Sunday, June 19, 2011

Post Grad Musings

Some people have asked me to share in more detail what it is that I found so disappointing about my training. Now while I don't want to continually just point out the negatives about everything here, in light of the fact some of you are considering coming to TT I will share my thoughts. In doing so, please take the following with a grain of salt and before making any decisions I would talk to other recent graduates to get their perspectives also. :-)

A bit about me and my background so that perhaps you can better understand where I am coming from. I have been practicing Bikram yoga 5-6 times a week for 3 years now. The studios I practiced at, both in Auckland and the Gold Coast, are hot, disciplined, and dialogue driven. That is to say, no-one leaves the room, we are encouraged to loose our "distracting" habits and I am blessed to have practiced under the guidance of some brilliant teachers who recognise how and when to push me and inspire me to improve my postures.

I regularly do doubles, and for the month leading up to training I practiced 11 times a week so that I could get my head around what that was going to feel like and how my body would respond, what I needed to eat, how to stay hydrated enough etc.

Certainly in the initial years of my practice I had many emotional / mental break-throughs both in and outside of the hot room that I feel the yoga helped me handle. That and I put aside time to "work on" some specific issues I felt I needed to change and so I feel that the past few years have been a real turning point for me in terms of personal, emotional and spiritual growth.

Perhaps because of this, I didn't have any major break-downs or break-throughs while being here at TT. Certainly there were times that I would come out of Camel posture with tears but I feel they were a result of the immediate situation and exhaustion rather than anything major I had to work through.

I found the physical challenge manageable. Yes, some days I felt like I had been hit by the yoga bus and there were the occasional classes that were incredibly hard but that was mostly due to the cranked up temperature rather than my physical capabilities. Again, I came WELL prepared for this. Some yogis came having only practiced 3-4 times a week and never having done a double. Also, I listened to my body. I didn't "freak out" about the fact we were doing 11 classes a week and ate what I needed to stay fueled and hydrated but did not stress out about it. I kept my diet simple, ate only when I was hungry and did not make any radical changes.

I was able to practice with no attachment to any particular spot in the room, and only took water with a squeeze of lemon juice into the room with me. It quickly became a well known fact that the left side of the room was hotter than the right side of the room and so you can well imagine the fight for mat space on the right hand side. That and some yogis agonised over the exact mix of water / Gatorade / Coconut water / Juice / Ice etc etc, and took extra towels, tissues etc etc into the room with me. I felt exhausted just watching them set up and arrange everything "just so". Some advice for potential trainess - practice non-attachment at home, stand in the hottest corner of your studio and try a few classes at the back of the room where you can't see yourself in the mirror (you will go weeks without seeing a glimpse of yourself in the mirror while here).

The biggest saving grace and the one thing I can not stress enough for anyone preparing to come here - I studied the dialogue and had learnt the Standing Series BEFORE getting here. That was indeed a life saver! It meant I got to sleep when others didn't - pure and simple. More sleep = less stressed. Many people did not even learn beyond Half Moon before getting here.

So in light of all this, I arrived here in the best possible physical and mental condition that I could. Also, by nature I don't tend to be a drama queen. I choose my battles and so long as it doesn't compromise my personal values am more often than not happy just to let things lie, rather than waste too much energy fighting something that isn't going to change.

So, what did I come here expecting to learn and gain? A deeper understanding of the postures, how to de-construct them and really understand how they are to be performed. To learn how to deliver a well constructed, professional, motivating class that would push the regulars to grow in their practice and inspire the newbies to come back again tomorrow.

So what did I learn?

Out of 9 weeks we only spent 4 hours on the very last night going through the postures with Bikram. Out of all the postures he only had Half Moon & Triangle demonstrated for us. I expected all of the postures to be broken down for us and to go into depth about why we do them the way we do etc, what to look for, how to improve them. I expected this to be the basis of our learning and still have many unanswered questions. Why do we do Triangle the way we do it rather than the way others practice it? In Cobra my shoulders don't stay on the floor. Does this matter? How can I improve this or is the intention enough?

In dialogue clinic we only ever did the right side of a posture. We did not practice delivering the dialogue for the left side of a posture, did not practice two sets of anything or put any of the postures together. The timing of each posture was explained to us in about 5 mins at 2:30am on the very last night. Now granted none of this is rocket science but we were constantly told to go out and teach a class asap after graduation and yet we have not even come close to practicing the delivery of the dialogue for a full class and how to get students in and out of the room in 90 mins?

Instead we got hours and hours and endless hours of Bikram's view of the Western lifestyle versus the Indian way of life. All I will say, is it is not a very nice viewpoint. And after hearing it time and time again over 9 weeks it became increasingly hard to stomach. When he would keep us up till the wee hours of the morning to share stories of his shopping trips of how he would drop over $40K on a diamond watch and choose to buy Bentleys on a whim, versus sharing his incredible knowledge of yoga with us, it was again hard to stomach. When you had to stay up till 4am to watch a Bollywood movie versus learning dialogue or anything of value, it get the idea.

Some people have said that his intention is to push our buttons and to try to get a reaction out of us, to see what would upset us the most etc. After all, they say what annoys you about a person is a reflection of yourself. Now while I agree that often we don't like in another person what we don't like about ourselves I just found his comments racist, sexist, chauvinistic and incredibly offensive (and I've spent the past 15 years working in the building industry and have come across plenty of chauvinistic sexist men on building sites so am not easily offended anymore). And delivering them in the style he did just made you switch off and tune out after a while.

If he wanted to push people's buttons and see how they would react why not have an organised debate over a topic close to people's heart (religion or politics) and let people argue both sides and then see how heated and passionate they get and what reactions are invoked. Instead we got a dictatorship style lecture where it is a single sided view point with no chance for rebuttal.

It all seemed such a senseless waste of time, and to quote my roommate, "uselessly hard". All I can say is thank god for the yoga.


  1. Steph:
    First, Congratulations on being certified! I hope you grow to become a fantastic teacher. From what I have learned about you from reading this blog, I am confident you will flourish. Second, thank you so much for being honest and thoughtful about what you did, saw, and felt during the process. Eye-opening -- at least for me. Finally, I hope you will continue to post from time to time about your practice and your fledgling career as an instructor. I believe there are many who would benefit from your insight. I wish you a safe trip home, and all the best to you and yours. Don't be a stranger!!


  2. So, Stephanie are you glad you went to Teacher Training? Do you feel like it was a waste of money? That's a lot of $$$$ for feeling the way you stated in the paragraph above. I am planning on going in Sept. but I am affraid I wil feel exactly how you felt. This worries me that it is just a money maker of a scheme...I am nervous and very worried.