~ thoughts on teaching, Bikram yoga and life such as it is.
IN THE BEGINNING : BECOMING A YOGA TEACHER
My real yoga journey began when I was lying face down on a yoga mat, sweaty, unable to breathe and being instructed to lift both legs up at the same time with pointed toes and straight legs behind me.
Physically, this was simply not an option available to me at the time - both legs? Try as I might, I think only my big toes lifted up and even that is debatable. But I did feel as light as air listening to the instructor; I just thought this must be the best job in the world. Then it popped into my head,
"What if I could do that? I'd love to do that. Could I do that??"
I sat on this thought for a few days before I even dared speak it out loud. It felt preposterous to ask to teach something I couldn't even do but then maybe that might make me a more understanding and compassionate teacher as I couldn't possibly be alone and besides, this was a long term idea - not something I was going to leap into.
I spoke to various people over the next month as I floated around in a blissful state of possibility and the universe delivered! Anticipating a barrage of obstacles, I found none. My yoga teachers were encouraging, my husband was on board instantly and even came up with a solution to the finances (this stuff don't come cheap!) and then it was up to me to prove that I was committed, both to my teachers and also to myself. This would mean practising at least 3, preferably 5 or more times a week, every week for the following year.
"Great! I'm in!" I thought...
I had given Bikram Yoga a go about 5 years before this point. I enjoyed it, had no idea what I was doing but felt good, really good, after a class. Plus, there was a real camaraderie in putting yourself through a gruelling 90 minute class of intense heat, supremely challenging postures and clothes-soaking sweat.
My excuses however, were abundant: it was expensive, time consuming, I could only get to class after work which meant less time for wine, I wasn't really any good at it, I smelt of wet dog afterwards and I absolutely hated hated hated looking in the mirror.
I lasted for ten classes, drawn out over about 6 months and then gave up.
But there it was and it kept tapping me on the shoulder, telling me to come back.
Last year, I found myself in the garden watching my daughters play. They kept asking me to join them but running was out of the question; I was just so damn tired. I had to haul myself upstairs, pushing through extreme exhaustion but in complete denial that anything might be amiss. That day in the garden was a major turning point as it suddenly dawned on me that being unable to play with my kids was entirely abnormal aged 41. I desperately wanted to be the mother that runs, jumps, laughs and treasures every moment.
The image that I had in my mind was unrealistically picture book - wind machine, slow motion, seventies-style-haze-around-the-lens unrealistic. But even with a dose of reality, I knew something had to change.
Ultimately I was diagnosed with autoimmune deficiencies and colitis. temporarily debilitating but nothing irreversible or unmanageable. By this time I was in quite some pain and so dumped my ego outside the door, and took my sorry, bloated, tired and very middle aged self "Back to Bikram".
My lightbulb moment came.
The trouble was, the only way that I could see being "allowed" to commit to this, what with kids, husband, life and so on still continuing around me, was to make this my job.
That is what I set out to do.
At this point, I feel it fair to point out that if you're thinking of becoming a yoga teacher, make sure you do plenty of research first.
There are so many types of yoga out there these days, some from very well respected lineages dating back thousands of years, and others that are more fitness driven. For me, and for the Bikram method community that I know, the fitness levels that come from yoga are merely a happy bi-product of practising. We all tend to be focused on real health, both mental and physical.
Find and try out as many different types of yoga as you can, give them all as much time and energy as you can to be sure that you find the one that suits you.
Fortunately, I was certain that it was Bikram yoga that I wanted to teach but I had a lot to learn about the training, especially at this time as the Bikram community was feeling a bit broken due to the allegations against Bikram Choudhry himself. Some people are still working on separating the yoga from the man. I could write an essay on that alone, but perhaps another time.
The Bikram method 26 & 2 series is incredibly powerful and meticulously designed. It is for beginners, although many if not most practitioners stay with this very same series for decades due to its myriad benefits for body, mind and soul.
The sequence is ordered so that each posture delivers nourishment to the body and at the same time prepares you for the next posture - it cleanses with breathing, it strengthens with posture and breath combined and it clears the mind. I defy you to think of that to do list or email or conversation while you are trying to stand on one leg and place your forehead to your knee in 42 degree heat!
The more you practise, the deeper you go, you begin to break patterns in life that no longer serve you, you find a deeper peace in life as you take your practise out of the hot room and all the alignment you find in the yoga, you bring to your daily life.
This is what I have learnt so far, in only two short years - there is so much more to come and even the most experienced teachers I know, still find there is more to learn. What a ride!
I will say, that with all the benefits the yoga offers, by far and away the greatest, is the people it has brought into my life. Some briefly, some for longer periods of time and some heartfelt life-long friends for sure.
My recommendation to you, if you want to become a yoga teacher, is go for it! Relish every moment. You won't look back.