Reflections on Bikram Yoga Teacher Training: Dialogue

The “Dialogue” is the scripted verbal instruction for the 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises taught by every Bikram teacher around the world. In Bikram yoga, the teacher does not practice yoga with the class nor does the teacher demonstrate postures. Instead, it is 90 minutes of precise, step-by-step directions on how to enter the pose, how to do the pose, why you do it, and how to exit the pose. As a teacher in training, you must learn it. Verbatim. Period.

A copy of the dialogue becomes a trainee’s Bible for the next 9 weeks and the two rarely separate. Trainees walk with it in their hands, study it and mutter under their breaths in an effort to be discreet as they memorize the words. At least, that’s how the learning starts. As the days and weeks progress at training, all shame evaporates and trainees speak the dialogue out load without a care. You hear it in the elevator, the bathroom stalls, the hallways, and in the supermarket aisles. A cacophony of voices reciting dialogue is like hundreds of broken records on repeat.

People learn dialogue differently. Some are visual learners and draw the body parts in the text. Others listen to a recorded version of themselves reciting a pose. Some write out the words of dialogue from memory. Using flash cards and a mnemonic device, I took the first letter of every sentence of each paragraph and created an acronym. No matter how the information gets into your brain, it must also come out of your mouth.

Late Night Studying of Locust Pose Led to Silliness

It helps to find study partners so that your study buddies do the yoga posture as you direct them. At this point, there is no correcting. You are just trying to get the words out. When people gather by the pool, in the lobby, or in the parking lot to do this, it looks like the different groups are playing bizarre games of “Simon Says”. Staff reminds us not to practice our yoga poses in front of other hotel guests. Normal human beings freak out when they suddenly see trainees break out into a yoga pose in public. Below, fellow trainee and New Yorker, Dionne Presinal is taking her chances. She is practicing standing head to knee pose in what appears to be the Target parking lot (photo taken by Melodie Yoshida).

Trainees who still insist on studying alone do so with inanimate object(s). They simply look at it and talk to it: a plant, a line of shampoo bottles, or a wall. One Saturday afternoon, I studied at the beach and I yelled out instructions for a backward bend at the ocean. A school of dolphins swam by. One of my trainee friends said, “You were so commanding, I swear I saw a dolphin backbend for you.”

Renata Schánělcová (l) & my roommate LaLa (r) talking to a wall. Photo by Alzbeta Peskova.

Dialogue memorization and recitation are monotonous but these ways are the most efficient way to learn all the postures in such a short period of time. Trainees are tested in posture clinic where the group of 400 gets divided into 10 groups 40. Each trainee must stand up in front of this smaller group and recite one posture as 3 other trainees follow while 2-3 teachers listen. When all 40 trainees finish reciting one posture, they move on to the next posture in the series until 24 postures are covered (2 postures are skipped since those two are repeated often with short instructions). Posture clinics serve as class simulations so that trainees have the opportunity to recite each posture and receive feedback from teachers.

The most important teacher you do this for is Bikram himself. Every single trainee must deliver the dialogue of the first posture, half moon pose, to Bikram in front of all the trainees. He gives feedback to each individual. It generally takes two weeks to get through everybody. Some trainees deliver flawless dialogue, others forget words, phrases, even sections, others speak monotonously, while other talk like an auctioneer spitting out words in rapid fire without breathing so that the experience could be over as quickly as possible. We are all nervous as hell regardless of how prepared you are. I have great admiration for the non-native English speakers who must learn dialogue in English and after training, go back to their countries and re-learn it in their native tongues. Often, these folks fare better than the native English speakers since they have to work twice as hard.

Chilean Guillermo Allende delivers Half Moon Pose to Bikram as (L to R): Ivan Silva (Spain), Tereza Kopkova (Czech Republic), Jonathan Martin (Spain) demonstrate. Photo by Yael Graff.

After the first two weeks, the pace quickens. Trainees must prepare to recite one posture per day in posture clinic. If a posture is short, it is conceivable to go through all 40 people and deliver dialogue for the next posture…thereby getting to two postures in one day.

