Let’s do the Time Warp!

It’s been 3 months now since I’ve graduated from grad school.  I’ve done almost no acting.  But… ….Today, I have a rare day off, and it makes me reflective as F***. See how reflective I am??  SO REFLECTIVE! So I started … Continue reading

dani gets lost in India

I met an Australian travel writer at Anand Prakash yoga ashram in Rishikesh who told me about a certain profession.  In this profession, your job is to go to India and bring home young Westerners who went to India on vacation and never came back.  Worried American mothers can hire this sort of bounty hunter to go track down their kid who went to India on some kind of spirit quest and ended up staying illegally as a Sadhu (often-stoned ascetic holy man) or otherwise finding an excuse never to leave this incredible country.  Keep your eye out for Nina Karnikowski’s book on this subject sometime in the next couple of years.  She kicks ass.  

Anyway the point is: Mom, I’m not saying you need to hire a bounty hunter quite yet, but I really fucking love it here. In my mind I was going to be blogging about India as I went, but I’ve been too lost in the experience of experiencing it to blog a whole lot.  But I promise I will do a lot more when time allows!  I think what I’ll do is a trip-in-a-nutshell  thing right now, and get deeper once I’m back in August.  It’s hard to want to spend a bunch of time tracking down an internet cafe and staying inside when there’s so much to see!

So here is one of the main things that I’ve learned so far:

 People are people.

1.

We arrived yesterday in Leh, Ladakh and were picked up at the airport by Kunzom and Chauldin, our hosts for the next month.  Kunzom is the sister of Khen Rinpoche, the founder of the Siddhartha School who invited Tarah to come to India in the first place, and who subsequently invited me to come to India.  Kunzom is a woman-about-town in her village of Stok and in the nearby countryside, doing treasury work for the government, helping villagers settle the distribution of land, taking classes from a nearby lama, and hosting  guests for her brother Rinpoche as he goes around the world making friends on behalf of the Dalai Lama and his beloved school.  

For people this amazing, it’s hard to imagine them being… normal.  But as we hung out in the family room last night, the sixteen-year-old daughter Chustik and the father Chauldin bickered over whether to watch the juicy drama or the cricket game on TV, and the mother Kunzom subtly moved closer to the TV whenever the Bollywood soap opera prevailed.  Dinner got started late, and although Tarah and I didn’t care and were enjoying th process of making vegetable “momos” by hand, the hostess was embarrassed and the host’s impish Ladakhi jokes made everyone giggle and kept the mood light, despite language barriers.

2.

As another example, the young yoga teacher at our ashram in Rishikesh was quite imposing with his uncompromising expertise, strict classes, and deep baritone voice.  Then I found out that he had gotten his undergraduate degree in Acting at SUNY Purchase with Michael, who is now one of my classmates at USC.  I was going to include some sweet media here, but I’m at an internet cafe in Ladakh and nothing is working now, hopefully I can still post this blog.  Imagine a hilarious picture of a Chinese-American yoga teacher/actor right here. 

3.

Kids are kids.  Before the flooding in Uttarakhand that decimated the banks of the Ganga and washed away the Shiva statue in Rishikesh, Tarah and I liked to go down to the river to play with Sanjee, my “little monster.”  He was pretty much the funnest.  It made me excited to come up here to Ladakh and spend more time with the kiddos.

Me swinging Sanjee

The most sobering part of knowing Sanjee, though, was knowing how unlikely it is that he will make it to adulthood.  He had a deep cough and lived along the river, and I don’t know what happened to him during the floods.  The water rose over the course of a few days, so I’m assuming his family was savvy enough to move uphill, but I don’t really know.

4.

Death is death.  In my opinion, Indians have a much healthier relationship with life and death than Americans.  Tarah and I were on a camel ride in Pushkar, and we saw a dog eating the entrails of a dead cow through his…well…you know.  Our camel guides, who happened to be 20-year-old boys dressed like hipsters straight out of Silver Lake, shrugged and kept moving.  We did the same.

But it wasn’t upsetting.  Life and death coexist here very honestly.   It causes pain, of course.  We made a friend who was telling us that he won’t go swimming because his friend unexpectedly drowned on a swimming outing, and the memory still causes him immense pain.  But death is part of life, and like life it has something to teach us. I don’t sense this sort of desperate need to cling to this life and make something of it hat I sense is fundamental to American culture. My running joke here is “YOLO… No wait… You Only Live Infinite Times Until You Reach Moksha.”

