Today I was kicked out of a Bikram class. That’s right. In a Bikram studio where the classes are already so sparsely attended that there were a mere six students in the classroom with me, the teacher so despised me that she rolled up my mat for me and told me to leave!
What was the problem? All I can give you are the facts.
It’s a new studio, relatively speaking. It’s only been around for less than a year. I am assuming that the teacher/owner is a relatively new teacher, since those are the people who tend to open up the Bikram Studios…students who became teachers for the purpose of opening a studio. She wasn’t young in years, but she had a vibe of a newbie-teacher (I was once a newbie teacher…and I am sure I gave off that icky and uncomfortable newbie teacher vibe at that time…like the icky and uncomfortable vibe given off by a couple sitting next to you at a restaurant who are obviously on a blind date).
I digress. Sorry. Anyway, when I walked in, the newbie teacher/studio owner asked me if I had any experience with Bikram Yoga. I told her I had been doing it for 10 years. Since Bikram is a 26-posture sequence that never ever changes, and since Bikram was designed for beginning yoga students, and since I told her that I had taught a form of hot yoga back a few years ago that was based on Bikram, it’s a pretty safe bet that I knew what I was doing, right?
So, we began with the first “posture”, which is really a breathing exercise. And about two seconds into it, the teacher called me out: “Lauren, why don’t you stop and watch the other students to see how to do this.”
I said, “No, I’m sorry, I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’m here to do the yoga, not to watch. But thanks.”
Then she started picking on some really inflexible, kind of spazzy guy in the back, and I thought I was safe. Telltale sign of a teacher picking on you: when they say, “I’m not pickin on you, but…” But that was his problem. Not mine. Mine was yet to come…
And by the way, one telltale sign of a newbie teacher is a teacher who picks on students. It is actually a sign, more specifically, that the teacher is having trouble staying focused on her teaching and is allowing herself to get distracted by what is going on around her. But again, I digress. Sorry.
Anyway, everything was going great for the next three or four postures. I listened to every instruction Teacher gave, which is always somewhat torturous for me, since I have heard the instructions 80,000 times by now (they never veer from the memorized monologue…never…ever…unless the teacher wants to take some serious abuse from Bikram Choudhury himself). I put out some really nicely executed poses in exactly the form she demanded – specifically, Utkatasana, Eagle Pose (Garudasana), Dandayamana Bipakdipada Paschimotanasana (aka standing on one leg with the other leg straight out in front of you and folding over the extended leg…or as we say in Ashtanga, “Uttitha Hasta Pandangustasana” – Extended Hand to Foot Pose), and Natarajasana (Dancer Pose, which is called Dandayamana Dhanurasana in Bikram). Those poses for me are the ones I can really do nicely. So, it’s not like I was sucking at the yoga. And the spazzy guy in the back had that covered, besides. So, it couldn’t be that she hated me because I was so “bad” at the yoga…
Unfortunately, after Dancer Pose, I began feeling lightheaded. This was not alarming to me since I have somewhat low blood pressure, and I tend to get lightheaded when I start to lose a lot of water through sweat. And since Bikram is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees, this is par for the course. But also, I hadn’t eaten all day, although that is also fairly standard procedure before a yoga class. And since this is pretty much “the drill” for me in any Bikram class (the triad of not eating, being dehydrated and being lightheaded from a dip in blood pressure) I know how to handle it…I get low to the ground and let my head sink between my knees.
Teacher called me out on that though. “Don’t put your head below your heart!! Remain standing!” Apparently, the anatomical rules are different in a Bikram classroom than they are in real life. Apparently, the failure of blood to be pumped to the head must be addressed by allowing it to drain to the feet in a Bikram class. ‘Mmkay.
“But I’m dizzy. And this is what I do when I’m dizzy.”
I could see her disapproval, coming off her like the steam was coming off of my skin. And so, I just tried to go with her suggestion and remain standing. But since this does not address the failure of blood to drain into my head, I began to get really really dizzy..as in “I am going to pass out now” dizzy.
But I wanted to behave. So, I drank a bit of water and “remained standing” as required. Yet somehow Teacher was not satisfied with this, and she did what I consider to be the unthinkable in a Bikram class: she came up to me and put her hands on my body. I’m not sure what she was trying to do with her hands – hold my back up straight? Give me a hug? Whatever it was, it is just NOT acceptable in a Bikram class, and 10 years of being a student of Bikram (on and off), I know that to be the case. There are NO physical adjustments, there is NO physical touching. And there is a really good reason for this, even if it is not the REAL reason (although maybe it is): no one wants to be touched when they are sweating in a room heated to 105 degrees, and least of all someone who is trying to keep from fainting in a room heated to 105 degrees.
I recoiled and gasped at her, “Listen, I just want to get through this class. You have to back off of me. Please.”
And with that she rolled up my mat and threw my money at me.
By the way, this was Bikram Yoga Ridgefield. Ridgefield, Connecticut, just off the main drag on Main Street. Just in case you are interested in going to a tiny, out of the way studio in a far-off corner of Fairfield County, Connecticut, with zero “shakti” (energy) and very few students to provide that shakti…and oh, yes, a crazy, control-freak teacher/owner who is an equal opportunity crazy, control-freak: not just the experienced yogis get trashed, but also the spazzy inflexible guys standing in the back wishing they were a little closer to their goal of losing 75 pounds.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…it’s not the first time I’ve had a problem in a Bikram class. And It’s not my true style of yoga. And I can’t seem to bear the heat anymore (back in 2002 and 2003, when it was my meat and potatoes yoga, I was in a very different “body”…and perhaps I needed the heat…now not so much), much as I want to. And maybe it’s me, not the teachers. Maybe.
But I still scratch my head…why should it be that hard for me to take a Bikram class??? Ironically, the last time that I had trouble in a Bikram class, the class itself went GREAT. I thought it was fantastic. I managed to get through the whole class with what I thought was no teacher-student drama. But in that case, when I walked out of the locker room, I heard the teacher gossiping about me. I’m sure I blogged about it. I don’t feel like linking to it though…too lazy!
Anyway, I think I will stick to Ashtanga and the occasional vinyasa class for now, at least until I get desperate for some heat in the winter. There’s still some uncharted Bikram territory for me in the greater NY area…Bronx Bikram anyone?