I hated posture clinic…every single minute of it. I never loved it or even grew to like it. I felt sick every time; my stomach churned. I felt I needed to be perfect. I felt like I was being judged. I felt I had to be first all the time. All my issues came tumbling out and there were some really emotional days. It is easy to have breakdowns when one is tired, stressed, and sleep deprived. Looking back, I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself.

Posture clinics are just simulations. The real teaching happens when you are in that hot room, giving verbal instructions to your students. As a trainee, you learn the dialogue verbatim since it is your main teaching arsenal. As a new teacher, you learn to communicate with your students. You speak and they listen. They move their bodies and you watch and respond appropriately, sometimes giving an individual correction. It this kind of dialogue you want to have with your students.

Nevertheless, when you live in a yoga bubble for 9 weeks, it easy to forget the big picture and focus on the task at hand. Fellow trainee Melodie Yoshida from Hawaii captures it perfectly in this photo as she studied dialogue for a posture.

Reflections on Bikram Yoga Teacher Training: Top 5 Obsessions of a Trainee

#5:  LAUNDRY

Eleven classes a week means you go through a lot of wet yoga clothes.  Keeping track of dirty clothes, wet clothes, half-dry clothes, and clean dry clothes is a juggling act.  You learn to soak, rinse, squeeze, hand wash, and hang clothes quickly.  If your turnaround time is slow then you’ll have a pile of wet/dirty/soaking clothes and nothing to wear.  This may be hot yoga not naked yoga.

#4:  NUTRITION

A balanced and healthy diet is important yet every BODY is different.  In the first week, trainees experience sudden loss or increase of appetite.  Palates change because bodies change in this process.  Some long-time vegetarians and vegans start craving the flesh of a carcass while others are repulsed by their favorite foods.  Some eat comfort food while others maintain the status quo.  Practicing 180 minutes of hot yoga almost daily burns a tremendous amount of calories.  The body craves what it needs. It is not uncommon to find ramen noodles, soda, potato chips, candy, and chocolate co-existing with coconut water, leafy green vegetables, fruits, and roasted seaweed snacks in the shopping carts of trainees.  Personally, I was addicted to Doritos, Cheetos, BBQ potato chips, and little sausage wieners.  By the end, I succumbed to drinking a can of Coca-Cola almost daily.

Nutrition is not only a matter of what to eat but also when to ­shove eat your meals.  Free time is extremely limited so finding the balance between eating what your body needs versus preparing a convenient meal is a challenge…especially when 400 trainees share only 2 microwaves at virtually the same time.  Now you see why I had to do this to prevent me from pulling my hair and scratching my eyeballs out?

#3:  ELECTROLYTES

After class, you ride the hotel elevator back to your room.  If a hotel guest not attending training (tell-tale signs include:  wears everyday, non-yoga clothes that contain little to no lycra or spandex; wears perfume; has well-coifed hair and makeup) has the misfortune of riding with your stinky, dripping, red-faced self, 8 times out of 10 they will look at you and ask, “Oh, how was the pool?”  What else would they think?  Your drenched mat and clothes are dripping sweat on the elevator floor and you look like a wet dog.

Important body minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium are lost in sweat.  Bodies need the right amount of these minerals for numerous reasons that include proper nerve and muscle functions.  Trainees turn to Gatorade, coconut water, or manufactured electrolyte powders or tablets to replenish these minerals.  An inexpensive method is to simply squeeze lemon and add a pinch of sea salt into your water.  Sea salt contains many of the minerals that your body needs yet loses in sweat.

In severe cases of mineral loss, there is Pedialyte.  Yep, it’s the same stuff given to dehydrated babies and young children because its main ingredients are sodium, potassium, chloride, and zinc.  If you are administered Pedialyte by staff, you have been relegated to that of a baby.  At this point, your body has started to shut down and most likely cannot move.  If this is the case, then it is served by being held up to your mouth by another person.  This experience can be frightening and equally humbling.

#2:  HYDRATION

Electrolyte imbalance has a direct correlation to dehydration.  Symptoms include:  headaches, prolonged tingling sensations that lead to cramping, claw hands (fingers and hands turn inward to resemble a claw), and perhaps even delirium, unconsciousness, or collapse.  In the first two weeks, it was not uncommon to see dehydrated trainees lifted up and carried out of the room by staff.

