Riddle: Why did the Bikram Teacher cross the road?
BECAUSE I SAID SO. Namaste.
Yeah, I went to another Bikram class on Monday. This time, it was at an authentic Bikram studio. As Eeyore and Cranky commented on my last post, it’s nice to get warm in the winter, and the poses feel good on my Western body, but it sure doesn’t resemble yoga. No, that’s not fair. It does resemble yoga. In the same way that the bastardized pronuciation of “SAH-vasana” resembles the actual Sanskrit pronunciation “SHAH-vasana”. In the same way that “Johnny Shirahsana” (you know, that former porn star who now teaches Bikram yoga?) resembles what I have come to know as “Janoo Sheershasana”. In the same way that a standing forward bend with hands under the heels resembles its namesake “Padahastasana”. Or the way that Padahastasana resembles what the Bikramites out there call “Gorilla”. Or the way that being told to “kick the feet up behind you” resembles the instructions for Dhanurasana, but just somehow, is so NOT.
I went for the heat. And I did pretty much what the teacher told me to do. Except when I felt that there was something I wanted to do that was not exactly what the teacher told the class to do. Like, when I wanted to put my palms under my TOES in Padahastasana. Or when I wanted to bind in Standing Half Lotus (which in Bikram is called “tree”). Or when I decided to do the splits instead of the second set of JanOO Sheeershahsana and Kurmasana instead of the second set of PahSHEMOEtahnasana.
The teacher, a musclehead who gloatingly told the class that he also lifts weights at the gym to get his (outsized, unattractively muscle-bound) physique, called me out on it when I was exiting the studio.
“I know that no one likes to be treated like a child and told what to do, but I think it was disrespectful of you to do your own thing in my class.” So said the Muscle Head.
“Hmmm. Well. Actually I think that you were disrespectful to me in class when you told me that I can’t modify a pose.” So said me.
“You weren’t modifying poses. You were doing the advanced version of poses. And I didn’t tell the class to do them.” Said he.
“And?” Said me.
“And so you shouldn’t do them. It’s like you were just using the room for the heat.”
“Because you ruin it for everyone else.”
“Because the room’s energy depends upon everyone doing the same thing.”
“But everyone’s not doing the same thing. Some people can’t wrap their legs in Garudasana. Some people are able to back bend much more deeply in Natarajasana.”
“When you do something different, it distracts ME.”
“Isn’t that YOUR issue?”
“You can’t just use the room for the heat.”
“Why not? I paid my twenty dollars.”
“I’m not certified to teach the advanced postures. So if you practice them, I risk liability if you get injured.”
“But you made me sign a waiver.”
And so on. And so forth. And ultimately, because the reality is, I plan to keep “using the heat”, horrible yoga bitch that I am, I said, “Look, okay, this is how you want it to be in your classroom, so when I take your class, I will try to stay on your page.” But damned if I can understand the contradictions within the system.
How glad was I to get back to the CT Shala today? VERY. And I had a lovely practice, but a very hard practice, indeed. Next to me, Prostrates To Photo of Guruji was having a very rough day, apparently. Every jump through of his set off a minor earthquake. And his breath was as ragged as my thoughts became. But when I felt the urge to tell him that his foot was turned the wrong way in Janu Sirsasana B and that he might want to consider NOT jumping straight into the pose because it’s more work and technically more correct to jump into Dandasana first, I knew that it was in fact I who had the problem.
And out of that problem, I created a very challenging yoga practice. Driste, driste, driste, I kept telling myself. Don’t look. Just keep your driste. And when the noise and earth shaking would seep into my conscsiousness, I corralled them too with very very strong (loud?) ujayi breathing. I seriously felt AWESOME as a result. My hips joints have never felt more supple in Supta Kurmasana than they did today. My backbending felt light (well, that was partially due to the fact that I did three backbends with the strap around my thighs; damn, if that isn’t an amazing way to wake up your legs; and it was also partially due to some advice given to me by my adorably wacky shala mate, Unafraid To Speak Her Mind: legs closer together, toes pointing IN…and let me just say WOW, who’da thunk it?). And although I had to work very hard, it was a hard won wonderful practice.
On a side note: that other shala mate with the whole rock-warming/rock-holding routine? I asked her what that was about. Her answer was so heartwarming, I almost cried while almost pummeling myself for being such a judgemental beeyotch. She explained that she teaches children’s yoga at the shala, and that she has the kids pass around the rock and blow their fears and problems into it. Then, each day, she burns off the fears and problems and says a little prayer for the kids. That is just so….decent. Sometimes, when you want to understand something, the best thing to do is just ask.