasion, people return to their suites when they see us gathered in the elevator bank. A nice couple will approach, gussied up for an evening out with the grandkids….and then immediately turn around and go back to their room when they realize we’re on our way to class. They'll see their family another night. Maybe they'll just send a card. We aren't worth fighting. We outnumber the older kids and we’re getting physically stronger by the day.

Were a resident to fall and break a hip in their bathroom…they’d be smarter to tie bedsheets together and scale down from their balcony than wait for the paramedics. The emergency relief team might never get an elevator… not if we have anything to do with it.
If you’re in a wheelchair and on the 25th floor….well, fine, stairs aren’t an option…but if you’re only using a cane and on the 25th floor…you should really just try walking’ll be fine…you have one free hand…don’t worry...we’re sure you’ll make it…the exercise will be good for you….namaste.

My classmates and I will go straight from a long lecture about service and humility and karma—exchanging subtle glances across the room and congratulating ourselves on this noble/gentle path we are embarking upon-- and then jimmy our way in front of someone on a scooter and knock them out of line for the elevator.
A few of the better natured residents will force a smile and ask about this crazy “exercise program” we’re on…but most of them just address us as the new section 8 neighbors the government has forced into their once classy neighborhood.
They’ve never heard of a thing called ‘sign in’. They get normal amounts of sleep. They simply don’t understand.

On Memorial day I saw a few of the elder gentlemen dressed for the ceremony being held at Pearl Harbor. They appeared to be veterans…medals and pins shining from the lapels of the sports coats. I paused and wondered who they were, these people living down the hall from us, these familiar strangers. I assumed they’d served in World War Two and imagined what they’d been through. Maybe we should be nicer to them….but then I remembered how long I’d been forced to hold triangle pose that morning.
War, Triangle. Potato, Potahto.
It’s every man for himself at the Ilikai.

Occasionally a well meaning student will offer up some token of courtesy and make small talk or, better still, suggest they try the yoga. Which is hysterical. If someone who looked like me after class...came up to me...and suggested I try things their way…I’d laugh out loud.
At first, I admired the gesture…now it just strikes me as pointless. The jig is up. Stop pretending we’re decent people. Everyone at this joint knows we smell and we’re selfish…why bother with formalities? Let’s just continue pretending each other doesn’t exist until this seminar wraps up.

Apparently, someone ( a yogi someone) was actually caught peeing on a wall here. We had to have a meeting about it. You can’t reverse that kind of reputation…even if you, yourself, always urinate in a seated position behind a closed door.

In another humiliating story…the Ilikai staff reported that a student had stuck their hand into a vat of cold lemon water set out for the guests and taken out a chunk of ice with their sweaty palm.
Its not exactly genocide, but its not exactly couth either.
We had to have a meeting about that too.

And its criminal because we loved that water. It was the best water. It had not only lemon but mint leaves in it. The mint leaves are key. People could actually be overheard still talking about the water hours after drinking it. Leslie, in particular, adored the free refreshing beverage. She’d get weirdly excited about walking over to get a cup during bathroom breaks. Her face would light up. The last time she went a receptionist boldly stood between Leslie and the pitcher and firmly declared that “this water is not for you people anymore.”
And you could just tell she’d been waiting all week for the chance to say that.
It was her big moment…her chance to finally stick it to the assholes stinking up the elevators. She probably gathered her coworkers around during a cigarette break and boasted about how she’d drawn the line with “those yoga animals”, how she wasn’t going to take it anymore. She was probably the staff hero that day…the envy of bellmen and housekeepers everywhere. Someone bought her a drink that night. Mark my words.

The water isn’t even out in the open anymore. They hide it behind the front desk now. You have to ask for it…and if you’re wearing anything made of lycra, don’t bother wasting your time…the water isn’t for the likes of you. The water is for the seniors, the modestly dressed, the people who know where one should, and should not, relieve their bladder.

Last night, Friday night, was built up as this fabulous deviation from the norm…we would be getting out of posture clinic early! It was official! It wasn’t just a rumor! Someone holding a microphone had said it! You can’t imagine how stuff like that makes us happy. And we did get out early. We were released at 10:45 pm instead of 11:00 pm.
Which meant an extra fifteen minutes of sleep before our 8 am yoga class. Well, assuming you chose to use it for sleep. I chose to use it to bitch about it only being fifteen minutes.
Cuz, you know, I’m mature like that.

This morning’s instructor was one of the teachers here for the duration of training.
He teaches a lot. He’s, basically, in charge of us: the yogis, the wall urinator’s, the public water contaminators, the elevator jerks. In our better moments it probably feels like an important job…guiding many well intended people toward meaningful work…in our lesser moments it probably feels like glorified attempt to keep three hundred idiots from knocking a disabled person down a flight of stairs or breaking things that belong to the hotel.
And, likewise, in his better moments…he is funny and insightful. In his lesser moments…he feels like an older brother who’s been given way too much power by our absentee parents. But, you know…that’s how stuff works here. We’re all lumped together in extreme conditions for merciless amounts of time, students and staff alike…amounts of time that tend to make our shortcomings and character flaws glow and glisten for all to see. We each start off, those first weeks, on our best behavior. Eventually it becomes too exhausting to do four hours of yoga, memorize fifty pages of dialogue, catch an elevator, AND keep up the pretense that we are healthy, evolved, admirable people... so, we drop the act and start being ourselves. Which is rarely so much as spitting distance from admirable, evolved, or healthy. It is also oddly refreshing. And even a little bit beautiful in its own, different way.
We are each of us little poems. But not the kind you'd find in a pretty book or on a greeting card.
We're the kind of poems you find scribbled on the bathroom wall....surprisingly passionate and imaginative compositions considering how unimpressive the canvas...

Anyhow, this guy's big teaching trademark is that he holds the second part of awkward pose for an egregiously long period of time. I have no idea what that’s about.
And I’d really like to know. Is it just the sheer fun of watching us suffer? Was it his dead grandmother’s favorite posture? Does it have sentimental value? Did he lose his virginity to this posture? Does he fancy women with hulking gymnast thighs? What? What is it?
What on earth is this obsession with making people endlessly squat down 'as if in an imaginary chair' while standing up high on their tippy toes….??? Maybe its to prove that we are all wusses, wimps, weaklings. The thing is, WE KNOW THAT. We know we suck. We know we're weaklings.
And if the point is to make clear that we are pathetic pansies...and we totally agree that we are pathetic pansies...can we just come out already? Can we call it even? Job well done. Mission accomplished. Moving on....bring your knees together....
Originally I was a vessel of pure anger through the entire loathsome posture. I honestly can’t hold it the whole time. I fall out. Every single time. It is as humiliating as it is predictable.
Now I stay calm and repeat to myself “this too shall pass” until finally being released. And then I stretch my legs really well in the following poses to keep from getting hulking gymnast thighs.

Today a classmate was down at the beach and overhead him telling another teacher/friend of his (a visiting instructor who’d been in class with us that morning) how glad he was she’d been there…how her presence on the front row had given him energy…she replied, “what energy? The energy of my legs violently shaking???”
That kind of thing is worth the price of admission alone....

Jokes aside, it must be noted here how capable everyone is becoming. Saturday morning’s class was just fantastic. Really. The chronic sitting down and passing out seems to have passed, and the heat is either better (I suspect they took some pity on us and regulated the temperature) or we’re just better at working within it. The barkings of the instructors sound less like harsh reprimands and more like votes of confidence.

Its nice. Lovely even. Not to get too koombya…but its just different when everyone works hard.
I’d like to boast and pretend I’m one of the strong one’s leading the high level effort…but, I think we all know that’s not the case. I am, however, someone who will rally in honor of someone else’s effort. If a kid who is constantly lying down decides that, today, he’s going to stand up attempt the standing series with some gusto…well, what the hell, I’ll stay up with him and muster some gusto too. I can do that. No big deal. And, trust me, when you’ve got 297 people on their feet when its usually 235…its because a lot of folks feel just like me. Its not random. Its not coincidence. It’s a collective, if silent and sweaty, high five.

I promised I wouldn’t bore anyone on this blog with a lot of self involved chatter about my own yoga practice…and I won’t…save a few small sentences.
I have always liked Bikram yoga. Always. But I’ve traditionally been one of those practitioners who values it for what I feel after class, not during. It is, for me, a means to an end…which is fine. I consider that an acceptable reason to practice.
I am daily surprised here how much I find that I like the actual doing of it.
For the first time ever…I don’t regard the postures as crappy shanty towns to mire through in transit to a better, more luxurious destination...but as nice places to be in their own right.
I like being inside of them. 25 of them. I’m still trying to get standing-head-to-knee off the map.

Not every single class, of course, not every single day. But sometimes. And, hey, sometimes works for me. Sometimes is cool.

1 comment:

urbanplanetmemphis said...

amazing beautiful words here sister. you're a gifted writer. you kick ass.

so diane ducharme wrote this nugget of inspiration for the fall 2005 teachers-to-be. she was the turning point, the relief, the magician of our training. she told us, "would you rather be perfect or would you rather be great?" given that none of us were close to perfect (okay there was one happy camper that was *nearly* perfect) but the rest of us saps had to settle for greatness...

one after another they come - shaking, sweating, weeping, praying and willingly to recite a tiny fragment of the dialogue that will become the tool of their new trade. if they could only know how precious it is, how vital it is to their success, and that they cannot really get it wrong if their heart is in the right place, they would surely choose to breathe and just BE - perfect in their BEING even while they are falling down in their doing.

i want to teach them that everything, even this thing we call memorization, is about love, and i want to teach them that desire is all they really need to "get it."

bikram created this yoga, which gives us this tool, this gift, so that we may use it. in its fullest expression it will teach you to love yourself so that you can then be an example to others as they search for the WAY to accept and love themselves.

remember, bikram yoga is for everybody.
it is a healing yoga; it is your tool for transformation.
it has the power, through its own intelligence to transform you and thus transform the whole world through you and your teaching of it.

diane ducharme