5.

Prayer is prayer, and Love is love.  We met a group of young American women in the Delhi airport traveling with Youth With a Mission, a Christian organization doing volunteer work abroad.  We had a really inspiring conversation with them about the bottomless nature of God’s love, and I thought about touching silence and bliss during Osho meditation in Rishikesh.  I thought about talking to an astrologer in Rishikesh about Jesus and Buddha and their lessons on love.  I thought about crying at the end of yoga class as something holy pulsed through my veins.  I thought about dancing with the kids at the Hare Krishna temple and sitting up late smoking cigarettes under the light of the full supermoon in Udaipur.  I thought about taking off my shoes and feeling the intricate marble work at a Jain temple that took 69 years and hundreds of lifetimes to build.  As my mind flashed back to the present moment the Christian girls in the airport were asking Tarah and I if they could pray with us.  Why not, I thought.  Prayer is prayer. 

Anyway, like I said I was going to include a lot of sweet media in this post, but technology has thwarted me, so I’m going to stop here. Tarah and I start teaching regularly at the Siddartha School tomorrow morning, and we’ll be working with the kids for a couple of weeks, until the school hosts a big celebration for it’s 20th anniversary and then the kids go on summer break for a couple of weeks.  Not sure what we’ll do after that, but that’s okay!  Who knows??  More news to come!

Lots of love and light and joy and stuff,

Dani

dani’s adventures in yoga.

Dani is currently in India on an adventure.  This post was pre-written to entertain you while she’s gone and to pimp out all of the instructors who have shaped her yoga journey so far.   If you are looking for yoga recommendations in Portland, Oregon or Los Angeles, California, you’ve come to right place.  Scroll down and click on the links below. 

I did the calculation, and as of setting foot on the plane to India on May 31st, I had been practicing yoga for exactly 18 months. 

So let me just clarify that, despite the fact that I’m doing yoga in India, I am NOT an expert yogi.  Not even close.  I’m like…level 2.  So what the hell am I doing?

For the first year after I graduated from college  I got a desk job, I lived with awesome friends, I went to happy hour, and I just generally tried to enjoy being a twenty-something-year-old in the fabulous city of Portland.  The only problem was this fire burning inside me like a disease that prevented me from fully enjoying my awesome life.  I was floundering artistically, physically, and spiritually. 

So one cold and rainy Portland afternoon when I was doing my best to pretend to do my job kind of, I bought a Groupon for 30 days of unlimited yoga at Vancouver Bikram Yoga.  I had never done yoga before.  I didn’t know what the hell I was getting myself into.  It just seemed like a good idea and the thought of being in a 105 degree room for 90 minutes sounded amazing in December in Portland.  Maybe the heat would somehow satisfy my inner fire.  

I got to Bikram and I was mediocre at best.  I totally sucked at locking my knees, which they ask you to do like every ten seconds, and I was forced to stare at my lumpy, imperfect body for 90 minutes straight while trying not to pass out.  It brought back flashbacks to my mediocre athletics career, and getting heat stroke during a Middle School track meet after coming in last place in 1600 meters.  

But each day I felt progress in subtle ways as I felt myself getting stronger and more focused.  I took naturally to the breathing and meditation, and felt cleansed and unburdened in the heat of the yoga studio.  I swear I learned more about myself in that first ten days of Bikram than I’d learned in the last two years of college.  It was amazing to look into my own searching eyes and experience compassion for my self in all my flaws and assets, for all my incapabilities and strengths.  

So began an 18-month smorgasbord of yoga, as I tried out as many studios and yoga styles as I could get my paws on!

Let the yoga journey begin!**

**NOTE:  I can’t do any of the things in these pictures.  Except number 7.  I kick ass at number 7.

1.

the crack-monkey

Next I bought a three-month Groupon for YogaNW, so I could see what normal yoga was like without the strict parameters of Bikram.  YogaNW is great, and I would highly recommend it to anyone in Portland looking for a studio.  The instructors are  patient, kind, and great at adjusting your alignment.  At YogaNW, I began to see the wider world of what yoga can be.  From the spiritual focus that Sheila brings to the practice to the personalized vinyasa practice that Jennifer encourages to the deeply restorative practice that Aimee provides.  