Incredible amounts of water get lost through sweat so drinking five to six liters of water daily is recommended.  Many trainees succumb to buying a “Tower of Shame” aptly named because we would never ever use a monstrous 2-liter cooler filled with ice water at home.  But the rules of the game change and what may be normal at home no longer holds any water (heh, pun intended) here at teacher training.  During very hot and humid killer classes, trainees skip the miniscule drinking spout of the Tower of Shame and instead, rip the lid off to gulp down ice water until the throat and esophagus are numb from the cold while the rest of the body feels like its on fire.

Here, Aussie trainee Kathryn Gregory of A Sweaty Adventure, proudly displays her Tower of Shame.  Note its size is bigger than her head!

Other trainees opt for the “cocktail bar” method, where they bring in a combination of the following:  water, Gatorade, coconut water, Vitamin water, electrolyte packets, a container of ice.  It is easy to identify these trainees because the bottles/containers are lined up near their mats.

And the #1 obsession of a bikram teacher trainee?????

((drum roll please))

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

#1:  HOMEWORK

WHAT?!?!  Did you think it’s just yoga all day?

NO!

We have homework.

We study.

We get tested.

It’s overwhelming…and stressful.

It’s the number one cause of sleep deprivation, anxiety, breakdowns, and breakthroughs.  Read next week’s blog post to find out more.

A special thank you and credit to:  Kathryn Gregory for all hydration, electrolyte, and homework pictures and LaLa P for all laundry and nutrition pictures. 

Reflections on Bikram Yoga Teacher Training: First Class with Bikram Choudhury

“Check, check.  Check, check.  Let’s rock and roll!” said the slender Indian man into his microphone headset.  There he stood with a broad smile, atop a 7-foot mirrored podium in front of the room, rubbing his hands eager to start.  “Welcome to Bikram’s torture chamber where you kill yourself for the next 90 minutes,” he continued.

My teachers at home rarely started class this way.  If they did, they would surely strike fear in the hearts of their students especially the first timers.  But in a room of 400 yoga students training to be teachers, it was appropriate and even welcomed.  The energy in the room was electric.  Most of us never took a class taught by the guru who created the yoga series we sought to teach.

Bikram Choudhury wore his signature teaching outfit:  a black Speedo-like bikini bottom, a black headband across his forehead, and his long thinning hair tied up in a small knot on top of his head.  On the podium was an over-sized chair, covered in orange towels.  An adjacent small table hid a plastic bin of ice to keep bottled water and Coca-Cola cold.

Just a few hours earlier, Bikram stood before us in the lecture room in a fitted shirt, slacks, an expensive wristwatch, and Italian leather shoes.  “This first week, take it easy honey!  Don’t kill yourself now.  Don’t worry, I will kill you later in week 4!” he joked.  We all laughed…nervously.  Later, I would learn that this man loved to tell jokes and stories…and that he always kept his promise.

A day after our arrival, we now faced him like an army, arranging our mats and distributing ourselves along ten white lines that horizontally cut across the floor of the Radisson’s main ballroom.  The high ceilings, glass chandeliers, and wood paneling were further accented with fluorescent lights and floor-to-ceiling mirrors on the entire front and left side of the room.  Several large air ducts at the back of the room transported heat.  Fellow trainee, Steve Landry, shot this one-minute video revealing the transformed ballroom where we would practice eleven times per week for the next nine weeks.

I looked over at Lala for reassurance. She stood on her mat next to me and smiled. We had enough balls to choose to stand in the front row, right next to Bikram and the podium! I was nervous and excited. It all felt so surreal. I dreamt about this moment for so long and it was hard to believe my dream became a reality.

I looked around the room.  My fellow trainees hailed from 40 countries (see list below)*.  About 85% were women and ages ranged from 19 to middle age and beyond.  Some trainees had a head full of silver hair.  We were single, engaged, married, straight, gay, Christian, Hindu, agnostic, atheist.  We were parents, social workers, carpenters, doctors, psychiatrists, dancers, actors, and graphic designers.  Find a label, we represented it.

Bikram was ready to begin.

Start please.  Toes on the line.  Pranayama breathing.

