Sunday, November 22, 2009

"I came to this country half Jesus Christ, half Elvis..."

I went down to Bikram's class yesterday morning, and I'm so glad I made it, cause this was a GOOD one.  An epic two hours of laughter, sweat, and tears!  (Not that I cried... but the dude with the body cramps in the back of the room didn't seem too thrilled.)

Let me back up a bit.

Bikram was in a great mood.  Tons of energy, even for him, which is saying something.  He came in and told us that he'd been teaching at teacher training every day this week and "killing them," so "I am in a killing mood!  There is no insurance!  You have your warning!"  I said oh shit to myself and just started cracking up.  I couldn't tell at first whether he was really out to get us.  He was having a great old time making fun of us in half moon: "This is a real pussy class!  None of you is locking your elbows!"  Totally in good humor - in the first set, he said, "I know what you are all thinking!  You are thinking, Bikram!  Go fuck yourself!"  Wahooo!  I had a friend in class who was visiting from NYC.  He'd practiced to Bikram's CD a lot, but never practiced to Bikram.  After class, his comment was, "Wow, the CD is the G-rated version!"

Knew it was going to be a really fun one when he hopped down to help a girl in her half moon backbend.  In the first set, he singled out a girl in the front row and said, "You!  What are you doing?  You're not even trying!  Not even doing anything!  Posture hasn't started yet!"  She came out and looked at him with a little bit of a deer-in-headlights expression, and he said, "It's ok, I'll show you."  After padahastasana he had her do it again by herself.  That time she did it better, and he decided to help her more.  He hopped down and stood about a foot from her face and said, "What country you from?  Korea?"  She said "Japan," and he instantly started speaking to her in very fast and intense Japanese.  The look on her face was priceless.  I have NO idea what he was saying to her, but she started giggling hysterically!  Great image - Bikram right up in this girl's face with this hardcore serious expression on his face, and this girl just dying laughing.  Then he helped her with the backbend.  First time I've seen him do this in person - he holds under the back with one hand, taps on the sternum with the other hands, and says, "fall on my hand, fall on my hand!"  Girl ends up basically hanging off his arm with her knees totally bent and everything - BUT - she went back about 2 feet farther than before.  Now she knows what it feels like!

Class continued with high energy.  And I have to say, he totally was going easy on us.  A 2 hour Bikram class is an easy Bikram class, because it means he is talking a lot.  He gave us short postures and long breaks, which was fine by me, since I was getting TOTALLY light-headed!  Probably the combination of a hot humid room with about 150 people in it and the fact that I missed several days of practice this week.  So I sat down on my knees during a lot of the breaks between postures, but I did not miss any postures at all, and my postures actually felt really good.

There was some drama in the opposite corner of the room when some guy went down with full-body cramps, or something.  He was practically the length of a football field away from me, so I didn't see much of that, but Bikram was all over it.  Saw the guy go down, knew what was going on, told him to go out in the hallway and take a break.  When the guy didn't go anywhere, Bikram was like, "Why don't you go out?" and the people around him said "He can't get up!" so Bikram told them, "Why don't you carry him out?!  Take his arms, take his legs.  At teacher training I have 25, 50 people every day 100% unconscious, we carry them outside and put some water on their head."  So this guy was more or less dragged out into the hall to recover.  Drama!!  It wasn't psychotically hot in the room, but it WAS really really hot, and also humid with all those bodies.

But speaking of teacher training, Bikram bragged to us a bit about how great the current trainees are doing.  "They improve SO MUCH!  You have NO IDEA!"  He is impressed with their ability to get through class without anyone sitting down or puking.  Says that he started off teaching them 2 hours classes and now they can do class in 88 minutes.  Hee.  Awesome.  Go trainees, go!!

Taking Bikram's class is a little bit like drinking from a firehose.  There's such a constant flow of information and chatter thrown at you that it's hard to hold onto anything.  In maybe 50% of the classes I've taken with him, I have absolutely NO recollection of ANYTHING he said once the class is over.  It just flows right through you.  You hear it, but you don't hold on.  You remember his comments later, once you're doing the poses, once they're relevant, but when you walk out of the room, you have NO idea what just happened.

A pattern does emerge, though.  You are going to hear about Richard Nixon and the phlebitis thrombosis in almost every class, guaranteed!

There were a few things he said yesterday that I wanted to remember.  One was the taxi/bus/train driver analogy (which some of us are very familiar with... yay....)  He says, "you want to go somewhere, you don't know where you're going, you get in the car, the driver takes you there."  Same thing with the mind: he says that we can just step out of our minds (for class) and let him drive.  He says, "I know the path.  I've been there already.  I go back and forth every day, taking people with me."  I like that idea: the yoga teacher as a ferryman, carrying loads of passengers every day from one shore of consciousness to the other.

He also made a neat distinction: "Before you can do yoga, you have to learn yoga."  And, "Once you've learned it, you don't need me anymore."  I'll let that idea just sit.