2. 

the foot-hat

Then I went back to Sellwood Bikram Yoga for another month of good, hot fun.  This studio features some of the same instructors as Vancouver Bikram, but with the added benefit of Tom Leimert, a physician-turned-yogi whose knowledge of the body is so helpful.  Sellwood Bikram also has a more competitive atmosphere and more sexy men with six-packs.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t question it.  

3. 

the WHY, GOD, WHY?

Next in my yoga journey I met Julie Hunicutt while at a one-month acting workshop in Monterey, California, and because of her incredible expertise and communication, I re-learned some of the standard hatha yoga poses with better alignment.

4.

the pac-woman

She introduced me to Yogavidala in Los Angeles, and it was at Yogavidala that I found a spiritual home in Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, because of a major rent increase, this gem of a studio is shutting down at the end of June, but I met some amazing instructors here who I’ll continue to study with.  Some of the gems are Jennifer Netherby, who made yoga fun and helped me conquer the headstand, Nina Snow, who made my Dad feel welcome in class after a 20+ year hiatus from yoga, and Robyn Bennett, whose deeply spiritual classes always left me on cloud nine.  

5.

God’s teardrop

I try to quit you, Bikram but I just can’t.  I felt compelled to do another month of madness at Bikram Yoga Silverlake.  The Silverlake studio is super super crowded, the floor there is a little weird/uncomfortable, and I like some instructors there more than others… If you go to the super early classes,avoid stepping off your mat onto the hard floor, and choose your instructors wisely, you’ll be fine, but ultimately it’s not my favorite studio.  

6.  

CAPOEIRA!!

Brazilian Yoga and Pilates!  I’ve been studio hopping a little bit in the past few weeks, since I’m trying to find a new yoga home now that Yogavidala is closing.  This studio has a super laid back and hippie vibe, the classes are always super small and personalized, and they sometimes have classes in Capoeira, Samba, and Pilates, as well as host the occasional drum circle.  I went to a Samba class last week and it was an absolute blast.  The best part about this place is that it has the cheapest monthly rate I’ve ever seen–$69 a month!  The class schedule is pretty sparse, but if you tend to be free in the afternoons and/or evenings, you will be able to get your money’s worth.  Unfortunately, in my real life I am in school from the asscrack of dawn to the dead of night, so I probably won’t be going here. :/

7.

Urth Yoga.  This place has $5 “happy hour” classes 3 times a day during the week, and it’s within walking distance of my house.  Because I live in Silverlake and it’s cheap, that can mean only one thing: HIPSTER YOGA!!  

It kind of felt like what would happen if you were in a hipster singles bar and everyone decided to drop into downward dog.  It’s mostly anusara yoga. with is a spiritual/philosophical viewpoint more than anything, but for some reason it was super ass-kicking.  Definitely $5 well spent. 

8. 

INDIA!!!

Ummmmm…. Who the hell knows what this will hold.  I’m in Rishikesh, India right now.  When my friend Tarah invited me to come with her to India this summer I said,

“Hey, did you know that you can study yoga at yoga ashrams in Northern India and live there for very little money and extended periods of time?”  

And she said, “Hell. Yeah.”

So now we’re in Rishikesh–a couple of amateur yogis in India.  

…I’ll get back to you and let you know how it goes. 

🙂

Namaste!

D

dani goes to india

In two days I’m getting on a plane and leaving for India for 2 months.  

image

Wheee!!!

 As Britt and I have mentioned about 10,000 times, and as is currently evident by the fact that Britt is living on an air mattress on our friend’s floor after losing her house, we are gypsies at heart.  Because that is the case, when I chose to go to grad school until 2015, I made a deal with myself.  I could only go to grad school if I used the two honest-to-God summers that grad school includes to travel.  I had to find ways to go places in this big crazy world before life sets in and bitches start coming after me for student loan payments.  

To be honest though, India wasn’t really on my radar.  Despite things like this…

And this…

Taj Mahal, India…

And this…

…It had just never crossed my mind to go there.  

But then, back in January, I got to talking to Tarah.  

