What a weekend!

About Diane Ducharme Gardner

For two days, Diane Ducharme Gardner graced us with her presence and her mighty teachings. She owns the studio, Yoga for You, in Massachusetts, which just celebrated 23 years. She graduated from Bikram’s Teacher Training in 1995, the 2nd teacher training with Bikram with just 30 people, for 12 weeks and classes were a part of Bikram’s public classes. What this means to you and me: no dialogue existed yet, much more one-on-one time with Bikram explaining the postures, and an opportunity to witness how to work with bodies given their classes were mixed with everyday folks and not just want-to-be teachers. I am not at all putting down what most of us teachers went through with Bikram at our later teacher trainings (wouldn’t change it for all the tea in China) but it means Diane had a unique experience and she still emphasizes today the fundamentals of THIS yoga, why it exists, and how it should be taught.

Workshop participants pose for a group shot

Workshop participants pose for a group shot.

A Quick Thank You

Before I deep-dive into some key lessons from the weekend, let me say thank you to all the teachers that came from BYSJ and the Bay Area. Thank you to all the students and the spirit in which you participated!

This is tough, as it required all of us to have an open mind and maybe give up what we’ve known to date (including yours truly). There is no win or lose here, and that was evident! Everyone just jumped at the chance to ask questions, demonstrate postures, confront conflicting information, and share differences of opinion. Laughter, love, and connection wove their way throughout this learning opportunity. It truly illustrates our unique bond in the yoga world. Bravo for us!

In the end, we came back to the true point which we all share. As a healing modality, the goal of Bikram Yoga is to help everybody gain therapeutic benefit by always doing the posture the right way. I say “everybody” without disclaimers or reservations: broken, old, stiff, injured, flexible, late-it doesn’t matter. This yoga is still for you!

My Interview with Diane

If you’re on Facebook, you MUST watch my interview with Diane, chatting away on my office couch! It’s both hilarious and valuable.

The Dialogue Works

Like many, Diane has had a roller coaster relationship with Bikram, but she has never swayed from what she soaked in starting in 1995. She and a teaching partner, Margie Topf, founded The Dialogue Works in an effort to preserve the dialogue-language intended to deliver this yoga the right way – so it can exist correctly for generations. “My goal is to keep this stuff alive even after I’m gone,” states Diane. And let me tell you that she doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon! “I told my parents at a young age that I was going to live to 124 and I still feel that way!” She’s just shy of 60, 5 ft. tall, size 5 shoe and 105 pounds – all this she’ll proudly tell you and yet she is one of the biggest persons you’ll meet on the planet.

“Work smarter not harder,” states Diane.

This is a lifetime practice created for people with chronic pain and chronic disease. It is also preventive medicine. With consistent practice and proper technique, this yoga series will restore the proper function of your body internally and help you recover the full range of motion in all your joints.

The ultimate destination of the practice is to have a better quality of life outside this room. The goal of every class is to feel good after class. The postures are simple; the technique is doable for every body if you go step by step and try 100% the right way. This is verbatim how Diane defines The Dialogue Works. Furthermore, Diane has other phrases that she uses to keep it simple and keep it accessible: “Know better, do better, feel better,” “It’s not how much you do, it’s how you do,” “The object of the posture is not the posture, it’s you,” “Make progress not perfection.”

Your teachers here at BYSJ are committed to delivering this yoga the way it’s intended. For the most part, we do that well. But, like all things, there is always room to improve and at BYSJ we are always seeking the highest bar, which makes our standard impossible to reach; but we are relentless in striving for it!

Work smarter, not harder. Diane Ducharme Gardner

Posture Tips to Remember

  • Next time you do your Half Moon backbend in class, listen for stomach, hips, legs, push everything forward towards the front mirror. This means throat, chest, ribs, stomach, hips, legs – everything!
  • In Hands to Feet pose, make sure your elbows go behind the legs on your calf muscles throughout the posture (bent legs is fine) to stretch your upper back and between your shoulder blades.
  • In Standing Head-to-Knee, pick up your foot in front of you and don’t worry about going down to get it.
  • In Standing Bow, bring your body down from the lower spine until your abdomen and chest are parallel to the floor from the onset of starting the posture.
  • In Triangle pose, make sure your spine is straight in the center before you move your arms.
  • Cobra pose: evenly distribute the body weight all over hands palms equally the same and use it to come up enough.
  • In Half Tortoise, hips touching the heels throughout the posture – touch your forehead on the floor little fingers touch the floor then stretch your arms more forward.
  • Camel Pose: once you’ve dropped your head, go back half way and stop in the middle grab your heels; then stomach, hips, legs everything push forward towards the front mirror just like you do in Half Moon backbend.

Diane teaches cobra pose to a student

Diane gives Cobra pose advice.

Lessons in the Dialogue

Ironically, as you read, you are probably saying, “Well, yes, I hear this all the time.” But the truth is that you probably don’t – not exactly this way.  Notice what I put in bold. These are crucial elements and words for the success of the posture in terms of giving YOU the therapeutic benefit. And these words, well, they are in the dialogue. Nothing more needs to be said! The right way, the hard way, the beneficial way for chronic pain and preventive maintenance…for you, me, and the 7 billion other people in the world.  

BYSJ, we have been so lucky over the years to bring in some of the best teachers to our home and assist in our learning, Diane now included! Each has a story and each has a perspective. It can make it seem confusing but, like in life, those perspectives distill the clarity. 

Every leader in Bikram Yoga will tell you the same message in different words: that discomfort is necessary, that the struggle brings the healing. 1% the right way will give you more benefit than 100% the wrong way. Set it up, move slow, and at the end push a little harder. Wise advice from our leaders for yoga, but also an overall message for life that it’s not about finding fault, but yielding gracefully to all positions. The classroom is a magical place to be as there is something FOR each of us with this dialogue; and the podium is a magical place to see, as there is something WITHIN each of us the dialogue helps us to access.

Thank you, Diane, for the schooling we needed to bring home the importance and responsibility of this written word!