By Noa Glow
Ada, who just got back from Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, tells us what it takes to spend nine weeks learning to lead Bikram Hot Yoga classes.
When did you start practising Bikram Yoga?
I started practising five years ago to treat my scoliosis. I immediately noticed how the hot yoga classes calmed my mind. I was better able to deal with stress and fell in love with the feeling of being more grounded. Plus, zero back pain!
When did you decide to go to Bikram Teacher Training and what steps did you take to make it happen?
Halfway through university I set my mind on going and started saving up. When I graduated from UBC it seemed like the ideal time to go: no classes, no exams, no problem! With some help from the “Bank of Mom and Dad,” I went to L.A. for the Spring 2012 Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. Before I left I focused on keeping up my Bikram Yoga practice (five hot yoga classes a week, down to three closer to my departure so I wouldn’t wear myself out) and learning the Bikram Yoga dialogue.
I got great advice from Bikram Yoga Vancouver teachers. Ashley Grimm told me to stick to people who are positive and lighthearted like me. She said everyone goes to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training for a different reason, so it’s important not to get caught up in other people’s drama. The negativity can bring you down. Chelsea’s advice was simple: “Sleep whenever you can!” With only three or four hours of rest some nights, it definitely becomes your best friend!
I was really nervous in the days leading up to my flight. There were so many unknowns: would my body be able to handle the daily double Bikram Yoga classes? Would I get along with my roommate? I didn’t know the other BYVers who’d be with me, but made sure I met them before take-off. There turned out to be about 20 Vancouverites at training this spring (probably more than any other city), so it was a nice family and support system.
Got any good packing tips?
I took eight sets of hot yoga clothes – and not much else! In hindsight I packed all wrong: too many cute tops and not enough sweatpants. But it’s California – anything I needed, I bought. I also brought a jumbo bottle of Elete Electrolyte with me, and a journal to write in.
What were the first few days of Bikram Yoga Teacher Training like?
It was all about getting used to the schedule. The first time I walked into the hot yoga room (a converted ballroom big enough to hold 700 sweaty bodies) I gasped! And, just like everyone told me, I started making friends immediately. There’s something about that buzzing energy that gets you to open up. And I’m glad I did; I now have close friendships with people from all over the world! My roommate, a girl my age from Hawaii, was really easygoing; I’m so grateful we got along. There’s a lot going on physically and emotionally, so it’s nice to come “home” to someone you click with.
What did you think of Bikram Choudhury and the senior Bikram hot yoga instructors?
Bikram Choudhury taught most evenings and gave us numerous lengthy lectures. He’s a character: flashy but hardworking, extravagant but honest. Not your stereotypical guru, he can be very charming – when he wants to be. He’s famous for the blunt nicknames he gives students (I won’t mention any of the names he gave me here!).
Our visiting teachers included world champions and instructors from the very first Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. Even Bikram Yoga Vancouver’s Danny Dworkis came down and taught a class! It’s so nice to have teachers with 10-plus years of experience; beyond the dialogue, they’ve know how to tap into each student’s energy, motivation and willpower. One of my favourites, Tricia Donegan, happens to teach Lady Gaga Bikram Yoga in New York.
What was the best thing about Bikram Yoga Teacher Training?
The people I met: over 400 yogis from all over the world, each with a story so rich it moves you. It’s amazing how Bikram Yoga brings us together, regardless of background, health or age. The youngest trainee in my group was 17; the oldest was 67.
What did you find most challenging?
Your emotions definitely go for a spin! About 90% of trainees go through some form of “emotional release” during the nine weeks; for some it materializes as hysterical laughter while others get an unsuppressed urge to swear (at themselves, to themselves). But for most it comes as tears. Yes, you witness a lot of crying! I remember, about two weeks in, I wanted to burst out crying in the middle of Savasana. I didn’t know why I was feeling that way, so I only allowed myself a half-cry to calm down. About a week later I experienced the feeling again (strangely, it happened on a day when the same senior teachers – Emmy Cleaves and Jim Kallett – were teaching); this time I let it all out – and felt brand spanking new after!
How did Bikram Yoga Teacher Training change you?
I learned about pushing my boundaries and gained confidence when I saw how much I was capable of under extreme exhaustion. My Bikram hot yoga practice changed, but not in the way I thought it would. The fact is, certain muscles become overworked at TT; certain Bikram Yoga postures suffer. At the same time, you start discovering muscles you didn’t know youhad. Now I feel stronger (especially in my arms: where there was once spaghetti there is now steel) and find myself going deeper into postures. I’ve always struggled with Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose; now my head easily touches the floor. I also learned the importance of not judging your body, because it changes in ways you can’t predict. Some people lost 20 pounds in the nine weeks; others gained that much. Bikram Yoga will bring your body to where it needs to be and, often, the real impact of Teacher Training won’t become apparent until six months after you get home.
Would you recommend Bikram Yoga Teacher Training to anyone, even if they don’t intend to teach?
Lots of people come to training with no intention of teaching; rather, they come to take their practice to new levels and deal with personal matters. All are good reasons to go. Beyond thephysical aspect, TT gives you insight into the history of yoga, the anatomy of the body and how Bikram Yoga impacts your body, mind and spirit.
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What are your top tips for Bikram Yoga Teacher Training?
Go into it with an open mind. Free yourself from expectations and your journey will be void of unnecessary stress. Don’t just aim to survive; aim to thrive. Try to relinquish control over factors you can’t control and enjoy each and every moment, even the struggles (they’re a sure sign you’re growing). And, whatever you do, don’t wear green!