Image

This is Tarah. (And Britt and Sedale and Amaka)

Tarah has just finished year 2 of her MFA in Acting at USC.  Put another way, she’s a year ahead of me in the program.  Here’s a picture of Tarah without sunglasses on, lookin’ all serious n’ actor-like n’ whatnot.  

Image

she’s amazing. just try to deny it. impossible.

Tarah was telling me about how for years now, her good friend Khen Rinpoche has been trying to get her to come up to Ladakh in Northern India and see the school that he runs there–The Siddhartha School.  She decided she was finally going to go this summer so she could attend the school’s anniversary celebration, but she was nervous about traveling abroad for the first time alone.  We talked for a long time that night, and somehow, in her infinite generosity and love and wisdom and amazingness, she invited me to go with her.  

OmigodOmigodOmigodOmigodOmigod. Seriously?  What?  I said to her what I usually say when people say things like, “We should get lunch sometime” or “We should be friends” or “You should come with me to this cool place” which is

“Be careful about inviting me.  Because I’ll go.”

5 months later, we’ve done all the preparation we can muster and now we are itching to get on the plane and just go.  

image

Okay well we’re not actually going to paaaarty.  As they say.  We’re actually going to do some of this:

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yoga!!

As Tarah and I planned our trip, we realized it’s not actually cost-effective to go to India for a short amount of time, because the flight over there is expensive, but it’s super super super cheap once you’re there.  So the longer we stay, the further my tiny summer budget will stretch.  Cause let’s be real, I’m living off my leftover student loan money, y’alllllll.  Anyway, we both had an interest in studying yoga, and Rishikesh, India is not far South of Ladakh, and it’s the yoga capital of the world.

So.  We fly into Delhi on Sunday night, and after a brief visit to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, we’ll journey North to spend a month studying yoga in Rishikesh and a month visiting Ladakh.  We’re hoping that by the time we fly home, we’ve figured out how to levitate so we don’t have to take a plane.  

Flying - GIF

In all seriousness, though, I could not be more grateful and excited and humbled to be making this journey.  We’re as well-prepared as you can possibly be, and I feel so blessed to be Tarah’s companion on this trip.  I’m ready to go to India with a savvy mind, a free spirit, and an open heart.  Let’s doooo it. 

I will post as much as I can to TwoEvilActors while I’m gone, but I’m sure Britt will have plenty to tell you about until I come back, and once I am back in the U.S. it won’t be long until the Two Evil Actors are reunited in sunny Los Angeles.  Until then, namaste…

xoxo

Dani

me time

If you’ve read this blog before, you have probably read a few posts about a problem that Britt and I often encounter as actors/functional adults; a problem that may be the biggest challenge of choosing to make the arts your career path:

CRAZYBALLS / NOT-ENOUGH-TIME

Preach, sister.

Britt and I are both doggedly pursuing art as a career, which means we end up living double-lives in the meantime.  There are the “adult-y” things we have to do to make ends meet and there are the creative projects that we fill our lives with in order to stay artistically alive.  This equals a ton of man-hours of work, which is why I kind of giggle when I hear this attribute stereotypically assigned to artists:

LAZINESS

And THAT is bullshit!! Some of the most independent, hard-working, entrepreneurial folks I know are artists (including my Dani and Yours Truly). I often think of artists as ninjas… and you KNOW those ninjas trained their asses off to learn how to be badass and invisible. While also paying their ninja bills somehow.

south park ninja

Damn straight, Britt!  THIS is the truth people:

good-things

So true. And doing all of the crap we do, while trying to stay sane and be functional and decent human beings at the same time, is quite trying at times.

So my lesson of this week has been that IT IS OKAY TO TAKE SOME “ME TIME.”  Okay, yeah, it is somewhat trite, but seriously, I have to remind myself of this or my busy-ness will start to chip away at my sanity. 

IT IS SO IMPORTANT!

Honestly, some days I just feel like:

When really, I want to be more like:

See? Cat Ninja. This cat ninja is kicking ass and working shit out. Probably because she allows for plenty of cat-Me-Time when not out kicking major dog and gopher ass.

