Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Riddle: Why did the Bikram Teacher cross the road?


Yeah, I went to another Bikram class on Monday. This time, it was at an authentic Bikram studio. As Eeyore and Cranky commented on my last post, it's nice to get warm in the winter, and the poses feel good on my Western body, but it sure doesn't resemble yoga. No, that's not fair. It does resemble yoga. In the same way that the bastardized pronuciation of "SAH-vasana" resembles the actual Sanskrit pronunciation "SHAH-vasana". In the same way that "Johnny Shirahsana" (you know, that former porn star who now teaches Bikram yoga?) resembles what I have come to know as "Janoo Sheershasana". In the same way that a standing forward bend with hands under the heels resembles its namesake "Padahastasana". Or the way that Padahastasana resembles what the Bikramites out there call "Gorilla". Or the way that being told to "kick the feet up behind you" resembles the instructions for Dhanurasana, but just somehow, is so NOT.

I went for the heat. And I did pretty much what the teacher told me to do. Except when I felt that there was something I wanted to do that was not exactly what the teacher told the class to do. Like, when I wanted to put my palms under my TOES in Padahastasana. Or when I wanted to bind in Standing Half Lotus (which in Bikram is called "tree"). Or when I decided to do the splits instead of the second set of JanOO Sheeershahsana and Kurmasana instead of the second set of PahSHEMOEtahnasana.

The teacher, a musclehead who gloatingly told the class that he also lifts weights at the gym to get his (outsized, unattractively muscle-bound) physique, called me out on it when I was exiting the studio.

"I know that no one likes to be treated like a child and told what to do, but I think it was disrespectful of you to do your own thing in my class." So said the Muscle Head.

"Hmmm. Well. Actually I think that you were disrespectful to me in class when you told me that I can't modify a pose." So said me.

"You weren't modifying poses. You were doing the advanced version of poses. And I didn't tell the class to do them." Said he.

"And?" Said me.

"And so you shouldn't do them. It's like you were just using the room for the heat."

"I was."

"That's wrong."


"Because you ruin it for everyone else."

"How's that?"
"Because the room's energy depends upon everyone doing the same thing."
"But everyone's not doing the same thing. Some people can't wrap their legs in Garudasana. Some people are able to back bend much more deeply in Natarajasana."
"When you do something different, it distracts ME."

"Isn't that YOUR issue?"

"You can't just use the room for the heat."

"Why not? I paid my twenty dollars."

"I'm not certified to teach the advanced postures. So if you practice them, I risk liability if you get injured."

"But you made me sign a waiver."

And so on. And so forth. And ultimately, because the reality is, I plan to keep "using the heat", horrible yoga bitch that I am, I said, "Look, okay, this is how you want it to be in your classroom, so when I take your class, I will try to stay on your page." But damned if I can understand the contradictions within the system.

How glad was I to get back to the CT Shala today? VERY. And I had a lovely practice, but a very hard practice, indeed. Next to me, Prostrates To Photo of Guruji was having a very rough day, apparently. Every jump through of his set off a minor earthquake. And his breath was as ragged as my thoughts became. But when I felt the urge to tell him that his foot was turned the wrong way in Janu Sirsasana B and that he might want to consider NOT jumping straight into the pose because it's more work and technically more correct to jump into Dandasana first, I knew that it was in fact I who had the problem.
And out of that problem, I created a very challenging yoga practice. Driste, driste, driste, I kept telling myself. Don't look. Just keep your driste. And when the noise and earth shaking would seep into my conscsiousness, I corralled them too with very very strong (loud?) ujayi breathing. I seriously felt AWESOME as a result. My hips joints have never felt more supple in Supta Kurmasana than they did today. My backbending felt light (well, that was partially due to the fact that I did three backbends with the strap around my thighs; damn, if that isn't an amazing way to wake up your legs; and it was also partially due to some advice given to me by my adorably wacky shala mate, Unafraid To Speak Her Mind: legs closer together, toes pointing IN...and let me just say WOW, who'da thunk it?). And although I had to work very hard, it was a hard won wonderful practice.

