Week 2 Recap: Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand

Week two was probably both the fastest and shortest week of my life. It zoomed by in a jiffy  compared to week one but four days of lecture ending around 12:30am and even one long early morning 3:30am dismissal tried my patience and good spirits time and time again. In my regular life I usually like to lay my head down to rest around 10 or 11 at night. So with no choice but to stay up extremely beyond my normal bedtime to listen to lecture and watch Bollywood videos (The Boss’s favorites!) and still wake up 7:30am for morning yoga class every day of the week,  left me irritated, confused, frustrated and  itchy (attack of the mosquitoes…again !). Wednesday’s insanely long 3:30am ending was my breaking point. 

But of course this is Bikram Yoga Teacher Training taught by The Boss himself,  Bikram Choudhary,  so there’s a method to his madness,  a lesson in every action, an A-ha moment waiting to be unveiled. Week 2 of Bikram Yoga Teacher Training broke me down mentally and rebuilt  my mind using Terminator strength. 

Please Dont Take Away My Precious Sleep Boss

Wednesday night, week 2: After 3 hours of lecture on the topic of humanity and spirituality,  the time was 1am. Most of the 333 of us fellow yoga trainees were struggling to keep our eyes open. So when The Boss announced a ten minute break and then resume to watching a Bollywood love story film at 1am, our jaws must have dropped 5 feet below the ground in total shock and disbelief. But we had “no choice” – a phrase Boss and staff uses so often,  you’d think it was going  out of style.

So we complied, we snacked on late night munchies like ice cream,  cookies,  chips,  candy and drank coffee all in an attempt to stay alert during the movie. All that sugar and caffeine in my body only made me tired and bloated. I watched the first 3 quartets of the movie then my eyes gave up and shut themselves in peace until after the movie was over. Damn I missed the ending. 

Despite not knowing how the movie wrapped,  I was elated to get to my room in record time to lay my head on my snuggly soft pillow.  Before dozing off, negative thoughts boiled in my mind such as:

. Wow I can’t believe he took away my sleep just to watch a dumb movie. Soooo not right!

. Is this how the rest of the 7 weeks will go?? I don’t know if I’m cut out for this

.  He’s torturing us keeping us up so late.  How evil and inconsiderate.

. Eating all that crap just to stay up failed miserably.  If I gain weight at the end of this 9 weeks it will sorely put a damper on my spirits. 

Then I closed my eyes, slept a few hours, woke up zombie like, put on my sports bra and yoga shorts and headed to the hot room around 8am Thursday morning.  Class began 30 minutes later and as I sweated through each posture stretching and flexing and deep breathing, the most amazing thing began to happen: I slowly gained energy at the completion of each posture. 26 postures later I felt like a brand new woman: recharged, rejuevenated,  reenergized, rebuilt.  This renewed, vibrate person painted my persona for the whole day which didn’t end until after midnight. 

I was amazed at what my body was able to do off such little sleep.  The Boss brags to us how he stays up until 5am watching Bollywood movies with his staff.  He generally gets 2 to 3 hours of sleep each night and teaches us five days a week boosting the amount of energy it takes to  light the Staples Center.  Looking back at the negative thoughts that satiated my mind 3:45am Wed morning I learned many life lessons:

1. Sometimes in life, we have “no choice”. In such moments, instead of pouting and stressing over it, it’s best to use positive energy,  and go with the flow. In such moments when we let go and just allow things to take its natural course is when we learn valuable lessons. 

2.  You are as strong as what you allow your mind to believe.  Because I believed I wouldn’t be able to stay up for the movie,  I allowed myself to overload my body with sugar and processed foods which only failed me and proved what I was thinking in the first place: I can’t stay up.  Lesson: whether you succeed or fail is the doing of the mind.

3. Sometimes we have to be broken down in order to be built up. Bikram took away our sleep to get us out of our comfortable place and learn to adjust to what is not normal for us. After the 3:30am experience,  I now feel like I can handle any obstacle that comes my way. 