The opening breathing exercise requires students to inhale by the nose creating a snoring sound and exhale by the mouth creating a “HA” sound.  Its purpose is to open up the lungs to its maximum capacity thereby preparing students for the next 90 minutes of class.  Bikram was in a great mood.  On the podium, he danced, smiled, laughed, and joked.  After 20 minutes, Bikram sat down in his chair, crossed his legs, and taught the remainder of class with the same energy he had when he started.  Once in a while, he called out a student usually by pointing and identifying the color of his or her outfit in a sea of yogis.

Miss Pink!  Sit down more.

Boss!  Chest up, arms back!

He addressed the male students as “Boss” and the female students as “Miss” or “Sweetheart”.  If he got to know someone, he would assign him or her a nickname.

Miss Bushy Bushy (her hair).

Miss Chinese Chop Suey (her ethnic background).

Miss London (she lived there).

Lampost (he was 6’7”)

Class went by quickly.  When it was over, I lay still on my mat with my eyes closed.  I was so happy.  My heart screamed with joyous certainty:  I belonged here and this path I chose to become a teacher was the right one.  I smiled, looking forward to the next nine weeks.  I was finally going to get to call Bikram the way most of his teachers address him:  BOSS.

*Trainees hailed from:  the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, France, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Poland, Holland, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, India, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Harmony, CA

After visiting Hearst Castle near San Luis Obispo, California, I was driving on Highway 1 and came upon a sign for a town called Harmony (population 18).  What a unique name for a town so I stopped to strike a pose!  Tree posture strengthens the legs and improves balance.  When you practice tree pose, your standing leg remains strong and rooted to the ground as you stretch your spine up towards the ceiling, growing taller like a tree.

Beginning today, Sunday Signs & Symbols will be a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic.  Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it. 

Reflections on Bikram Yoga Teacher Training: Arrival

I craned my neck looking anxiously for the right shuttle at Los Angeles International Airport.  Forty-five minutes of waiting caused my neck and back to hurt.  Never mind that a 50-pound backpack strapped to my 5’2” frame and an equally heavy suitcase stood next to me.  Where was the damn hotel shuttle?!  I had only one hour left to register, settle into my hotel room, meet my roommate, and buy groceries for the week!

When the shuttle arrived, the driver helped with my bags and half jokingly said his back broke due to the heavy weight.  With embarrassment, I found a seat and started picking up the conversations around me.

I‘ve been practicing for 2 years.

I live in Vancouver.  How about you; where are you from?

My husband has been very supportive of my decision.

It was the chatter of Bikram yogis arriving to attend 9 weeks of full-time teacher certification.  Many were smiling.  Some already seemed to be best friends as they talked about the family and pets they left behind, the homes they wouldn’t see, and how they got to this point.  Some kept to themselves.  I decided to do the same.

The main lobby of the Radisson LAX Hotel resembled an ant colony.  Four hundred yogis descended upon the hotel simultaneously, all seemingly moving with purpose.  Some pulled large suitcases, others hauled bags of groceries and boxes of coconut water and bottled water.  We looked like refugees, carrying the few possessions we had and stocking up on food to last for weeks.

This frenzy brought me back to moving day on my first day at college.  What the hell did I get myself into?  I am too old for this.  But then I saw the welcome sign with Bikram Choudhury in the spine twist posture.  The words “teacher training” beneath his contorted image reassured me that I was in the right place.  I chose to be here…and paid an exorbitant amount of money to do so.

In the sea of yogis, I looked around for Lala, my roommate.  We had never met in person, only on Twitter.  Online, we would passionately exchange tweets about food, Filipino culture, and Bikram yoga.  She seemed like my perfect match but would our online harmony translate into good roommate material?  Maybe she had a weird crazy habit.  Maybe she would drive me up the wall.  I thought I had written off temporary roommates after deciding to have a permanent one by getting married.  It’s funny how life turns out sometimes.  My phone vibrated.  It was Lala.  She texted saying she was returning from the Filipino grocery store and would see me soon.