On a side note: that other shala mate with the whole rock-warming/rock-holding routine? I asked her what that was about. Her answer was so heartwarming, I almost cried while almost pummeling myself for being such a judgemental beeyotch. She explained that she teaches children's yoga at the shala, and that she has the kids pass around the rock and blow their fears and problems into it. Then, each day, she burns off the fears and problems and says a little prayer for the kids. That is just so....decent. Sometimes, when you want to understand something, the best thing to do is just ask.

That's all.



cranky housefrau said...

um, i have to agree with the guy. when people come into my class and do their own thing i want to bean them. if you are going to do your own thing, do it at home. if someone has been coming to class long enough that i am familiar with their practice, i give them some leeway. but someone i don't know? rude.

kayla said...

I'm going to a Bikram class tomorrow at an authorized studio. But it's in a hippie neighborhood, so it's all good, man, as long as you set up in the back row.

drawer queen said...

I too enjoy a good Bikram romp every now and then, but am offended when the teacher calls me out and orders me to "lock my knees" or tells me in standing bow pose to "Kick like you are kicking your worst enemy". Just leave me alone. I will stay within the framework in that I will not flow through a vinyasa, I will not be doing some wild ass different pose, but modifications should be allowed. I have never been in or taught a class where everyone is at the same level.

AC said...

I still enjoy my Bikram class on a regular basis. live and let live! Yes, yes when you attend someone else's class you either follow what's said or don't bother attending. As they say, you'll acquire disciples if there are newbies around and they're following you rather than listening to the teacher.........

eeyore said...

that's very cool about her rock. wouldn't that have been nice when we were little?

Anonymous said...

Hey, nice post lauren. Well, at first I thought all you did was bind your lotus, but we all know my reading comprehension, so i read it again and I saw just how naughty you were...

However, if I were the teacher, I don't think I would have said anything. One of the things I love about my current teacher is that I can do different stuff in the led class and he doesn't draw attention to it--mostly, I am modifying, so usually doing 'less' than the full pose because of an injury. Sometimes doing dropbacks during the back bend portion when drop backs haven't been called. So, maybe you were a little naughty to go to the point where you were actually doing a different pose rather than just ramping up the pose that was being offered. However, if you look like you know what you're doing, who cares? My former teachers have a little statement on their waiver that says something like: just as a student chooses a teacher, our teachers may refuse to teach a student...
I always admired that about them. So they could bar you at the door, you bad lady. And then you would have to get your heat somewhere else.

Laurie said...

I have so many levels in my classes and I encourage it. It's my job as a teacher to give options. As long as you are doing something within the same family of poses, great... it's my job as teacher to take you there, whether I can do the pose by myself or not. Sometimes I even have a student demo if it's a pose I just can't do yet. But... I hate it when students go way off of the map and I would call them on that. I have one students who does handstands during savasana. After we've already done handstands.

I love the rock story. It's a fabulous example of making positive assumptions about people, or simply asking for understanding. I'm impressed that you asked!

samasthiti said...

Eh, do what you like.
It's you're 20 bucks.
Go to the rear of the room.

Arturo said...

Hi Lauren
Funny post. I don't have an opinion. It would have helped your situation if the teacher announced to the class that if someone wanted to practice a more advanced version of the asana feel free to do so. But apparently this teacher did not. Maybe it is a common problem in Bikrams that some people use the room because of the heat. By the way, I read your comment in Vanessa's blog and I'm sorry that you fell in Pasasana today. We put a lot of trust in our teachers, but they are human too. Last week I was falling forward and backwards in the asana, but was lucky that my teacher caught me. It reminds me of a famous NY ballerina who said in an interview that when a ballerina jumps way in the air, full open mouth smiling, expecting to be caught by the male partner, if she's not caught, she's bound to the dentist for a full new set of teeth.
Cheers, Arturo

sony said...

Hi i am kishore and i have a blog with good traffic, shell we have link exchange.On my blog i am providing s60v3 applications and keygens and my blog is ALL ABOUT NOKIA

Copyright 2005-2007 Lauren Cahn, all rights reserved. Photos appearing on this blog may be subject to third party copyright ownership. You are free to link to this blog and portions hereof, but the use of any direct content requires the prior written consent of the author.

About Me

My photo
Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


Ashtanga Blogs

Thanks for reading Yoga Chickie!