April 28, 2010

A Little Bit of Enlightment This Morning

So, as most of you out there, or perhaps all, who read this, I am a Bikram yoga lover.  I love how it makes me feel.  I love how it brings people from all walks of life together.  I love how I have a very safe place to go every day. 

Before I found Bikram yoga, I practiced Iyengar yoga.  I love how Iyengar yoga focuses on proper alignment right from the very beginning.  The teacher will come over and adjust you if your hips are out of line.  You can use a prop if you can't quite get your bum down in Fixed Firm pose.  There is a focus on moving slowly and meditatively into each pose and aligning your body properly no matter where you are in your yoga practice. 

I have always been a little irked by how new practitioners are taught in Bikram yoga.  How they are thrown into the heat, told to listen to the instructors, to do what they can and to STAY IN THE ROOM.  Ok, I get that.  I understand one of the biggest mental parts of Bikram yoga is the heat, the sweat and the humidity.  What frustrated me was how I would sometimes watch a new practioner trying to go back in Fixed Firm pose when their bum wasn't on the floor.  I just thought, the teacher should be instructing more or better or something!

Well, after class this morning I got into a great discussion with my instructor.  I ended up mentioning this to him while discussing that one day I would like to teach yoga but I wasn't sure if it would be Bikram.  He explained to me that yes, a teacher will leave a student alone on their first class unless they are going to hurt themselves in a pose or they can't quite figure out the arm movements.  And that most first timers want to be left alone.  That they are in such an uncomfortable space that hearing constant corrections only frustrates them.  I'd never looked at it that way before.  I think because I wanted the corrections right from the beginning.  He then went on to explain (I am not quoting this verbatim, but more of what I got out of it) that Bikram yoga is study of Self, hence the mirrors and silence.  That the instructor is there to guide your practice but YOU are essentially your own teacher.  You choose whether or not you really want to listen to the dialogue.  You make the decision if you are ready to focus on coming deeper into a pose.  The teacher is there to give you those gentle reminders but essentially it all comes down to YOU.

Wow.  I had always heard this but I had never REALLY heard it.


bikramyogicheryl said...

Interesting... thanks so much for sharing your perspective!

Yolk E said...

Great post, J! You raise some very interesting issues here. I'm a teacher, too, and it's difficult to find a balance between pushing students to their max and clarifying expectations and not overwhelming them with too much too soon! That can drive them from the subject... in this case, yoga!

Oh goodness... the first class. Isn't it amazing we ever came back? hahahahah.

hannahjustbreathe said...

"Bikram yoga is study of Self, hence the mirrors and silence."

Yes, yes, yes! I would like to think that all yoga is a study of self, but I really appreciate this Bikram teacher explaining Bikram in particular in this way. Sometimes, I hate the classes in which a teacher knows my name and is giving me, specifically, by name, all sorts of feedback and corrections. Because I just want to be able to sink into my self and not be aware of any other person. And each time the teacher calls me out, I become aware of him/her.

So...yeah, I'm torn. I like the personal attention (corrections, adjustments, etc.) some of the time, but other days? I just want my self-contained yoga.

Great post!

anna said...

I think with first timers... it's a real balance. Some of them want and crave attention and some want to disappear and heaven forbid you use their name! Everyone I know who teaches newbies talks about taking a knee when needed, just trying to stay in the room... but I know that in different areas of the country that are more "hardcore" than we are, things might be different. In my experience, everyone, I mean everyone, likes little corrective comments.