Damn straight! According to my half-assed research on the internet (AKA googling it), cats spend 13-16 hours of their day sleeping.  Straight up SLEEPING. That doesn’t count the time they spend eating cat food and stretching and licking their balls.  I’m not about to publicly divulge how much time I spent this week eating cat food and licking my balls (too far? maybe), but let me give you an example of how I carved out some time for myself on Monday..

Dani’s super-special-me-time Monday:

  1. Get up in time to go to class (skip workout and get a full night of sleep)
  2. Go to movement class,
  3. Use the three hour break to LEAVE CAMPUS (gasp!), go to BIKRAM YOGA, and spend too much money on this absurdly delicious sandwich at Atwater Village Farm
Raw Falafel Burger by Nelson's Living Gourmet. Literally the tastiest thing I have EVER put in my mouth. (That's what she said.)

Raw Falafel Burger by Nelson’s Living Gourmet. Literally the tastiest thing I have EVER put in my mouth. (That’s what she said.)

4.   Come back to campus for 3:00 p.m. scene study class, feeling rejuvenated
5.   Stick around campus for rehearsal until the sun is long gone from the sky

Way to go, D. I’m proud of you. You are self-care MACHINE. And that falafel burger looks AMAZING.

Dude.  It seriously was. No joke.  Although, damn girl, I feel like part of the whole “me time” thing is not over-committing myself, and saying no when I need to.  When you take care of yourself, you are better able to do the work that you DO commit to.  I just read a great article by David Cain on Thought Catalog about being conscious of the things that you commit yourself to doing, and how they take up space in your head and heart.  

I also found this little gem especially useful, courtesy of Justine Musk:

25-Ways-To-Say-No-Web-SQ-300x300

You should really do yourself a favor and check out the entire post by Justine Musk. Some of my favorite Badass Reasons to Say No (which I am sure I will use in the near future) include: “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes” (#3) “or your eyes” (#4), “My schedule… is up in the air right now. See it wafting down the corridor” (#5), and “I would love to say yes to everything, but that would be fucking stupid” (#15).

I would also like to give a special shout-out to reason #23, as it explicitly states hotswetymonkysex as a Badass Reason to Say No to things. And you know how Dani and I LOUURVE talking about hotswetymonkysex.

Hell yeah!  We are trying to get as many horny teenagers to read our blog as possible.  Too far again?  Maybe. Yes. Definitely, yes. 

…It’s never too far.

Anyway, remember to take care of your hot selves this week by doing some hot and sweaty bikram yoga, eating tasty food, and saying NO to people when you need to. 

Yeah, back the fuck OFF, world!! Britt and Dani told me to take some Me Time!! (You’re welcome)

live-long-and-prosper-tee-shirt-cbs114bLove and kisses,

dani and britt xoxo

dani talks new beginnings

SPOILER ALERT:  I’m going to India.  I have over a billion new faces to see, sights to soak in,  and discoveries to make.  My mind has been filled with anticipatory daydreams like this:

Ladakh, India

Delhi, India

Rishikesh, India

GAHHHHH INDIAAAAA!!!!!!  Just to keep you in suspense, let me start at the beginning by saying that this has been a pretty freakin’ rad week full of new beginnings.  Maybe I’m riding the wave of Britt’s new-birthday-year.  

My Week

Last week I pulled two all-nighters shooting and editing a project for my FreePlay class–which means me and Sedale and Amaka losing our minds together by trying to figure out how to make a ten-minute short film about a woman who gets pregnant by her foster sister’s husband.  And then the three have to figure out how to build their lives around this baby. 

My ensemble also finished writing our first draft of our staged version of Don Quixote.  Which means after weeks of playing around we have officially started the laborious process of birthing our first artistic baby as an ensemble. Which makes me think of the very first time I heard the story of Don Quixote…

Aw Wishbone!  Nothing is imPAWssible!  However, I WISH I could post a video for you guys of Clown class on Friday, because we started playing around with the trampoline for the first time, and DAMN!  Talk about new beginnings.  It never ceases to amaze me how many self-imposed limitations I have been operating under for my entire life.  But every time I come out of clown class I realize that I’ve done 10 new things with my body that I never even thought possible.  It’s wild.  

But not as wild as these ferocious kittens!!

