The Worst Thing I Did For My Yoga Practice: Go To Teacher Training

These days, I rarely tell people I am a yoga teacher when I practice in their yoga classes.

Why?

Because it's not relevant to the class they're going to teach. And I want them to feel free to give me feedback in class. And when a teacher knows you are a teacher too, they often err on the side of complimenting your practice rather than giving you constructive feedback.

That noted, however, being a teacher in another teacher's class can annoy the fuck out of you. Seriously.

Especially when you are trained to teach something like Bikram, where the postures are the exact same in the exact same order every single class. And you're taught a dialog and have a very good sense of what the benefits of the postures are.

Bring a Bikram teacher isn't rocket science. It's about confidence. It's about your ability to truly motivate and inspire people to:
  1. Remember to breathe.
  2. Stay in the class.
  3. Jump back in the posture when they fall out and just want to give up, or feel comfortable resting out a posture if they truly feel they need it.
And all of this is in a very hot and humid room!

So naturally, in my opinion, there are occasionally some really bad Bikram teachers out there. They put no energy into how they teach. They just say the dialog. And while that may provide students with a decent class by taking them through the postures, it's not productive teaching. You're just dialing it in.

And there are a lot of "dialing it in" teachers out there.  Teaching a Bikram class should EXHAUST you...

  • You have to watch the bodies to make sure no one is going to hurt themselves by going into the posture incorrectly. 
  • You have to monitor the heat and humidity, because it is easy to get things too hot. (And this one I've seen a number of teachers in the past year SUCK DONKEY BALLS AT MONITORING.)
  • You have to use words and the dialog to instruct people through the postures, since you aren't  doing the posture yourself... Making how you use your voice and energy to keep things moving through the room critical.

It's not an easy job, when done properly.  It should exhaust you. It's incredibly rewarding, teaching a class. But I would find that if I taught a class and then tried to take a class afterwards, I just didn't have the energy.

There was recently a question asked in the Bikram Teacher's forum about whether it was more ideal to teach a class first and then practice in the class right after, or if it was better to practice first and then teach.

Quite a few people said it was better to teach first and then practice.

I think that is complete crap.

Teaching a class can exhaust me way more than taking a class. (As evidenced by what I wrote above.) I always found that if I taught first, there was no way I was going to be able to sit through a class right after and not feel obliterated on the first few postures.

But when I take a class first, and then teach... My practice energizes me!  And, it makes me more empathetic to what the students are feeling because I have just come out of that same experience an 90 minutes or so before them.

Last night in class 13 (day 12), I mentioned to the teacher that I was a teacher too. It came up because there was a new student and she needed to practice behind a regular so that she would know how to do the postures. The teacher put her behind me and said I would be a good example. I was flattered. And I decided to share, "And I'm a Bikram teacher too."

The teacher was surprised. I've been taught by her a few times. And my practice is very much NOT WHAT IT WAS SIX YEARS AGO.  I sit down because my muscles give out. I fidget. I don't go as deep as you would expect a teacher to go in the postures. But I go in and out of the postures correctly - which is the most critical thing. And that's why the teacher felt comfortable putting the new student behind me.

After class, the teacher asked if I was actively teaching. I said "no."  And that teaching and trying to maintain your practice and a full time job is really tough.  And that I had tried to do all of that five years ago when I became a teacher, but the first thing to get bumped off of the priority list was my practice.

"Going to teacher training was the worst thing for my practice," I said.

She laughed and smiled. And totally understood. We talked about the very things I listed in this post.

You sacrifice your own practice to teach - because it's not like you are doing the postures as well when you teach. You exhaust yourself teaching. And you become frustrated easily with other teachers for not being empathetic towards students.

And it's the last one that really peeves me. Again... Not monitoring the heat and humidity. Talking down to students. Not using their energy and voice to encourage and inspire the students. Saying COMPLETELY WRONG dialogue...

Holy shit... That reminds me of a class I took in the past few years where it was a fairly new teacher teaching a very packed class. There was a visibly pregnant regular practitioner in class. She was standing by the door, which she should. Halfway though the Standing Series, the teacher calls out the pregnant woman and says...

"Please stop opening the door. You're not to touch the door."

And my immediate reaction - out loud, mind you - was, "Um... WRONG! She is pregnant. She gets to do whatever she wants."

Others nodded in the class.  The new teacher - weak little flower who clearly had not been mentored well in the studio I was visiting - glared at me.

"I'm a Bikram teacher too. Pregnant students get to do whatever they want. Period," I said.

She segued back into teaching the rest of the postures. But I had clearly knocked her off her confidence. And I felt REALLY BAD about that. But we were talking about a PREGNANT WOMAN. And it's not like you couldn't tell she was pregnant. She was very pregnant. And she had been doing the pregnancy postures.

So see what I am saying? Going to teacher training is the worst thing I did for my practice. I am a judgmental and easily exhausted yogi.

Which is why I only focus on practicing right now. I want the yoga practice I had six years ago back.
I want to be be able to do Eagle and Standing Head to Knee properly. I want to almost be doing the splits again in Standing Bow.

And don't even ask about my Rabbit pose. I used to ROCK THE SHIT OUT OF RABBIT POSE. It was probably my best forward-bending pose. And now... Guess what? I can't even do it because I want to vomit every time I do!!

Here's to getting my shit together.

Class 14/Day 13 of the Bikram 101 is in a few hours.