Knowing nobody, I gathered my courage to explore the second floor of the hotel, which was solely dedicated to our group.  The registration line snaked around the 250-square foot room.  The chatter of yogis created a loud, indistinguishable noise.  Zico representatives were giving away free coconut water.  A Trader Joes’ rep gave away free reusable shopping bags.  Interested in weekly bottled water delivery?  Laundry service?  Sign ups were available!  This feels like a convention.

When Lala arrived with the groceries, we also snuck in our most precious contraband:  a microwave.  The hotel did not allow us to cook in the room but we did not care.  We borrowed the microwave to save our sanities.  Otherwise, we would be forced to share TWO microwaves with 400+ other yogis all eating at the same time in a designated common room.  Oh, hell no.

Lala and I arranged our hotel room to accommodate our needs for the next 9 weeks.  The writing table became the prep area for food.  The desk lamp and telephone shared space with the rice cooker, mini grill, and electric water kettle.  Two dresser drawers held our clothes but a third dresser held dried and canned food, ramen noodles, seaweed packs, condiments, and teas.  We hid the microwave under a wooden luggage rack whose surface held the dish rack and coffee maker.  The surface of our mini-fridge served as our hydration center where our Brita pitcher sat along with our towers of shame (more on that later).  We pinned two ends of a clothesline to the window curtains to hang the two sets of yoga clothes we would both use daily.

Knowing that we had a lot of unpacking still left to do, we begrudgingly headed back to the second floor for orientation.  Seats in the conference room were arranged theater style and faced a stage in the center.  Three 2×3 framed portraits flanked the stage, each depicting an Indian man.  Two of them had a fake lei of flowers draped over the top.

Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi and founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship is on the left and on the right is Bishnu Gosh, younger brother of Paramhansa Yogananada and Bikram’s guru.

The third portrait portrayed Bikram sitting shirtless in lotus position atop a tiger rug, both of them staring at you with a steady gaze.  I met Bikram once in May 2010 and during that first meeting, I thanked him for creating this yoga series that healed my knee.  I told him it was my goal to one day become a teacher.  Two years later, that dream became a reality.  I looked around for the man who would be my guru but Bikram and his wife, Rajashree, were out of town.  Instead, we were greeted by their daughter and other senior teachers.

After the usual logistical housekeeping items, they prepared us for the intense physical, emotional, and mental journey ahead.  Regardless of what lay ahead, we were advised to “trust the process.”

Little did I know that this phrase would be my daily mantra for the next 9 weeks.

Photo of Paramahansa Yogananda is courtesy of Eladio Garrido.  All photos of the hotel room are courtesy of Lala P.

California Dreamin’

School starts tomorrow and before my life gets sucked into the world of books and papers, I thought a 10 day vacation would be a good idea. California is always my fall back vacation since I love the dang state and I’ve got friends to stay with in LA & San Fran. MoJo & I went for our very first “faraway, get-there-by-plane” vacation. The plan: 10 days from LA via the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway 1) to San Fran with pit stops in Santa Barbara, SLO (San Luis Obispo), San Simeon, Big Sur, Salinas, and Gilroy.

Here we are in Muscle Beach in Venice. Check out our hairdos!

We stayed with Angelito in LA. It was good to see him and catch up! Drama and gossip were exchanged at record speeds since there was much to tell. I miss him since his departure from NYC but I have a feeling he’ll be back.

Visits to other friends and family occured including one at a chinese buffet with the A clan on MoJo’s big birthday!! He seemed a little sad at turning a big number but I know he will come to embrace his wise age. I love you honey!! Old man or not! Just kidding. LOL :) We also got to see friends that I consider family. Three G brothers were present with their spouses/significant others; unfortunately the eldest and dad were missing from the group. Fun times and tons of laughter were had by all.

Up to Santa Barbara we went where we were greeted by amazing weather typical of Southern California minus the glitz and facade of Los Angeles. Rosemary and lavender were growing in bushes along the sidewalk and in spite of its touristy feel, Santa Barbara still felt quaint and provinical. MoJo & I thought it would be a nice place to retire.

On the right is a picture of Mission Santa Barbara, one of the many missions built by Franciscans in CA all forming a chain in the state. These missions were similar to the ones I saw in Argentina.

