Of the 321 students graduated from Bikram’s teacher training on June 27, four were from BYSJ: Larisa Loish, Nicole Duke, Patrick McInerney, and Theresa Binnings. Congratulations new teachers! Members, check the online class schedule to find out when they will be teaching this month.
This year’s advanced seminar, was held in Palm Springs, June 28 to July 5, on the very heels of teacher graduation. The seminar is one of my favorite events. Students get to spend quality time with Bikram and visit with yoga friends from around the globe while doing the yoga we love. Bikram’s beginning yoga class starts at 8:30 am and lasts almost two hours as Bikram loves to tell stories and share his knowledge. After a half-hour break, the advanced series begins: a sequence of 84 postures lasting another two and a half hours. Imagine how you feel after all that yoga: exhausted, ready to drink an ocean of water, yet amazingly terrific. Even with the extra challenge to stay hydrated in extreme desert temperatures, it was doable, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to brush up on my practice. And, it wasn’t Bikram alone creating the experience.
Allow me to introduce principal teacher, Emmy Cleaves. After over 30 years with Bikram, Emmy is considered to be Bikrams colleague in many respects. She is the only person that is allowed to raise questions about the series to Bikram. The two of them banter, each citing facts about the yoga that are intriguing “and often hilarious” to those listening. And, trust me, you do listen to Emmy. Not only is the information compelling, but her delivery (sincere and kind but deliberate and not so gentle) demands your full attention. Keep in mind that she teaches the advanced class to advanced students and teachers. In fact, the only time that I have known her to teach the beginning series is at the advanced seminar to advanced students. The only beginning attribute she wants out of you, however, is to hold a beginners mind when practicing. She wants all ambiguity left at the door and yoga maturity on the mat. The only way you will stretch your spine is to use your arms. So pull. What are you waiting for? As you advance, you must work with individual body parts. Get your arms up in balancing stick. You have to squeeze in order to manipulate a certain area of the body, otherwise stagnation occurs.
Her favorite word is precision. She repeatedly uses a phrase I especially love, efficiency of execution. Regular practitioners, (this is more to you than new student) – it could be time to revisit every posture and plug these words into your brain as you do each of the 26. What does efficiency of execution mean in first part of Awkward Posture, for example? Do you really feel the weight behind you? Are you using your arms to help with the balance so you can sit back more? In the second part of this pose, are your knees really below your hips the entire time? In Separate Leg Stretching Forehead to the Knee, are you using your core strength to get in the pose, hold in the pose and come out of the pose? Hmmm. No help from those inefficient hands, folks. Time to execute differently. And, I can’t wait to share with you what I learned in Standing Bow Pose. It was a complete revelation for me even after ten years. While breathing, too, we need to strive for efficiency in execution. Before Savasana, Emmy said stomach breathing is relaxation breathing. Other than that, its mental and you are in a fight or flight response. Check in. Are you stomach breathing? Many times, I’m not.
And, she isnt all technique. I Googled Emmy Cleaves and found some interesting stuff, including a beautiful tribute to Emmy written by Tom Provost during his teacher training that I will post as a take one in the lobby. It quotes Emmy as saying, I believe in giving physiological instruction in the class as well as physical instruction. I never do advance planning. The bodies give me the information I need to teach the class. I simply react to what I see. This occurs on both a physical and mental level; each class has its own physical and spiritual energy.
During the seminar, Emmy taught two beginners classes and one advanced class. Sometime during those classes, (she may have noticed my absolute intensity during the standing series) she said, we carry a warrior frame of mind in the standing series. It’s there where we go to battle with our bodies and its limitations. In the floor series, it’s more introspective. It isn’t a time to wiggle or carry movement like we do in the first part of class. It’s time to be still.
As we lay in final Savasana, the class near finished, her voice turned sweeter and resonating compassion she said, you are not just a bag of skin filled with bones and joints. You are a multidimensional being of energy and light. If you remembered that, you’d start living differently.
I share this with you to give you an insight to the wealth of wisdom we have at Bikram HQ. (This isn’t intended to take anything from Bikram: he is the show and always will be.) The advanced seminar will now be offered in Palm Springs three times a year. I will promote these with more vigor as many of you should go and take class with Bikram directly. Many of you are ready and will benefit so much. It is the best vacation Ive ever experienced. You can take the advanced class or simply relax by one of the five pools in this gorgeous resort, spa hotel. Its fabulous and Bikram has made it affordable.
Most important thing in your life, IS your life. Yet, the hardest thing in life is maintenance. You cannot waste any time. Idiots waste time. Do yoga to keep your health until the very end. Yoga makes your body full of vitality. It activates your own powerhouse of energy making YOU yourself. Yoga will help solve all your problems. Without yoga, you can feel lost. Yoga helps you to enjoy your life, states Bikram.
Many from BYSJ practiced directly in front of Bikram everyday. He acknowledged quite a few of us and at one point asked Marie Hoffman, BYSJ teacher and student, where she practiced. After she responded San Jose,” he scanned the room to find me. In front of everyone, he thanked me for teaching my students so well. I soaked it in, it made six years of working diligently to keep our studio pure, worth it. My heartfelt thanks go to all our teachers, staff, and members for working with me to keep the integrity of this yoga. I hope you feel recognition with me. You can imagine how proud I felt! And, after this honor, in his lovely style, he called me a beef jerky! Love you Bikram!