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Doris the Kitten. March 2013

Linus the Kitten. March 2013

Linus the Kitten. March 2013

That’s right!  My house became the home of TWO KITTENS this weekend!  In a stroke of pure genius, my housemates decided to adopt two kittens full of nothing but spunk and snuggles.  Meet Doris and Linus, my new animal friends.  I played with them allllll weekend long and there was cuddling and purring and it was all pretty magnificent.  

When they first came home and we opened the cat carrier, two curious and cautious little noses protruded out into the wide world, followed by four little paws.  After some tentative sniffing, the little guys ventured out of their carrier and explored their new space.  Within half an hour they were romping and exploring with utter fearlessness.  I thought, “Hmm… this will be inspiration for this summer, when I am in India!  Streetwise and cautious up front, followed by fearless exploration and wise vigilance.”

Full circle, y’all!  Prior to meeting my two new feline housemates, I met up with my friend Tarah Pollock to purchase two roundtrip tickets to New Delhi, India.  Meet Tarah:

Tarah Pollock March 2013

Ooo!  So sassy!  Work it girl!  A couple of months ago, Tarah was telling me about a friend of hers who is a monk in Northern India, and how he had invited her to travel to Ladakh, India this summer for a festival.  He had told her to bring a friend and see The Siddartha School, which he helped to found.  Tarah is a second-year actor in my MFA program, an independent lady extraordinare, and a complete badass. She also happened to be in the market for a travel-buddy, and my hand shot into the air faster than you can say “HOLY-SHIT-TAKE-ME-WITH-YOU-YES-PLEASE”

Turns out, India is super cheap once you’re there, so we decided to spend two months there–studying yoga, hiking, and hanging out with kids in Ladakh.  

Check, ch-check, ch-check, check it OUT!

New Delhi Confirmation

Before I came to grad school, I promised myself that I would spend at least a portion of my summers traveling.  Once I’m done with school, it will be more important to focus on career stuff and money stuff and all that jazz, so I figured that now is the time to travel, to harvest experiences, and to be a 20-something-year-old girl.  

I’ll be updating this here blog as much as possible while I’m there, and on the weeks that I can’t, Britt and I have some tricks up our sleeves to keep you entertained.  So this week, I feel deeply grateful for the opportunities I have been given and the many blank pages that I have left to write on.  Thanks for sharing the journey, loves.  

Oh WAIT!!  I almost forgot!  HAPPY PERSIAN NEW YEAR!!  Today is the first day of Spring, as well as the new year in Iran.  THAT’S why it feels like a time of new beginnings.  Happy Spring Everybody!  Wow. My goodness.  Look what happens when I start to pay attention. Things make sense.  Love and light, y’all!

hot and sweaty

Ha!  I bet you thought this post was gonna be sexxxxual.  PSYCH!  

Nice try, suckas.

But wait… what exactly are we talking about here, Dani?

Well, Britt…this post is actually about this guy:

Bikram Choudhury photocredit: bikramyoga.com

Bikram Choudhury
photocredit: bikramyoga.com

Ohhhhhh BIKRAM! How I love you!! And your crazy hat!

SO HOT!  Hmmm… Wait a minute, we can make this sexier…  Let’s go with this:

Bikram Choudhury, age 17

Bikram Choudhury, age 17
photo credit: bikramyoga.com

Ooooo that’s much better. Nice work, D.

Why thank you, Britt! So this guy is a yoga guru who used yoga to completely rehabilitate his mangled knee, and thereby came up with an absolutely insane brand of yoga all his own.  Bikram Yoga, practiced at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and at least 40% humidity, is 26 yoga postures practiced in a specific order so you can get fresh, oxygenated blood to the deepest, darkest, most forgotten regions of your body.  You have to arrive to this 90-minute class 15 minutes early, and stay 10 minutes afterwards, just to lie there in “dead body pose” and let your body acclimate, making this whole thing a two hour experience.  And there’s only one rule in Bikram: YOU CAN’T LEAVE THE ROOM. 

I remember hearing about Bikram  and the “YOU CAN’T LEAVE THE ROOM” rule for the first time. I remember thinking, “What the hell?? Is this some kind of torture method disguised as yoga? No thanks.”

Actually, I was looking at Bikram’s website, and he ACTUALLY calls his yoga studios “torture chambers.”  Aren’t y’all soooo excited to go out and try it???