The Boss has a way of doing things.  He gives us “no choice” and tells us to “trust the process” time and time again.  Usually I just follow along because it’s what all 333 of us yoga teacher trainees are expected to do.  But after Wednesday night I realize why he tells us these things.  So much doubt,  fear, and limitations we put on ourselves when we have a choice to say no or not follow thru with the hard tasks in life. But by trusting the process we are trusting in ourselves to tackle life successfully.  Each and everytime.

Bikram Choudhary is a genius!  Week two was a much needed mental workout for me and fellow yogis. I am so grateful for my experience thus far. Looking forward to week 3. Follow along with me as I continue to blog my experience at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in beautiful Khaolak Thailand. 

Namaste.

My 13.1 Mile Running Experience at the See Jane Run Half Marathon

A motivating 13.1 with See Jane Run

Making the commitment to run 13.1 miles may be seen as an act of torture by some.  But for me, it was a fun challenge that I wanted to add to my book of achievements.  In fact, back in December of last year I made it one of my 2013 goals to run a half marathon.  And on June 8, 2013 I did just that at the See Jane Run Half Marathon in Alameda, CA.  How did it go?  Keep reading for the race recap…

All smiles before the run

All smiles before the run

My alarm went off at 4:50am early Saturday morning.  I woke up with excitement ready to set a new personal record.  You see, the SJR Half was actually my second half marathon completed.  I ran my first half in San Francisco back in Spring 2011, over two years ago.  Back then I had just quit my corporate job and was inspired to train for the half since I had more time on my hands.  I finished that race in a remarkable 2 hours 15 minutes averaging a 10:13 minute mile.  I religiously stuck to my training schedule back in 2011 and the results showed.   With that experience under my belt, I expected to beat my  2011 race time easily – with half the training.  If only things always went according to expectations.

2013 See Jane Run Race Recap

I couldn’t have asked for better race weather conditions:  the sun was out yet there was a slight breeze in the air not too intense to be a nuisance, but a perfect balance to offset the heat.  Everyone was adorned with bright clothing – lots of reds, neons, oranges, and pinks animating the scene.  The SJR race is open to both genders but because See Jane Run is a women-specific atlethic wear retail business, I estimate over 95% of the 5,500 participants were women.  #girlpower

The half was set to begin at 8:00am.  With my fuel belt filled with my homemade electrolyte concoction, endurance gel, lip balm, and a fully charged ipod, I was ready to go.  The gun went off promptly and the race began.

In the first three miles, it is crucial to set the correct pace so as to not burn out too early which is guaranteed to cause extreme fatigue during the latter part of the race.  I averaged about 9:58 minute mile during the first 2-3 miles – I was on a roll.  Around the 3 mile marker is where the first water station appeared.  This is also where I must have lost my mind.  You see, the purpose of me wearing a fuel belt was so that I would not have to stop at any of the water stations.  All my necessary fuel was literally attached around my waist ready for me to grab whenever needed.  But I wasn’t thinking clearly when I saw the “energy drink” sign next to the water stop.  The words “energy” compelled me to run towards the water stop station where I mindlessly proceeded to down a cup of Gatorade.  I soon learned why people say “DO NOT drink, eat, or add anything new that you did not use in your regular training routine” – you never know how your body can react to new things.  Lo and behold, within 30 seconds of gulping down the enticing energy drink I felt an excruciating cramping sensation underneath my right side rib cage.  Ugh it hurt so badly, I began walking immediately. For about 5 minutes.  Super slowly. I lost so much time. Ugh.

When your legs get tired, run with your heart.

A kind woman saw me holding my right abdomen area and asked if I was okay.  She knew what I was going through and simply said “don’t give up” before trotting along.  Those words were all the inspiration I needed.  I quickly snapped out of my sad state and mustered up a slow jog. The cramping pain lingered for about 15 minutes total.  Soon after the cramping passed, I looked down at my right foot wondering why it felt like I was running barefooted on hot rocky concrete.  Turns out my cotton socks were the source of the chafing — a painful skin irritation sensation caused by friction.  Each step I took I wanted to scream “ow, Ow, ouch!”.  But I had this quiet resolve to finish strong.  Through it all, my race pace slowed to about an 11:26 minute mile average.  I finished the race in 2 hours and 29 minutes overall.  It felt so good to run with all my heart crossing that finish line as fast as my feet would allow.  Feelings of pain and joy intertwined my whole body.

