First, housekeeping: a couple of you left comments asking to see pics, but didn't leave me any contact info! Can you leave me your email addresses? I will delete them after I read them. (I am fast.)
Seems like a lot of people want to know about the franchise. Not surprising! Dunno what else to tell you guys, though... basically, the lawyer got up and said that the reason for the freeze was that you can't have affiliation agreements and franchises at the same time, and it took them longer than expected to get all the legal stuff sorted out because they have to do separate contracts for each of the 50 states. He said, "Don't blame Bikram, blame me!" He also said that it took a long time because Bikram kept arguing with his lawyers to bring the prices DOWN. (Bikram says, "I don't need your money!!") The franchise will be priced way below market, and he's hardly charging the existing studios ANYTHING for the first couple years, which is great. As soon as they go public with all their legal stuff, which should be next week, all the people who've been waiting can start opening studios. And I DO think that we will start seeing changes (good ones), because a portion of the franchise money will be dedicated to advertising/public image.... so hopefully we will finally see things like a new Bikram yoga website (!!!), a little more positive visibility in mainstream media, etc. They mentioned doing some cool things like having class packages transferable between studios, so you could buy like a $50 class card from your home studio and use it while traveling (like a Starbucks card)... things like that.
And of course, one of the more long term and serious goals of the franchise is to really crack down on the "knock-off" studios that are teaching Bikram's system at lower prices with non Bikram-trained teachers and hurting the business to the legit studios. They said that they will be more aggressive about brand protection in the future. Long term quality control.
The other big goal is just to create more unity (uniformity) across the studios, which right now are a VERY loose network. Not so that everyone will be clones of each other, but so that every studio can employ the BEST practices.
Okay, moving on!
Storytime: one of Bikram's friends who visiting us was a bodybuilder/actor named Roland. (His last name is Kickinger, you can look him up.) He was this REALLY sweet, kinda quiet, well-spoken Austrian guy who goes around promoting Bikram yoga (among other things.) Hung out with him at the pool with some girlfriends and he was a wicked flirt and too funny. The best part was when he got into the (kiddie) pool and got his (massive) upper into one of those plastic blow-up inner tubes, and then floated around going "Haaaaaalp, I'm traaapped in this pink toooooob..."
The other "celebirty" moment was when Anil Kapoor, the Bollywood star who plays the gameshow host in Slumdog Millionaire, came and visited during class. Hilariously, he got up on the podium with Bikram and was wearing this solid BRIGHT GREEN t-shirt. (NO GREEN!) Bikram and 300+ yogis just about died laughing, and made him take it off. I seriously have never seen Bikram laugh so hard.
Friday was an all-Bikram day, as Emmy and Raj had already left. I was sleepy in the 8:30 beginners class. He said that he was tired, too - not a morning guy! I actually kinda liked that. I had this really strong feeling of Bikram being right there with us, all of us kinda sleep first thing in the morning, but just doing our thing, working hard, getting it done.
Saturday was the BEST day. Ida from Canada taught beginner's so that Bikram could sleep in (hee), and then Bikram came and did our final advanced with us. And he seriously TAUGHT. When we got to the headstands, forearms stands, scoripon, and handstand, he came down off the podium and worked hands-on with maybe 10 different people to show all of US how to help EACH OTHER. So we didn't just learn the technique for doing the postures, we also learned the technique for spotting and teaching the postures! It went on forever, and Bikram was totally in his element. It was so cool to see him teaching like that, and I learned SO much. I really felt like, "YES, I can definitely go home and show this to my friends and it will totally help us to help each other improve."
Then he demonstrated the bhandas, which I had never seen before and which was REALLY cool. For those of you who know advanced, that the funky stomach thing that we try to do at the end but we don't really know how to do it. (That's how it's always been when I've done it, at least!) I didn't get a clear picture, but it's insane to see him do them... he sucks his stomach ALL the way in and then isolates all the different abdominal muscles, one at a time, alternating, doing waves, etc. (There a picture of him doing it many years ago HERE.) And he actually EXPLAINED them in a way that made me feel, "oh ok, I understand this concept and technique well enough that I can go practice it on my own now and get better at it."
Saturday concluded with another long day of lounging at the pool, watching fireworks off the rooftop (since it was the 4th of July!), hanging out at the hotel sushi bar with yoga girls for hours, and going dancing (and having just a couple drinks) at the hotel club. I have to say, it was pretty hilarious talking to people at the club, because all the people I talked to were yogis. So girls, picture yourself doing the thing where you're drinking a beer at a loud club and having a shouted ear-to-ear converstation with some random guy, except this is the converstaion: "So what do you do?" "I own a studio!" "Great, where?" "Canada, here's my card!" "Nice, do you know my friend T?" "Yeah, she's teaching for us! Are you a teacher?" "No, but I compete!" "That's great!" Etc. It was kinda surreal. Danced with some of the yogis, too (they played Thriller!), and let me tell you, some of those yoga champs know how to get DOWN, Dirty Dancing style! It was ridiculously fun.
Sunday was ROAD TRIP day! After getting a total of 3 hours sleep on Saturday, what with the dancing and the packing, we somehow loaded 4 yogis and all their luggage into my sweet little Corolla and hit the road at 7:30am to Joshua Tree National Park! Took a driving tour of Joshua Tree, (got out of the car for dorky yoga pictures), then drove to Santa Monica, walked around the promenade and down to the beach, then got dinner at Planet Raw (I'm not a raw foodist, but my friend who IS was super excited about it). Then I dropped the other 3 off at the airport and drove 2 hours up the coast back home - about 9 hours of driving for me in all! PHEW. It was totally worth it.
A few favorite Bikram lines:
"They made this yoga room like high school sex, just get it done fast and put it wherever you can."
"What is going on??? Why are you guys here???"
On the creation of the teacher training programs: "Teacher training? We already have a teacher training. But 20 years for one teacher!"
On yoga history: "They changed the way you WANT to do it, so the reality is gone."
On full standing bow: "This is good posture for concentration. You have to concentrate very hard like a... I dunno, like what?" (someone says, Bengal tiger!) "No, tiger doesn't need concentration, he just eats everything. Is like crocodile! Concentrate like a crocodile." (So now we have Bengal Tiger strength, English bulldog determination, and crocodile concentration... I like it!)
On not making money off his studios: "Long story short, whole country though I am an idiot!"
On his public image: "People think I am very, what you call? Oregon? Not Oregon. Oregon is a state." *confused pause* "Arrogant!! They think I am very arrogant, they say 'Whoa, don't fuck with him.' Good, I like it, it works perfect!"
"You just have to know the..." *2 1/2 second pause before everyone simultaneously fills in: "TECHNIQUE!!"
At the end of long lecture: "I have only made ONE point so far!!"
Repeated: "Did I make my point?"