The whole experience sounded like an ordeal to me and I don’t do too well in the heat anyway. Needless to say, I never considered giving Bikram yoga a try until Dani mentioned to me she was practicing it.

What sold me about Dani’s experience was how certain poses unlocked certain emotions for her–for example, experiencing an impulse to laugh or cry –and I am incredibly fascinated by how our emotional life can be triggered by our bodies. As an actor, my body is my instrument. I often find it difficult, as many actors do, to lift my guard (both emotionally and physically, in the way I carry my body), to let go, and to release my too-firm grasp of control. Bikram presents an incredible opportunity to simply let go. And the results you get from pushing your body to the limit and practicing the mindfulness of the present moment (meditation, yo!) are incredible.

 I couldn’t agree more!!   With all of those things!!!   You HAVE to let go of control and just exist in the present moment, because the physical intensity of the experience gives you no other choice.  If you start thinking about whatever wacky-ass pose you just attempted, you will get disheartened/distracted; if you start future-tripping and wondering how long the torture will last, you lose all hope.  Any distraction will cause you to compromise whatever posture you are currently in, and therefore lose the essence of the whole experience.  It is the most delicious torture.  

But wait, let me back up to how I first got into this whole yoga thing:  Groupon, bitches!!!!  In Fall of 2011 I tried Bikram yoga for the first time by plunging in for the recommended 10 days in a row, and I felt like a new human being afterwards.  I went like crazy  to Vancouver Bikram Yoga for the rest of the month until ye olde Groupon ran out, and I was totally hooked on this yoga thing.  Each class literally felt like a 2-hour trip/spirit quest, and taught me so much about myself, mind, body, and soul.  

It looks like little something like this: 

Notice to the left of the “Salted Pretzel” is the “Wind Removing” pose.  That is ACTUALLY the name of that pose, and it ACTUALLY literally squeezes the farts out of you.  Bet you never thought about that before!  Next time you have a big burrito before a big date, make sure you remove some of that wind before leaving the house.  Thank you, Bikram!

Seriously. One time I was in class and the gentleman next to me farted an unrealistically loud fart. In 6 months of taking class, I had never actually heard some one rip one. And especially not like that. It was… alarming. No one acknowledged Fartzilla of course, but he then proceeded to let out gigantic farts throughout THE REST OF CLASS. One after another. Long, loud, sustained farts. There must of been, like, at least 15 farts joining us that session. It took everything in my power to keep from losing it. I’m sorry, but I had to let you guys in on that one… I’m not about to suffer through that memory alone. (You’re welcome.)

Oh my God I’d never heard that story!  Daaaaaamn!  Well I bet that guy had such a great date that night all fart-free and glowing with health and wellness.  FRIENDLY TIP:  If you do choose to go to Bikram, leave plenty of time to completely reassemble yourself before going out on your fart-free date afterwards.  You will sweat more than you ever thought possible in this class.  

Yes! But Bikram is sexy so that should give you extra points.

No, seriously, it is.  I mean you saw the picture of young, studly Bikram.  Sexy!  Despite all of the sweating and farting.  God we are making this sound so appealing!!  Well good luck on your hypothetical post-Bikram date.  Hooray dating advice with Britt and Dani!!  

For the record, I don’t regularly practice Bikram yoga anymore, since it is rather cost-prohibitive without ye olde Groupon.  However, at least twice a week I go to normal yoga classes at my favorite place in all of Los Angeles, YogaVidala up in Los Feliz.  Actually, it was really the intensity of my experience with Bikram yoga that turned me on to all yoga, and since then I have been having a blast exploring all the different schools of thoughts and ways of practicing.  If you live in LA, have never tried yoga, and DON’T want to try it out in the Bikram torture chamber, come on down to YogaVidala on the last Saturday of each month at 2:00 p.m. for a FREE Intro to Yoga class.  If you are anything like me, and even if you’re nothing like me, it will probably totally change your life.  

Without a doubt. It changed mine. Even if you only get into the studio every once-in-a-while (the situation I am currently living in), your body remembers this stuff. It lives in you. Like your farts.

…Until Wind Removing pose removes them. 

So venture forth, new Bikram Yogis! Fart no more! Spread the Good News! Be free!