At See Jane Run Expo day before the half

At See Jane Run Expo day before the half

What did I learn?

First of all, anyone running a 13.1 race should be commended for such an accomplishment regardless of time finished.  It takes continuous commitment, resolve and determination to train 3 months out and then run under race conditions with thousands of other people.  When it is all said and done, there is this awesome feeling that since you ran 13.1 miles, you can succeed at anything life throws your way.  It definitely made me feel like superwoman (who just got the worst beat down of her life).

I also learned that prior race experience from 2+ years ago should not dictate my current race training schedule.  For SJR, I committed to running my long runs each weekend – or every two weeks due to traveling.  But I did not run much during the weekdays towards the last 6 weeks of my training schedule.  I figured if I could run 2 hours straight, that was enough.  But the woorah and excitement of the race environment made me feel unsure of myself which is most likely the reason I went for that “energy drink” in the first place.  Had I fully committed to my training schedule I would have relied on the tactics I used going in and not let outside triggers affect me.

I learned to wear socks built for long distance running!!!  I shake my head in disbelief as I think about this elementary mistake.  Crazy that I’ve worn cotton socks throughout my training without any issues; the chaffing decided to make its wonderful appearance on actual race day.  Just my luck.

It wasn't the minimalist thin-sole running shoes but the thick cotton socks that made my feet hurt.  How ironic!

It wasn’t the minimalist thin-sole running shoes (which I love) but the thick cotton socks that caused the pain and discomfort. How ironic!

Most importantly, I learned that I can accomplish anything I set my mind.  Mind over matter indeed.  Although the throbbing chafing pain and cramping never brought along thoughts of quitting the race, I did contemplate walking the rest of the way.  But instead, I relied on a jog pace in which I could either slow down or speed up depending on how my energy was and how much pain I was willing to tolerate. In life, there are so many unexpected events and negative words that can easily stop us dead in our tracks and make us give up on our desires and goals.  But by changing your mindset and resolving to continue pushing on, it is possible to overcome challenges to achieve goals.

Race completed, smiling in the champagne line ready to fill my glass. Cheers!

Race completed, smiling in the champagne line ready to fill my glass. Cheers!

What’s next for Chika?

I accomplished my 2013 goal to run the See Jane Run Half Marathon and concurrently was inspired to run another one – with a goal of beating my SJR race time. By following my training schedule and wearing the proper socks, it’s a goal that I can surely accomplish.

Cheers to running, setting goals, and learning new things along the way!

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Chika Obih is a certified holistic nutrition consultant; blogger; and owner of Soul-Wholesome Nutrition based in Oakland, CA and also offers services virtually for those who are not local.  Chika is passionate about empowering people to take charge of their own health utilizing the power of wholesome, clean foods and holistic lifestyle solutions.  Contact Chika today to set up a free consultation.

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The Two Pots: A Chinese Folk Tale

English: Portulaca sp. in full flower in pots ...

The following is a Chinese Folk Tale offering a lesson on loving yourself – flaws and all.  As told by Olga Voronina, reprinted by Bauman College.   

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect.  At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the perfect pot always arrived full of water, while the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.  Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.  But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.  “I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?  That is because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.  For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.  Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaw.  But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

With that, I leave you with this: Enjoy today and everyday after and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!

Inspiration to Welcome CHANGE into your Life

change_postEvery now and then we all can use a friendly reminder as to why we are embarking on new journeys, discovering something new, growing and learning from past encounters.  Since this is only the second month of the new year,  I bet that many of you set new goals in which you wanted to accomplish this year.  Whether it be nutrition, finance, relationship, or fitness-related, it is important to keep your goals a priority as you tackle your daily life schedule.  Remember, you came up with these goals for reasons important to you.  So stay the course and follow through in accomplishing each goal.

