Reader, writer, traveller and yoga teacher Chelsea recently returned from Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. Read her profile to find out why her best advice to all you students out there is to “pay attention to the details” and “step outside your comfort zone.”
Tell us about your first-ever Bikram Yoga class …
I started Bikram Yoga in December 2009. I was halfway though my final year of university, feeling like all I had done for the last four years was study. Before I moved to Vancouver to attend UBC, I had been a competitive figure skater since I was eight. I felt a small void in my life, just going to school and not having my skating to focus on anymore. I was into running during university and did a few marathons, but I still missed skating, competing and just having an activity I genuinely loved in my life. After hearing my friends rave about Bikram Yoga for years, I finally went to Kits and took my first class. With Dylan as my teacher, I couldn’t help but enjoy my first class. I never imagined I would take yoga so far, and am very grateful to now be a teacher.
Were you a regular from the very start?
I really didn’t make time for a regular practice until I graduated from university in the spring, about six months later. Looking back, I wish I had made time for a regular practice when I was still in school because it definitely would have helped balance out all the studying. Now, I practise almost every day. I love seeing the staff, teachers and students, so going to the yoga studio is usually the best part of my day.
When did you decide to become a Bikram Yoga teacher?
I actually decided to go to Teacher Training exactly one week before it started! I was contemplating going back to university but I just wasn’t ready for more school at the time. I wanted to dedicate myself to something my heart was into, so I decided to go to training. I’m lucky I had the resources and support to go, and my family and friends were very encouraging.
Since I signed up so close to the start date, I went to training with no expectations. The best part of the whole experience was simply learning to co-exist and eventually love a group of strangers. I made amazing friends and got to work with some of the most talented teachers in the yoga community. Without a doubt the toughest part was the lack of sleep. As much as I love Bikram and his late-night Bollywood movies, my body was constantly starving for more than four or five hours of sleep a night.
Would you encourage others to go to training?
Definitely! That being said, you need to understand you aren’t just going to LA to live in a hotel for nine weeks and do yoga twice a day. Teacher Training is a physically and mentally exhausting process that breaks you down at times, leaving you wondering why you ever went. But if you can work through the self-doubt and have faith in your abilities, the whole process will develop your character and end up being one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
What do you love most about teaching Bikram Yoga? Any challenges?
The thing I love most about teaching yoga is the connection I feel with students. It’s difficult to explain, but as a teacher you begin to form unspoken bonds with the students in your classes. The most challenging part so far is teaching beginners. I’m learning to keep the flow of the class going while still giving beginners the individual attention they need during their first few classes.
What’s your best advice for students?
My advice to new students is to pay attention to the details. When I was just starting I didn’t think the little details were all that important, so I started to form a lot of bad habits that I’m still struggling to break. Build a strong foundation from the start so you don’t have to go back and break your bad habits later on. Advanced practitioners: step outside your comfort zone a bit. Get comfortable practising in different parts of the room and, if you can, take classes with different teachers. All the teachers at BYV are unique and talented, and each has something different to offer.
Are there any parts of your practice you’re still working to improve?
My real challenges began when I got home from Teacher Training and began to understand all the small things I’ve been doing wrong all this time. Danny told me during class one day that I maybe improved 1% after training – and he’s right. Bikram Yoga is a journey, not some destination you reach. I’m still constantly trying to improve.