The car analogy of the day was related to traffic.  He says, all your life it is like you are driving in Santa Monica during the "work hour" at 10 miles an hour.  You have no idea what that car can do until you take it out at 3am when the streets are empty and hit the gas pedal.  And that, I guess, is yoga class.

He also bragged about his speeding tickets, told us a story about how he passed out doing yoga practice in a sauna, and gave advice on masturbation techniques.  Yep, you read that right.  Sometimes I'm not sure whether I should laugh, roll my eyes, or start throwing tomatoes, but usually I just laugh.  He is incorrigible - incurably himself.

When I got home from LA, my roommate asked me, "Did you have any life changing conversations today?" and I said, "Not THIS time!"  But I did have lunch with a few teachers, AND I discovered that a girl I know at HQ is also going to the Spring TT session!  So we were very, very excited about that, and exchanged numbers, and are planning to start meeting up to study and practice.  And she knows one OTHER person who's going to training, a guy who's practiced at HQ for ages, so the SoCal teacher training posse is starting to take form.  We are so totally gonna be the cool kids.  (Which will be the opposite of my grade school, middle school, and high school experiences.  Hah.)  So exciting!


Cristina said...

You are so, so, so LUCKY to be able to drive down to LA and have a great class with Bikram.

I am so, so, so Happy that you are sharing the feeling, the small things you remember that Bikram sais to the rest of us who live in the other parts of the world.

Danielle said...

YAY YAY YAY. I LOVED this post. I miss that crazy old Indian!!!

thedancingj said...

Yeah, I AM ridiculously lucky sometimes. I really don't know how it happened, but I'm glad to share. :)

Danielle, YAY!! I know, he is great to be around. What IS it that makes us sooooo attached to him?! ("It's a cult" is the INCORRECT answer...)

gideonlester said...

"What are you all eating -- chicken shit?" :-)

You really captured it beautifully!

thedancingj said...

Thanks Gideon! Writing about yoga class... it's a little bit like dancing about architecture, but it's a fun challenge. :)

Min/El said...

What a GREAT post!

Thanks for's fun to see it through your eyes!

One day...yes, one day I'll be lucky enough to practice at headquarters!

Yoga Talk said...

It'll be great to be back at HQ -- you brought it all back -- but I often found the Boss teaching really uninspired classes when I lived and practiced in LA (he goes through phases, like anyone else -- so glad to hear he is hot right now!) Any idea when you'll be back in LA?? I will plan on taking class Dec. 5th (Sat am!)

Big G said...

I've taken a class out here with him during teacher training. Absolutely great.I swear if he put his classes up on Youtube I would watch them.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for sharing! One of my teachers was telling us Bikram stories in the lobby the other day, and I was totally cracking up - your post had me doing the same.

Random question- when Bikram put his arm under the girl's back, which part the back (upper, middle, lower) does he put it under? (Just want to make sure I have the visual right!)

bikramyogachick said...

Awesome! Just awesome! Love the ferryman analogy and the drinking from a firehouse comment. Great post! Can't wait to come yoga geek out with you. What, like three weeks? wooo hooo!!!

cirita said...

I love your posting!!! I am driving up to LA next year to take a class with Bikram. Wondering if he is ever there on Sat when there is no TT.

thedancingj said...

Yelba, hooray! Will be great to see you out here. I'm planning to go down on Dec 16th for a couple classes, then I'm back east for the holidays, and then I should be around pretty regularly in Jan and Feb.

Jennifer - tricky question. I'd say pretty low, just above her waist, but I definitely wouldn't swear to that.

cirita (and all interested!) - Bikram is in LA teaching at La Cienega anytime he's not traveling. But he travels a LOT. You can always call the front desk and find out whether he's on the schedule. The will tell you whatever they know. Sometime he teaches mid-week, too - he is teaching Thanksgiving morning! - but Sat 10am is the most common.

leigh said...

okay, random Bikram question... what is the deal about wearing green or rather 'don't wear green' yoga clothes for TT or Bikram classes?

thedancingj said...

Oh - the "no green" thing could probably be the topic of a whole post, but it's really just a superstition of Bikram's that's gotten played up. He thinks it's bad luck. There's a whole story there. He takes it pretty lightly - I personally think that people just enforce it for the fun of it - but you can save yourself a lot of trouble by just never wearing green when he's around.

lz said...

Haha... I've taken class with Bikram before... interesting experience to say the least! :P

Nicole M. said...

god it is so funny to hear these stories from you from the other side- Bikram came back on Monday to TT and bragged about the great class he taught on Saturday in LA! Nice to hear he is bragging about us, that makes me feel good! You are so going to love TT and I'm sure you will be one of the super stars!
xx nicole

thedancingj said...

Nicole, that is fricking hilarious... he kept telling us that we were such a bunch of pussies compared to you guys!! Actually, he said that we started off lazy but we did good by the end. Glad you saw this, you deserve to feel good!! :)

xoxo J