Below are some words of inspiration to help re-ignite the fire within to get you going again.  Print out this list, write down the quotes that spark your interest and post them on the refrigerator, mirror, or somewhere you are guaranteed to see it daily.  Read each quote out loud daily.  Stay inspired, stay hungry for change.  Share with friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media — you never know who else you may inspire.

–>  “In order to change behavior, you must be clear about what satisfaction that behavior is giving you as well as what it is costing you, then make a conscious decision to move.”

–>  “Change is much easier to deal with when we get help. Getting support not only makes dealing with change easier for us, it allows other people to be of service, which is something most people love to have the opportunity to do.”

–>  “If you are motivated to seek better health, all that you need to achieve it is practical information… any addiction can be broken if people are motivated to do so.”

–>  “A great tool to decrease negative behaviors and choices is to add more positive behaviors and choices, to strengthen and extend habits you probably already have, habits of eating, exercising, breathing, using your mind, and nourishing your spirit.”

–>  “Have empathy and compassion for yourself and others in going through change. It’s not easy for most of us. By embracing change we become not only more effective in dealing with it, but more peaceful, present, and powerful in our lives.”

–>  Make a list of what’s important to you to help stay motivated and focused, whether it’s to get rid of anxiety or lose weight. Then find a way to make sure that you can call on your motivational factors during moments of temptation.”

–>  “You likely will have an occasional setback. But instead of giving up entirely after a setback, simply start fresh the next day. Remember that you’re planning to change your life. It won’t happen all at once. Stick to your healthy lifestyle and the results will be worth it.”

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What changes are you working to accomplish this year?  Share in the comments!

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35 Ways to Be the Best You

Goals

1.  See the positive in every situation life brings you.  There is always a lesson to be learned.

2.  Smile at strangers. You never know how your smile can impact someone’s day.

3.  Do more each and every day.  If you usually do 20 minutes cardio, increase it to 25; shoot for 1 more rep on the bench press; give an extra 10% during church tithing.  Push yourself.

4.  Let it go.  That person who just cut you off on the freeway; the rude waiter; your boss acting crazy — don’t let these things get the best of you.

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5.  Enjoy the fun (and crazy) times with friends and family.

6.  Cook more.  It’s the best way to know what’s in your food.

7.  Be active everyday — even for just 10 minutes each day.

8.  Help someone you don’t know.

9.  Save 10% (or more) of your income each paycheck.

10.  Call mom more often.

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11.  Enjoy the outdoors; walk more, go hiking, have picnics at the park, etc.

12.  Write down your top 3 goals each day and execute.

13. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s all small stuff.

14.  Laugh often.

15.  Wake up each morning with an attitude of conquering the world and go at it with the upmost confidence.

16.  Be fearless.

17.  Embrace all that the Higher Power has bestowed upon you; you are uniquely beautiful.

18.  Treat yourself like you are the flyest: take care of yourself, practice good hygiene, be assertive, act with grace and confidence, smile.

19.  Remember: opportunities happen when you take action.

20.  Always believe in yourself and your dreams.

21.  Negative friends?  Get rid of ’em.

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22.  Man that doesn’t treat your right?  Get rid of him.  

23.  Closet & drawers full of clothes you don’t wear?  Get rid of ’em.

24.  Know your worth. 

25.  House cluttered and dirty?  Take some time and get to cleaning.  A clean space makes for a clear mind.

26.  Save money daily. Cut coupons, skip a day or two of 5Bucks, engage in free activities. Invite friends over for game night & appetizers instead of going out to eat.

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27.  Eat green vegetables daily.

28.  Limit sweets to just on the weekends.

29.  Breathe deeply to calm your mind and reset your focus.

30. Get into yoga, prayer or other meditative practices.

31.  Dance in the mirror.

32.  Sing in the shower.

33. Travel more.

34.  Get a massage, you deserve it.

35.  Volunteer for a cause you believe in.

BONUS: Live your life as if your (future) kids are taking notes on how to live their lives.

2013 is fast approaching. How do you intend to be the best you?  Share in the comments.