Your beginning-yogi-partners-in-crime,

~Dani & Britt

dani talks upside down

It is legitimately pouring rain and cold right now in Los Angeles, California. It is very confusing for us all here at USC. Suntanned bleach-blondes are taking the tags off of that-one-super-cute-jacket they bought six months ago, bros are staring out the window with saucer-sized eyes and clutching their skateboards, and most of the Asians are prepared with umbrellas. That last one’s not a stereotype, it’s just a fact. This topsy-turvy weather is kind of fitting though, because I am feeling a little upside down, backwards, and turned around myself. Maybe it’s because, like Britt, I find myself frazzled from exhaustion, but MAYBE it’s because I spent more time upside down in a headstand yesterday than I’ve ever spent in my life.
44 weeks ago, I pinned this onto pinterest:

As you can see at the bottom there, I set the goal in that moment to do a headstand within a year. Come to find out, I had no choice but to accomplish this goal! This crazy dude named Jerzy Grotowski came up with this series of movements called The Cat, which I was taught by Andy Robinson within the first month of being in grad school. The Cat is kiiiiiiinda (emphasis on KINDA) like vinyasa yoga for actors. DO NOT quote me on that. DO NOT tell Jerzy Grotowski I said that. Let me go on with this backwards and upside down explanation by saying that the video below is NOT of the cat, but it IS of some Grotowski physical theatre movement craziness:

No need to watch the whole thing–you’ll start to get the idea of where I’m coming from here. The Cat just involves a couple of shoulder-stands, a headstand, and some back-bends, among other things. But let me tell you, I was the remedial kid when it came to all of this being-upside-down-craziness. I was not that kid on the playground trying out cartwheels or tumbling around the jungle gym. I wasn’t even that kid flip-flopping around in the pool. Dani and planet earth have a very strong relationship, and I don’t take naturally to this whole flirtation with gravity. What the hell do we have feet for, anyway? For standing on the ground, y’all!

Well, you may be asking, “Who cares? This is weird. Why do you have to stand on your head to be an actor?”

…You don’t. But man oh man, is it valuable to be discombobulated, to be afloat, to not know your ass from a hole in the ground. It never ceases to amaze me how much can be learned by being pushed to my limits, by free-falling. You’d think that I’d be used to it at this point in the school year, but not a single day passes when I don’t have to summon up my strength in order to lean into the scary places, allow my weaknesses and cracks to show, and expand beyond my self-imposed limitations. It’s not just a physical challenge–it is mental, emotional, spiritual, all of it. There is a lot of fear to be conquered in learning new things and surprising yourself. I am proud to say that, thanks to yoga class on Sundays, I can now hang out in a headstand for a whole minute! And now the challenge is set to conquer handstands and cartwheels in Clown class. GAHHHH it never endsssss. So again, you may be asking, “What is the point of all of this? How is it possible that people can go to grad school for this?” Actors definitely have a reputation for being self-indulgent, “dramatic,” overly emotional, narcissistic, whatever.

Let me put it this way. You don’t go to the movies to see the day that Meg Ryan didn’t check her email, drank a half a bottle of wine, and woke up the next day still hating that arrogant bastard from work and learning NOTHING about herself! You go to the movies to see this:

…I have NO excuses why I chose that movie for my example. Whatever y’allz, I’m sticking with it. I’m sleep deprived and I’ve been standing on my head! Suck it up and watch the trailer for this mediocre late 90’s RomCom!! Geez.

Anyway, you go to the movies to see the day that Meg Ryan falls in love with the witty guy on the internet and realizes that it’s her coworker and maybe they both need to swallow their pride. You don’t go to a play to see the day that Hamlet’s Dad was still alive and they all had meatloaf for dinner, you go to see the play where Hamlet sees his dead Dad’s ghost and realizes his whole world is upside down, backwards, and topsy-turvy. We don’t pay actors to tell stories in which they are comfortable. We pay them to deal with change, with imbalance, with challenges. We want to see people facing obstacles and we want to learn from who they prove themselves to be by their actions.

So this week, all the work in my program and all the work in my yoga class has left me feeling a little bit scattered, a little bit off balance, a little bit upside down. And I think that’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.

In Wonderland, not in…like…Tulsa.

(…Sorry, Tulsa.)