Thursday, May 31, 2012


New students often confide that they are scared of farting in class. "Does everyone look at you?" "What if it's loud?" "Have you ever really let one go?"

The answer of most experienced yogis is, yes. Aside from the fact that you are supposed to fart in class, (What do you think all that pushing, pulling and stretching is doing? Removing toxins by sweat, breath and yes, farting.) the yoga room is not a magical land where bodily functions cease. If you spend enough time in any one place, you will eventually fart in that place. Duh. 

This does not mean that the room becomes thick from gasses, causing methane gas to asphyxiate the yogis inside. I certainly don't fart in the room often; unless you count once per month often. I can, with some confidence, say that is the precise frequency with which I spend my class tooting. I have no idea if other females* have this issue, but during my monthly visit I develop copious amounts of gas. It's not always smelly, or noisy, thank goodness, but the quantities are rather astounding. 

Last week contained an unusually bloated day and class became an adventure in farts. In most poses wind was removed, whether the pose seemed to call for it or not. I felt a little bad about it in separate-leg-stretching, when my neighbor's head was uncomfortably close to my rear.

My shorts were so wet from sweat I got horrible visions of the material billowing like a sail with each fart. 

Hi! Nice to meet you. Yes, I ate curry today. Why do you ask?

Miraculously though, not a single one was loud or particularly smelly that class. I have, of course, been next to (and the cause of) those. New students are particularly prone, males especially.** I realize the goal is to become so focused you don't notice these things, but when a guy is accidentally telling you what he ate this week (That smelled like beer. That was Cheetos. Woah, that was spicey ramen) it is hard to give your focus adequate focus. 

All that said though, I notice the gas with the same amount of eye-rolling, snickering or superiority that I would address a person's thumb. We all do it. Get over it. Unless it's me. My farts are epic. Go ahead and laugh at my billowing sail-shorts.

* Aside from the ones with my same genetic code; I did feel the need to confide this issue with my mother at one point. Evidently she gets gassy at that time of the month too! What a relief it was to find out I wasn't alone!

**I know this is a horrible generalization, but I do feel it safe to say that, on the whole, men eat more red meat and drink more beer than women. Both substances are notorious fart-causers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Will

My studio is doing a wonderful little thing where it is currently documenting some poses of the yogis who have taken more than 500 classes. Being one of these yogis, I had my own little rock-star photo-shoot.* 

Chin-to-shoulder cheating; I move my jaw; causing this flattering face.

During this shoot, the wonderful teacher taking pictures asks me to do short-man. "You can hold it right?" she asked.

I replied, "Sometimes." in a bald-faced lie. I have never once managed to hold short-man. 

It wasn't my intent to lie, in fact, I was a little shocked after the words emerged, fully formed, from my lips. I may have said, "sometimes" because I actually believed that yes, I can do that, despite all the accumulated months of evidence to the contrary. The reason why I believed is that I always tell myself I am about to do it. 

Mary Jarvis, a senior teacher I am fortunate enough to have attended several seminars led by, says to "Make declarative statements; 'I am going to kick now.'" This way you don't give your mind wiggle room to baulk at your asinine requests of your body. Consider the following:
Scenario A:
Mind: Body, we are going to kick.
Body: Okay. *it kicks*
Scenario B:
Mind: Body, we are going to try to kick.
Body: That sounds hard, but I'll try. *body gives a dramatic tug at it's leg* Ugh! This is HARD!
If you doubt that your body will give you drama the second you allow it to, consider your last difficult class. Yeah. It's a queen, capital Q. 

For months I have been telling myself, "I am going to take one hand off the ground. I am going to take the other hand off the ground.  I am going to balance." I never get to that third part, but the step is already in my mind so one day that is exactly what will happen. I don't know that it ever sunk in that it wasn't yet happening.

So, under the scrutiny of the lens, I, once again, put the idea out there that, 'I am going to balance' and tried like heck. I tried at least four short-mans (short-men?) before the teacher/photogapher finally said, "Um....let's move on." 

Note to self: I can't actually hold short-man. Huh. Learn something new everyday.

* Few things will make you feel so rock-star as busting out a standing bow in-front of a camera. You know, with all the grunting, falling, laughing and intense focus on your spine that is still refusing to curve.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Whether you call it vibrations, prana, or peer pressure, we have all experienced the difference between practicing next to a rubber-spined robot with lazer-beam focus and a spaz who is about to lose their lunch, mistakenly consumed only 15 minutes ago. 

When I am super tired I will strategically place myself in a vortex of good energy — in the middle of yogis I know to have great focus — to pull me through. My friends and I like to joke that we are 'stealing' the energy of those around us. I think of it like this: 

the Pranaburgler

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Other Guru, Ms. Pink

Every morning of the Croatian advanced seminar, with surprisingly little trouble, or drool, I managed to pry myself out of bed at 6:30 in the morning. Then, stumble into the dining room for an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of foods that no yogi in their right mind would consume as fuel for class. Fortunately, I am never in my right mind before noon, so I shoveled increasing amounts of cheese blintz into my body each day as I tested the limits of my ability to hold food down before a class.*

This buffet was largely Croatian-style. From my observation, the Croatian diet consists of a wide variety of animal products. The breakfast buffet alone held five types of meat and ten types of cheese. I am captivated by a particular dish, a giant urn of oil you dunk a ladle into and fish cheese out of. Yes, congealed fat soaked in liquid fat. I am pleased to announce that us Americans do not, in fact, have a monopoly on overly-indulgent foods.