North of Santa Barbara, we stayed in SLO (as the locals call it) as our home base for exploring Hearst Castle in San Simeon. En route to San Simeon, we drove by a sign pointing towards the town of Harmony, so of course I had to take a picture and pose somehow in relation to the town’s name (I have other pictures of me at The Gap, AZ and Paradox, NY. A little quirk of mine, I know) so here I am doing a variation on Vrksasana (Tree Pose); I am one with the earth. Ommm….

A trip to the central coast is incomplete without a visit to Hearst Castle. Worth a look if you’re in the area.

Next stop Big Sur for 2 days of hiking and enjoying the striking beauty of the jagged coastline. Too bad it was foggy the whole time. The sun evaded the coast but was found a bit inland. I had done this trip 5 years ago and the weather was perfect. I was sorely disappointed this time since it wasn’t how I hoped it would be especially since MoJo had not done this drive before. If visibility is really good, you can see miles ahead of you and perfect sunsets too. When you drive the windy roads, it’s just you and the road along the edge of a huge cliff with the ocean to one side and the cliff on the other. We did not see sunsets nor stars. The plus side was that we stayed at Kirk Creek Campground, a first-come, first-serve campground of only 35 sites that is located at the top of a cliff right by the ocean. It was still really nice nonetheless. And sweet MoJo reassured me that the drive, in spite of the fog, was still spectacular. “Mysterious” was how he described it.

The next day, we were off to the north for SF. Unlike other tourists who probably would’ve gone to Monterrey and Carmel, we decided to go a different route and head towards Salinas where Nobel Prize winning writer John Steinbeck was born and raised. We visited the Steinbeck Museum and I come away with a whole new appreciation for Steinbeck. I read Of Mice and Men and The Red Pony in HS (on the left isme on the red pony…maybe I should send it to my HS English teacher?) but never really liked his work. I think it was because I couldn’t really relate to the people in his stories (the farmers, the migrant laborers) and therefore couldn’t fully imagine the story in my head. Now, I am looking forward to re-visiting Steinbeck and reading The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl, The Winter of Our Discontent, or even his non-fiction books like Travels with Charley or America and Americans. *sigh* So many books…so little time.

One gallery at the museum had a traveling exibit called “The Graceful Envelope”. The Smithsonian’s Postal Museum encouraged artists and calligraphers to decorate envelopes and mail it to the Smithsonian for entry into an annual contest. Each year, the contest may have a different theme like this one on the left, which was “Pushing the Envelope”. You see Paul Bunyan in the top envelope (don’t forget to look closely at the stamp) and another equally good entry on the bottom. Quite ingenious and beautiful were many of these graceful envelopes.

With our tummies growling, we headed 20 miles northeast to Gilroy, the “Garlic Capital of the World”. You can tell by the smell in the air when you drive into town. Since MoJo & I are huge garlic lovers, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample heavenly, garlicky dishes. Below is MoJo enjoying a delicious Gilroy Garlicky Chicken dish at Mama Mia’s. I had the winning 2005 Garlic Festival Cook-Off dish, Basil and Garlic-Stuffed Sea Scallops Wrapped in Prosciutto. We even had a chance to sample garlic ice cream. Amazing!!!

Before (see his look of anticipation) & After (see his sad yet satiated look)

The final stop after Gilroy was San Francisco! We stayed with friends I had met 2 years ago at this time while hiking the Inca Trail. The Acupuncturist in Training & The Journalist (see our picture in my previous entry) were, like Angelito, the best hosts. They were welcoming and generous with their time, their food, and their space. Their little bungalow in Oakland was so cozy and we were happy to call it home for the next several days.

MoJo & I ate our way through the Bay Area, taking in Ethiopian, Vietanamese, Japanese, and oh, the heavenly Mexican food. Yum. I don’t know what it is out west, but the Mexican food is sooo much better than home.

We schlepped the hills of San Fran to visit Chinatown, North Beach, the downtown area, and we even stumbled upon Little Saigon! We visited Alcatraz and imagined what it would be like to be a prisoner. And after a trip to just two Sonoma vineyards for some wine-tasting, we came away with 4 bottles of wine. Now MoJo has begun to discern the different nuances of wine and can move beyond his usual, “it’s fruity” description. All in all, a wonderful trip which already seems like a distant memory.