Saturday, October 10, 2009

Morning with EMMY

"... remember, you are not just a bag of skin containing muscles, blood, and bone.  You are a multidimensional being of energy and light." ~ Emmy, during final savasana

Two of my teachers and I made a little drive down the coast this morning and took class with Emmy Cleaves at Bikram Yoga Westlake.  The class was a special event.  It was on a donation basis ($25 minimum), and all the proceeds went to Wilderness Conservancy, a wonderful small foundation dedicated to the conservation of endangered and threatened species, which is run by Emmy's husband, Bob.  Bob spoke a bit about his work before class, and he struck me as a really sincere and cool guy who was doing this work out of concern and love.  What a great match for Emmy!  Now that I think about it, the class was a full house, with at least 50 packed into the room, mat-to-mat, so I guess some good funds must have been raised.

Words fail me when it comes to describing Emmy.*  I just adore her.  My friends and I were talking about her on the way home, and we found it so difficult to capture what is great about her and her teaching.  She just has the "secret Emmy mojo" - often imitated, never duplicated!  Here's one thing we figured out: nothing steals her peace!  She walks through the rows in her black leotard and diamond earrings, with her hair up in a french twist, and she is always graceful, calm and elegant, even as the heat rises and the student start, well, dying.  (I worked my butt off today for sure, and I can feel it already!)  We love the way she talks, and the things she says.  She does not teach by the dialogue, but she gives these absolutely clear and insightful physiological instructions that let you understand the postures all over again.  She is definitely the yin to Bikram's yang.  Where Bikram says, "Lock your damn knee, assholes!", Emmy says, "Now this is the 'lock the knee, baby' part of the class."  We also love that she doesn't say "change"; she just says, "okay, that's enough."  When I "grow up," Emmy is one of the people I would like to be!

The studio provided orange juice and fruit after class, which was MUCH appreciated by me.  It took me a while to feel recovered after that class!  Emmy and Bob hung around for a bit, so I got the chance to chat with her a little bit.  I (finally!) asked her about my backbends - told her that I know that I have a deep backbend that comes very much from the lower back, and asked her what I should be doing to distribute it more.  She basically just said to experiment with how far I go back and see if I can find the lift in the chest.  This is what I have been trying to do, so YAY! for being on the right track.  She also mentioned that of all the Indian students who come and take class, none of them do backbends from just the lower back. They all either stay up higher and bend their upper backs, or go ALL the way down and touch the floor.  (Literally.)  She said it was "very demoralizing" for everyone to see the Indian boys touching the floor in their backbends, which was awfully funny.  (It's funny when it's true!)  I also mentioned that I wish I could get down to LA more, since it's been a while now, and she was quite sweet, saying yes, come back down to advanced class, "just dip your toe back in..."

Finally, the shout-out portion of today's blog!  I got my Mei grey tank top in the mail yesterday afternoon (thanks McKinley!!) so of course I wore it this morning and used it as an excuse to finally grab a picture with Emmy before class.  I showed it to her and told her it was made as a fundraiser for one of my friends who's at training in Vegas, and she thought it was great!  We had just one suggestion for the design: Emmy thought the girl kinda had "thunder thighs," and we realized it was because the picture hits right over my boobs and gets stretched out sideways.  HAHA!  Our suggestion is to ask people if they have big boobs and then adjust the design accordingly.... (Just kidding, McK, don't be embarrassed!)  But seriously, everyone loves this shirt, and I got a great picture with it, too!

* Edited to add:  I am so used to hanging out with Bikram teachers that I forget that not everyone in the world knows who Emmy is.  So just in case some of you are wondering who the heck I am talking about, Emmy is Bikram's most senior teacher and school principal.  She's in her mid 80's now and still rocks the advanced series - proof that yogis can just get better and better with age.  There's a nice profile piece on her that was written a few years back, which you can find here.  (Did I post this link earlier this summer??  I'm getting some serious deja vu... I guess some of us age less gracefully than others...)


ActionJoJo said...

So awesome J! You know when I was in LA last June, I decided to check out headquarters and practice there. I took the 9am class and the teacher was okay. I felt so little energy in the room since there were only 15 students at most and we were all spread out. And people kept walking in and out, some students came in late. It was unbelievable. In my studio, you would be turned away once the opening breathing exercise was done. And to leave the room?! The teacher would call you out and ask why you are leaving!

Anyway, when the next class came in, I saw that it was Emmy teaching and I was so bummed that I missed her class. Why didn't I think to call to find out when she was teaching?! Hopefully, I'll get to be in her class one day soon.

So great you chatted her up. She is an inspiration! I wanna be like her when I grow up too. Great pic.

thedancingj said...

Yeah, the classes there can be pretty funny. So small and spread out!! What a bummer to be so near, and yet so far. Next time!!

Also - "chatted her up"? LOL. Not the first phrase I would have used... ;-)

Danielle said...

Oh yes.. "The yin to Bikram's yang". SO TRUE. She was so sympathetic to us at training with our sleep deprivation, whereas Bikram would say "Sleep is a waste of time!" So nice to get that love from her.

Anonymous said...

hey! if you want, please link my blog! i would really love to share my blog - about bikram with others my practise and such. if not, its really fine. :)


bikramyogachick said...

Oh thank you so much for the wonderful insight into Emmy's teaching. Someday I need to get to her class! I got my Mei grey tank as well. I'm sure my gal will have thunder thighs as well. funny!

thedancingj said...

Danielle, yeah, I heard Emmy talking to a student who was thinking about going to TT, and she seems very down-to-earth, realistic and sympathetic about the crazy **** that the trainees get put through! Love her.

Shan, where IS your blog?!? Leave me a link or something, I would love to check it out. :)

Michelle, yay! We can be twins! (OMG dorks.) See if you can track down Emmy while she's in Vegas... I believe she's there right now...

cirita said...

Thanks so much for the insight!! I need to go up to LA one of these days. Would love to meet Emmy and the rest of the clan ;)

Rajashree is coming to our studio in Dec. I am very excited about this too. I am also doing my first 60-day challenge. Wish me luck!!!
I just started blogging about it. If you have any tips to complete this, I would love to hear @ it too.

This is my site if interested: