I think the benefit to beginners is pretty clear: the new students get to follow the visual example set by the more experienced students, and they can get help and encouragement from the veterans as they enter into the practice.
It might be less obvious how the more "advanced" students can benefit from being surrounded by totally confused and clueless beginners who spend half the class chugging on their water and the other half of the class trying to find an escape route...
But oh my god, I have been LOVING the influx of new people lately, because I sit out on the patio with them after class and listen to them and talk with them, and everything is so fresh and new. As I was laying down my mat before class this evening, the woman behind me asked me, "Is there a reason why this is so addictive? I just came to my first class, and I've already been in five times this week!" I told her something that Emmy has said: "Your body intuitively recognizes something that is so good for you and craves more of it." She said she felt so much better, so much less stressed. I love seeing this raw excitement of discovery in the new students. It reminds me of why we are all here in the first place. It reminds me of that moment when you realize, oh my god, this isn't just going to fix my back or give me a cuter butt, this is maybe going to change my life. And I love talking to the new people and trying to answer their questions, because even though I might be giving them the same simple advice that I've given and received a hundred times in the past few years, it's new to them. Which means that it matters equally every single time.
I've had a couple of classes this week that were only so-so, but I ended up leaving the studio totally energized because I stood in the lobby for 15 minutes talking to someone who had just finished his first week and was already totally hooked on the yoga and hungry to hear more about it.
It's easy sometimes to take the yoga for granted, when you've been coming regularly for years and it's just a solid part of your life. So I like being constantly reminded of how the journey starts, because it's all there, really, all your subconscious hopes and fears and motivations are already present in you the first time you step into the room, the whole path is already laid out before you, invisible, but real. All you have to do is move forward. (The postures are the same, by the way; in so many of them, you can tell exactly what the finished posture is going to look like just from the set-up.)
And god, I am so lucky that I finally came into this yoga, because it really had to chase me down! It chased me for years. I'm so glad that it did. I took my first class 5 years ago this summer, and then I moved away from it, but it kept pulling me back and back, catch and release, invitations coming from random friends - "oh, do you want to come to yoga, I do Bikram yoga..." - like an invisible cosmic bungee cord, until the day two summer ago when I peeked into Jill's office in Bikram Yoga Harvard Square and said, "so, do you still have a work-study spot open?" and she said "sure, sweetie!" and Brad stuck his head around the corner with his hand over the phone receiver saying "...and tell her about the competition, tell her about advanced on Saturday, she should come!" and that was pretty much that. All in, no hesitations. Two months later, before I could even figure out what the heck had happened, I'm standing on a stage in a leotard doing standing-head-to-knee and successfully touching my forehead onto my knee (for like half a second) for maybe the 10th time ever, I have a dozen new (life-long!) friends cheering me on, I've just finished the first of many 30-day challenges, and I'm feeling more proud than I can remember feeling in years. And this weird, sweaty, dorky world that I had only just found out about - it was my world now, too. And that changed everything.
Welcome to Bikram yoga.