Ulrike, who loves cooking, meditating, being creative and spending time outdoors, tells us why she thinks regular Bikram Yoga practitioners may have to “wobble” a bit in order to truly gain balance in the hot room …
Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class …
Sometime in 2002, when I was still living in the U.K., I picked up a flyer. It said something like: “When you practice this yoga three to four times a week, you gain so much energy, you don’t need sleep anymore.” I was curious. Bikram Yoga? Never heard of it, but I was constantly tired and maybe this was just what I needed. I took my first class that fall in West London. I don’t remember much of it, only that I was late.
How long did it take you to start practising regularly?
A long time! I’d always been very active, running and cycling, and I did my own daily yoga and stretching practice at home. So, after that first Bikram Yoga class, I went on and off for a while. Finally, in 2005, I got hooked. I’d moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone; I was dealing with a lot of emotional stress and didn’t really know where I was going. I was in a great deal of physical pain, too, and had to take time off work. That’s when I started practising every day, doing doubles once or twice a week. I always felt good after class, like I could concentrate and deal with life again. I had more balance and I knew the yoga would always be there for me, never mind what was happening. In a way it gave me a great sense of security. That’s when I thought, “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.”
When did you decide to make the transition from student to teacher, and why?
I decided to go to Teacher Training in 2006, hoping to develop my practice further and, I think, seeking change. Looking back I can say that I was not well prepared! I had done doubles three to four times a week for several months, so physically I was OK. But I had never met Bikram Choudhury before and only knew from the blue book what he looked like. I thought for sure he would wear an orange robe!
Well, I experienced a lot of emotional release during the nine weeks of training. I had doubts and even thought about quitting a few times. But I met some amazing people and really felt that I was part of a big worldwide yoga community. After I finished the training I wanted to give back.
What do you like best about teaching Bikram Yoga? Are there any challenges?
I like to see the gradual changes in students that follow a regular practice. I try to keep it simple by giving clear instructions to help students concentrate on what they have to do in class. It can be challenging to read and cater to each individual, especially if classes are big. The same goes for finding a way to challenge the strong students without losing those that are struggling.
What’s the best advice you have for students at various levels?
For new students: come as often as possible, five to six times a week, for the first couple of months to create a good habit. Try practising with a friend and motivate one another. Learn the postures physically and ask questions. For regular students: be present and open to change. Accept what is and be honest with your practice. There is a tendency to, at some point, become “comfortable” once you know the postures and your body very well. I see many students that are very happy where they are and that’s when the practice can become mindless and stale. It’s human nature to look for the easy way; for example, if I get a correction for better alignment the posture might feel difficult and weak for a few weeks until it feels better. This can be a difficult step to make: leaving what feels steady and secure for something wobbly and unstable. This is also a time when we can learn the most.
Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions for 2012, the Year of the Dragon? Resolutions?
I have never done that; should I start now?!