I survived the first week! This place is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Nothing could have fully prepared me to be here. Two Bikram Yoga classes a day, 7+ hours of lectures a day, and hardly enough time in between to prepare food, shower, do laundry, and sleep. Eventually I’ll be squeezing some study time in there too.
The classes here are tough. Students drop to their mats like rain, several even leave the room to be sick. A few are seized in head-to-toe cramps after class. Everyone is bewildered. I’ve been strong so far—I have not had to leave the room yet, but I have taken a knee a few times. My last few classes were my strongest—no breaks, no dizziness. I tweaked a muscle in my back during the first class on Monday morning. I mistook "taking it easy for the first week" for "using bad alignment in triangle" (ouch!). I was concerned the first three days after that, but with lots of heat, ice, and yoga everything feels good again. Crazy how that works.
Lectures so far have been focused on Dialogue, with the exception of one late-night Bollywood movie (an Indian musical combination of Grease, Die Hard, and Blue Lagoon). Peppered into every lecture are Bikram’s stories—about his life, his success, his cars, watches, and high profile students. These can be tedious, but they’re fascinating.
A key component of teaching Bikram Yoga is the script. Bikram has written a script for each of the 26 postures and two breathing exercises in his series. This script, known as the Dialogue, is designed to allow the practitioner to turn his or her brain off and let the body respond to the instructions given by the teacher with minimal distraction. The words let the brain sync 100% with the movements of the body, as opposed to having any portion of the brain off thinking about anything else. This facilitates a union between body and mind, which for me is the point of yoga.
The Dialogue also gives Bikram a great deal of quality control. With 8900+ certified Bikram Yoga teachers across the globe, the Dialogue helps to preserve the intent and promote the impact of Bikram’s yoga series. Bikram is very protective of his series of postures and the Dialogue. He seems okay with some changes here and there, but you must be able to remain as effective "off Dialogue" as you are "on Dialogue."
For the first 1.5-2 weeks of TT, Bikram listens to each student deliver the Dialogue for Half Moon pose, the first posture in his series. The experience is a bit like an American Idol audition, only everyone sings the same song and there’s only one judge. If I had to pick just one judge to compare Bikram to, it would be Simon. One by one we each stand on the stage, microphone in hand, and instruct three "demo" students in Half Moon pose. In the audience, 400+ teacher trainees and, front and center, Bikram - listening, judging. Then Bikram provides his feedback—on your voice, your pace, your hair and body size, and your future as a Bikram yoga teacher.
On day 1 (Monday), I made my way to the holding pen area of the lecture room – a group of 25 chairs to the right of the stage. I signed my name on line 24 – which I think indicates that Darci Bolger was the 24th student (of 400+) to deliver Half Moon. When the time came, I made my way to the line of the next 5 students to speak. And there I stood, Half Moon running through my mind a million times in a row (to make sure I had it down pat), heart banging against my chest in protest, and my brain doing its best to remind my body that a physical reaction to any nervousness will only work against me. I forced a smile and I felt calm and happy, even confident. And then "NEXT!" from Bikram and the microphone was in my hands.
My protesting heart took over and I felt a heat wave roll down my arms. Before I could even center my feet on the speaker’s mark, I felt a bead of sweat trickle down my spine.
"Hello Bikram. Hello everybody. My name is Darci Bolger. I am from Issaquah, Washington, near Seattle. I practice at Bikram Yoga Bellevue, owned by Hilary Larson."
True to form, Bikram didn’t miss a beat. He asked if I knew Hillarie’s kids, commented on how great they were, and said he’d just had dinner in Seattle two nights before (with Bikram Yoga Bellevue teachers in attendance). He does this with almost every student—it’s amazing how well he knows his studios. I beamed with pride. I love my studio.
And then Bikram commanded, "START PLEASE!"
My mind blanked and autopilot took over. My mouth ran with the words, verbatim (I think), suppressing my mind’s urge to worry whether I’d remember what came next. I delivered the Dialogue with an ever quickening crescendo, grew louder and stronger with each phrase, and left no pauses between each line. I was showing Bikram that I could kick students’ asses.
I earned a healthy applause and a good dose of cheers from the student audience. And I braced myself to be gracious, no matter how much Bikram loved me.
And then Bikram brought me back down to earth: "I will tell you something I have already said to some other ones: You have to have more varieties. You can’t just come out and push push push push push. You have to have some hard, some soft. You don’t want to eat Chinese food every night. You sometimes want Italian, sometimes want Mexican, sometimes want a steak. You want to have the varieties. You understand? Do I make my point?" I smile, say yes and thank you. I turn to hand the microphone to the next student, and Bikram adds, "That was very good. Fantastic." With this, I felt challenged, encouraged, and good.
I am privileged to learn how to teach this yoga directly from the one who developed it. Bikram is a part of history. People will practice Bikram Yoga forever (or as long as there is enough energy in the world to heat the yoga room to 105 degrees!), and I’m one of the lucky few who are able to learn directly from the source. I am hanging on every word and can’t wait to apply them to my own classes some day.
This whole process is torture and exhausting. But a privilege. They say the first week or two are all about adjusting to the surroundings, the schedule, the nutrition. This experience is a real shock to the body and mind. Even so, I had a great first week and I’m looking forward to the next.
The internet connection here is superbad. In fact, I’m unable to get online long enough to post this blog update. I can get online long enough to email it though, so this is coming to you from me via Mike. And this means my time online on the weekends won’t be as much as I had hoped. I miss home a ton, but that too is part of this process.
Sending my love and thanking everyone for theirs,