Raw, adjective: 4. painfully open, as a sore or wound.
Aloha from Palm Springs, where it's currently 108 and I'm chillin' in a little Tittibhasana. At left, that's a quick pic I snapped on looking skyward toward sunset last night. The palms here are out of control.
The asana pictured below is one of, oh, 70 or so that we worked on today. Along with the other 5 hours' worth of heaving and bending and lifting and pulling. (And sweating. Don't forget the sweating.)
So much to report, I'm a little stuck for knowing where to start. You're going to get some stream-of-consciousness action, because while I'm taking pretty copious notes in my trusty notebook, I'm not really feeling the "big conclusions" thing yet. Blame exhaustion, or bliss; take yer pick.
So far? The bod's holding up, though two days in a row I've come the closest I've ever felt to thinking I was going to a) die, b) vomit, or c) pass out in a sweaty jumble of limbs during both Bikram's and Rajashree's classes. The humidity in the studio here feels more intense, and combined with the desert heat, it makes hydration the perpetual driving concern all day, every day. I'm living on fruit. Literally. Just hoovered a whole cantaloupe. In one sitting. (Godblesscantaloupe.)
Bikram's classes yesterday kicked all of our asses. (I'm sure that was kind of his intent.) In spite of the fact that I usually practice in long pants and long sleeves to make the class more challenging, and the contrast that I'm practically naked here in my booty shorts and sports bra, the 5-hour stretch seems tough for all of us, which is a bit of a rude awakening considering that we're a group of teachers and teacher's pets, the yoga dorks of our respective studios who are used to being the top dogs. And now we just feel like dead, wet dogs. Wearing bikinis.
But it's getting better already. We blew through much of the Advanced series yesterday, and this morning I found Rajashree's calm, graceful spirit a tonic to Bikram's fiery, confident, over-the-top bombast. She's lovely. I hope she teaches tomorrow morning, too. (I've always hated Dandayamana Janushirasana, but when you're forced to hold it an extra 2 minutes in 115 heat and a man in a headband barks at you when you fall out, you kind of want to die.)
I'm practicing all kinds of pretzel-y tricks. Super bendy. That's such a benefit of the thick humidity: mad flexibility. The days are settling into a good routine: coffee and breakfast early, yoga 8:30-1:30, a quick lunch, laps in the pool (and, er, sunning, and reading, and sleeping), and generally drinking as many liquids as is humanly possible. It's pretty much my ideal vacation: yoga, fresh food (there's a Ralph's across the drive that's sent from Shakti), sunshine, swimming, and time to catch up on so much writing and reading and work.
Honestly, the whole thing reminds me a lot of cheerleading camp. Lots of hot athletic people, a fair measure of checking-one-another out, that sort of veiled competitive vibe (I'm more "yoga" than you!), constant sweating, minimal clothing, hotel life, motivational speeches. There's thankfully not a lot of Enforced Mingling, which is a blessed relief for this one; nothing's worse than awkward mandatory social functions when you really just wanna learn the shit and do yer thing. Nice balance of practice and retreat.
The attendees are what you'd expect: lots of hardcore buff bodies, serious badasses with crazy muscles and no makeup, hippie clothes, some dreads, you know the drill. Super-diverse, too; I'm one of the few attendees from California that I've run into so far; there are folks from Ireland and Australia and all over the country. I dig it.
Bikram's yoga is notoriously light on philosophy, heavy on physicality. And a lot of people really discount it for that. But I've been so pleasantly surprised thus far by the way Bikram and Rajashree have built the philosophy into the practice without having to state it heavy-handedly; Bikram's introductory spiel Sunday evening was as rich with yogic theory as it was with ball jokes, and Rajashree in particular really brought out some good points about prana and breath and holistic health and mental stillness this morning.
The desert vibe - pastels, tropical shirts, cheesy hotel decor, golf - feels so far from my San Francisco reality. No one walks here. There's a steady trickle of us Bikram-ites who walk back and forth to Ralph's; we're the only ones on the deserted sidewalks. What a different world from my biped existence in the cool, foggy city. It's a shift I'd never want forever, but for a week, it'll do.
(I discovered this weirdly hilarious show on TLC the other night when I got home. "Cake Boss." Have you seen it? Reality show about an Italian family bakery near NYC. Enraptured; laughed out loud. How weird to have a TV, and a king bed, and bad reality programming, at the same time. I see how people get addicted.)
(Also, Bikram swears like a sailor. Which I love.)
Plenty more to come; lots of thoughts on commodification and the Eight Limbs and Pizza Hut and laughter and American culture; but for now, I'm browning nicely, hydrating constantly and happy to be here. And not minding the sore muscles much when the mind-blowing benefits are so clear.