In honour of men’s week we decided to talk to one of our longest teaching male teachers! Cedric’s widsom and commitment to teaching and practicing Bikram Yoga continues to inspires us all. We got to sit down and ask him a few questions about his favourite postures, favourite books, and how it all started. Check out what we asked him here:
Hometown: Montreal, Beaconsfield
When/where did you take your first Bikram class? Who/what motivated you to try it? Who was your first teacher?
The year was 2000. I was in Montreal showing my co-workers how, since I’d started practising yoga stretches from a book, I could touch my toes with my fingertips without bending my knees. They all stood around, watching, in awe. Later that year I moved to Vancouver and decided to try a yoga class. I looked in the Georgia Straight, saw the words “hot yoga” and was immediately intrigued; it made sense to me. Off I went to the stinky little Bikram studio on Arbutus Street to try my first class – I was completely hooked. I remember thinking, “Death is near,” as I looked up at the teacher with short, blonde hair who was calmly trying to keep me moving with her operational commands. I thought she was an angel come to save me; turns out, she was. After I broke my leg and had to be in a cast for months, I volunteered at the studio in exchange for free yoga; when my cast came off the doctor gave me some elastics to rehabilitate. I threw them in the garbage because I knew what I had to do.
How many years have you taught Bikram? What is your favourite thing about teaching Bikram Yoga?
I’ve been teaching since 2006. My favourite thing about teaching is connecting with students. Often new students will go through similar struggles; as teachers we’re trained to guide them in the right direction. Knowing how to help is a really nice aspect of teaching. Some students have very unique struggles and/or injuries. To watch how they handle these and see them improve often inspires me. All in all, what I like most is the mindfulness of a student making a decision.
Describe your teaching style/philosophy
I strive to earn the trust of my students. My favourite classes include good, steady timing, so I try to teach that way. Sometimes I find analogies and metaphors a fun and helpful way to explaining technique. I used to teach with my personality in mind, but I’ve found it not very effective as an approach. Now I try to stay out of the way and stick to the Bikram dialogue; in this way I see more, as it creates more space to connect to the students’ struggles and often lets me offer constructive suggestions to help improve their practice.
What do you hope your students take away from your class?
That depends on the student. For beginners, I’d like them to take away hope and trust; for intermediate students, strength, faith and determination; for more advanced students, faith, mindfulness, discipline and vision.
What is your current favourite Bikram Yoga posture? What are you working on improving?
Like most, standing head to knee and standing bow. They’re such amazing postures, not only to do but also to look at. Just by seeing these poses being held you can observe all the mental and physical benefits manifested. Can you imagine how it would look to see a practitioner execute standing bow in the middle of the grass at Kits Beach? First, you’d be intrigued (“Look at that guy!”); then, after 30 seconds, people would start tapping each others’ shoulders, saying, “Check him out!” After a minute they’d be wondering what evolved planet is this person from? If you can hold either of these poses in their full expression for the full allocated time, your character becomes fluorescent. Bikram says if you can hold these two poses for full time and depth, your ego vanishes.
If you could give three bits of advice to beginners what would you tell them?
Place your mat behind and between two advanced practitioners so you can learn from them. Remember, in your first Bikram class you’re like Bambi, the deer. The forest fire might get you, all the predators are vying for you – it can be overwhelming. If you can make it through your first week of practice without giving up, you gain strength and become wiser. My advice is: do your first week, listen to and trust the teacher, don’t leave the room, stay calm and take it easy and learn how to handle the heat. At first you might suffer involuntarily but, with time, you’ll chase that suffering; you’ll find that within the suffering is great healing.
What advice would you give students starting to plateau or beginning to lose focus (get bored) in their practice?
Have faith, determination. Work harder. Don’t give up; fight to hold the poses. Just get stronger. In Bikram yoga, plateauing is a choice. Also, practice in the front, in the middle and at the back of the room. Don’t let your practice be defined by the conditions of the room. There are hundreds of excuses we come up with all the time: the room is too hot, the room is too cold, the teacher is too loud, it smells, the person in front of me is breathing too loudly … if you’re bored, take it as a sign of wrong thinking. You can’t be bored: there’s too much to do. Fix yourself with a sense of urgency.
What advice would you give longtime practitioners?
Be a good example to the other students. Do everything you’ve learnt in all your years of practice, and practise good karma; by staying disciplined other students learn from you. Keep in mind that you are also a teacher when you are in the room. Don’t ever leave the room. Go deeper into your meditation.
Do you have a life mantra or motta that you live by?
Have you read a great book or heard any great music lately that have inspired you or your yoga practice?
I really like reading novels, but I’m also into self-development audio books – you can go for a walk and listen to them or take a nap and fall asleep to them. I really like to just sit still and listen. Some narrators are better than others. Autobiography of a Yogi has a great voice; it’s narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley, of Gandhi fame. I recently listened to the Art of Happiness, about a guy who goes to the Himalayas to meet the Dali Lama with the intention to make comparisons between Western and Eastern approaches to psychology. He ends up following the Dali Lama in close proximity and the book takes a whole different path. It’s helped me understand the importance and power of compassion and, I think, helped me to be a better yoga teacher. I’m also a big fan of the Teaching Company collection, especially the lectures on Western philosophy.