Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bikram's Torture Chamber

WARNING: This post uses explicit language that may be offensive to some readers.

So this Friday we had 120 teachers who are here for re-certification join us for the 5pm class. Now they usually cram us 430 trainees and then prob an extra 20 or so staff members into the ballroom we have come to call the yoga room and you can't move without touching someone in "inappropriate places" so you can imagine what it was like putting another 120 yogis in there along with us.

You can see from these pic that most of us were mat to mat with no space between. If you didn't already know your neighbours it was time to introduce yourself as you were about to get probably a lot closer and personal with them than perhaps you would have liked. Note: After this experience, be warned yogis at home, because if you feel you don't have enough space around you, or you don't get your favourite "cool" spot in the room and complain because you can't see yourself in the mirror you won't be getting any sympathy from me! (And they said I was going to be too nice...........)

It was clear from the start that Bikram was determined to remind the teachers of their own TT experience and make them (and us) work hard. (I should remind you that this was the day after he had kept us up till after 4 a.m. watching a bleepin movie so us trainees were running on only 3 hours sleep.)

To start the room was heated to 120 degrees F (at least 10 degrees hotter than usual) - I'll convert that to Celsius for those who are metric - it was Fucken HOT! And that was 120 BEFORE you even put over 500 yogis in the room. If you had any doubt about whether this was going to be a hard class or not it instantly dissipated the second you walked in that door and the heat hit you like a tonne of bricks. Most of us were dripping with sweat before we even started...................... I can tell you that is not a good feeling.

We started with umpteen Pranayamas. This is the breathing exercise that warms the body up and usually we do two sets of 10. I don't know how many we did but by halfway through the 2nd set and my shoulders were already screaming and still Bikram didn't stop. A sign, that Sh*t I was going to be in trouble in this one! Gulp.

The class proceeded from there with Bikram delivering the dialogue excruciatingly slow so that we were in the postures for a really long time. There were the usual corrections and berating of students and in particular the teachers who were there for re-cert and had the misfortune of having to stand in the first 3 rows. Some of whom he threatened to take away their certification because their postures were so crap. (I have to admit there were moments when I thought if it meant I would never have to come back and take a f'n class with him EVER again then I would gladly give up my certificate)

This was all punctuated with Bikram's mindless antidotes about random topics (usually himself) and him perving at himself in the mirrors (thats what they are there for didn't you know?) all done while you were in the posture so that he held you there even longer still . And of course I can't forget his favourite Hot Room party trick - to leave us in a posture (often halfway through Awkward) while he stops and takes a swig of his ice cold coke and then sees how loud he can then burp for us. I swear I am not exaggerating here - you couldn't make this sh*t up!

It was by far the hardest class I have ever done. I don't know what the final temp would have been but by the first Savasanah at the end of the standing series halfway through the class half the yogis were walking out. He asked. "Why are all these people leaving? Is there was a flea market or something outside? I love flea markets!" Groan.......FUUUUUCK!

By the end of the spine strengthening series yogis were being carried out as fast as they could find capable bodies able to do so. Note by this time we are already on the floor so its not a good sign. I heard afterwards that 25 people got carried out and that countless others walked or stumbled out of the room under their own steam. Still the hot air blasted with unrelenting force. Bikram joked that he needed to call more ambulances. What the .......? He asked if we felt like we were going to die? You are not lucky enough to die he said! Oh how friggen true and probably the most sane thing he said all night.

And still he talked and t-a-l-k-e-d. The pauses between paragraphs of dialogue grew longer and even the Savasanahs grew longer - normally a good thing right? But when it feels like a thousand degrees, you're drowning in pools of your own sweat and you ran out of water half an hour ago, lying still is the hardest thing in the world to do.

The final nail in the coffin, for those of us still in the room was that even once the class had finally finished he insisted the doors be kept shut! That no one else be let out and we had to stay in savasanah and listen to a song off his CD. (Geez I've just realised as I write this that I haven't mentioned Bikram's CD before! Think 70's bad elevator music) If you were looking for a definition of insanity this was it!

The class ran for over two hours - torture even under normal circumstances. Though I don't know how to define "normal" anymore? This whole training and that class in particular is almost impossible to put into words that seem sane. What was I supposed to gain from this experience? Is it necessary to make people faint and throw up to become better yoga teachers? Something about that goes against my thoughts of what yoga is all about.

Certainly for me the ONLY way for me to get through that class was to re-direct my absolute exhaustion and frustration into anger. Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of doing yoga? And I won't write here what I was thinking, but I will tell you I was determined I was NOT going to leave that room and nothing that he - expletive expletive expletive too appalling to even write here - was going to do would make me leave. So I stayed in the room and actually managed to do most of the postures though have to admit to not even attempting Camel. ( The yogi next to me got up to do it and then said, ugh maybe not, as he very quickly sat down again. Hey you were a braver soul than moi!) But I can't say I feel richer for the experience.

So days later we're still talking about the infamous Friday night class, and what drives someone to teach a class like that? My smile in the pic afterwards is fake and only barely covers my absolute disbelief at what I had just witnessed. Certainly it took me to a new head space and there were some interesting conversations going on in there, but am I a better person for it? I think the Universe has thrown at me far greater challenges while I have been here that are going to better define who I am, that built far more character and strength and will make me a better yoga teacher than that class will.


  1. Oh that dude is insane man!!!! It's actually horrifying to read. He is just weird.

  2. Unreal. F'ing unreal. I must say that I really do appreciate the "unvarnished" quality of your blog... This is the only TT blog I've ever read that has explained just how crazy it can get... It keeps me coming back to your blog for more! I do hope you find the answers to the questions you put forth... Keep telling it like it is, and best of luck the rest of the way!!! Peace.