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...)