The Curious Vat 'o' Oil-Cheese Course

There was also a token pile of fruits.** In an attempt to avoid scurvy, Jen and I developed a habit of taking our purses to breakfast to fill with pears, kiwis and bananas. We were mere amateurs compared to a yogi whom we have dubbed, "Ms. Pink" (due to the fuzzy pink jacket she wore when we met and Bikram's penchant for referring to students by their clothing color). To watch Ms. Pink work was to watch a master.

Let me begin by describing our troubles which she so skillfully circumvented.

6:30am is too early to eat all the food you really want. Food from the free buffet must be transported to the room for consumption at a more reasonable hour. Jen and I, thinking ourselves clever, ventured into town to procure ziplock bags. There we discovered Croatia has no ziplock bags. There are also no rolls of plastic-wrap. No tin-foil. No tupperware. There is no food-storage of any kind. People do not consume leftovers in Croatia.

With our plans thwarted, we spent breakfast #2 perusing the buffet for items of food that would not slather the insides of our purses with seeping fats (the cheese-vat was out). It was during this perusal, we saw Ms. Pink produce from her Lululemon bag disposable tupperware from home. She deftly filled said tupperware and a bottle with juice, placing each tidily back in her bag.

If anyone knows Ms. Pink, make friends with her. Should the zombie apocalypse come, you will be in good hands.

* I was thrilled to discover that I had suddenly developed the ability to eat before class and enjoyed my super-power so much that I smelled like cheese blintz through the majority of the classes that week.

** The pile of fruits, I discovered, is mainly for display and will not be found anywhere in the country locals may be expected to eat. During my two weeks of travel I was fortunate enough to have friends willing to scrape the sour cream off their garnish and pass me the wilted display-only leaf to eat.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bikram the Man

As promised, I am about to report my findings on Bikram, the man. First, the disclaimer: obviously, a full impression can not be garnered from a one-week seminar. As much as I would love to lay claim to the man's inner-workings, even with my astute insight I can not grasp the full depth of a man's soul from four rows back, five mats to the left.

From my corner I braced myself. I was prepared for a myriad of behavioral... um... oddities. Most of which I am happy to report, I saw. On day one we got the obligatory fat comment. "Are you a teacher? Yes? What happened to you between teacher training and now? Did you open a burger-joint?" Followed immediately by the odd dietary restriction, "You eat strawberries from now on. They are the perfect food. Nothing but strawberries." 

I witnessed the little old (he may not look it, but let's not forget this is a 60-something man sporting a banana-hammock) man bouncing backwards across the stage, butt out, hands forward, "PUSH, PUSH, PUSH!!"

I also heard the man claim greater longevity and fame than Jesus Christ and Buddha combined -- one hour after telling jokes containing the word, "pussy." For the more sensitive readers, you can pretend it was the whiskered sort. 

All this I was prepared for. All this and a cart-load of shouting that I didn't hear. What I was not prepared for was that this man was, in general, nice. If I had to summarize the man I would be as likely to chose the word, "nice" as the word, "garish." This is not at all what I expected. 

We had several children in the room, which he doted on. He called them to do demos, helped them into poses and only spoke shock-talk when they were not present. He even had one of the children sit on her dad's back to get him deeper into final stretching. While I would not call the man selfless, you could certainly see it in him when he taught.

His dancing across the stage was not to get attention to himself, it was to get us to push harder. And we did. It lightened the mood too. This man would do anything to get you to your potential. Dancing, laughing, telling bad sexual jokes, calling you fat.* He clearly did not give a rat's posterior what anyone thought of him. If you needed him to be mean, lively, outrageous or deep, he would be that for you, critics be darned. The man really put himself out there for his students and I found that a very nice thing to do. 

* Let's be clear on two things:** 1. He did establish that she was a teacher before chiding her. This is important because it means she has specifically sought out his guidance, requested he push her hard and proclaimed herself worthy to carry on his teachings to others. 2. He called out a potentially sensitive issue and poked at it. Intentionally. This doesn't address the physical issue, it addresses mental one. If she has a healthy body image and is comfortable where she is, what Bikram said shouldn't touch her, she would let his disapproval roll right over her knowing she is at her personal best. If she isn't at her personal best, then he is correct, she can change it. As for her reaction, she laughed. Right answer, chika. He loves it when you laugh.

** Heaven help me, it's going to sound like I am blindly condoning whatever the man does. I swear this is my honest opinion and that if the man tried killing a student I would not try to justify his actions. I don't think so, anyway.