Monday, February 8, 2010

Dialogue or Monologue?

I'm just gonna go ahead and declare this Dialogue Week here at Lock the Knee! blog, since I keep on realizing that there's more stuff I want to talk about.  Don't worry... I'm going to the yoga asana championships in L.A. all next weekend, so that'll give me a whole new set of ideas to think about!

So, the dialogue.  There's only one person talking in a Bikram yoga class - the teacher - so how the heck can we call that a dialogue?  I'll let Bikram answer that one:
"People always say to me - and you may be thinking this right now - "Bikram, don't you know a dialogue is when two people are talking with each other?  Since you're the only one talking in class when you give instruction, this should really be called 'the Monologue.' "  Let me tell you something: My English may not be perfect, but I know the difference between a monologue and a dialogue.  When my teachers and I are talking to a class, telling you what to do, there is a response.  From what we can see as you struggle to perform the asanas properly, your body is giving us information as well - it is talking back.  There's a connection, there's communication, and that's why it's a dialogue.  You follow me?"
- Bikram Yoga, pg 96-97
Okay, fair enough.  But how does this work in practice?

I'm always talking about "good dialogue classes."  What does that mean?  To me, it means that the teacher is using Bikram's very precise, very complete, and very sequential set of instructions as they converse with the bodies in the room.  The dialogue is a toolbox, and a great teacher can use those tools to reshape any body.

If someone has perfect, verbatim dialogue, but never looks at the bodies and never adds a single word of correction or encouragement, then they suck.  They're a robot.  Being a robot is not the goal.

If someone has great dialogue and delivers it with inflection and enthusiasm, adding personal corrections here and there, stressing different parts that they find significant, and slowing down to go over important details, that is a really good teacher.  I'd take that class any day of the week.  Twice.

If someone has all of the above and understands the entire dialogue and knows how to read bodies and tailor the instructions to every single individual, then things get seriously interesting.  When I took Diane's classes over Christmas break, I kept noticing the way she would target specific corrections at different people in the room without even changing the words or breaking the sequence.

Here's a made-up example using some lines from second part of awkward pose.  The dialogue is: "Knees up, chest up, upper body leaning back, spine straight. Come up higher on the toes, knees up toward the ceiling. Hips should not go down below the chair - you are sitting ON the chair." 

Here's a version that could be given during the second set, after you've seen what the different students are doing: "Knees up, chest up. Brian, lean your upper body back two more inches, spine straight. Everybody come up higher on the toes, knees up towards the ceiling. Joe, hips should not go down below the chair, come up more, yes, stop there! You are sitting ON the chair."

It could also be: "Upper body leaning back, not too much Joe, YOU can come forward a little more, get your spine straight."  Sometimes you just need a personal correction, with a name attached!  The dialogue is the backbone of the class, and it can be tweaked when appropriate.  Bikram has said this all along.  He says that he gives the prescription for the most general case, and then some patients need a little bit of special treatment.

It seems like so many people think they need to throw away the dialogue in order to teach a personalized and dynamic class.  No way.  Once you make it your toolbox and figure out how to use it, you can get the best of all worlds.  And really, when you think about it, it's right there in the fricking name.  It's called a dialogue.  It was always intended to be a conversation, not just a script.

"You follow me?"


Beth said...

Hi J, I've been reading (and loving) your blog for a while and just had to come out of the ether to say thanks for these dialogue posts. I graduated the last training and I was a total dialogue nerd before, during and after. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Teri and Diane right after training and learned so much in a short space of time. As a new teacher I hear teachers say "people will get bored if we all say the same thing," and all the other reasons why we should all abandon the dialogue as soon as we've committed it to memory - and it can definitely be discouraging at times. However, at other times I get to take a "good dialogue" class and I'm reminded why it matters, and why I love it. So thanks, and have an awesome time at training. I did!

Yolk E said...

Hell yeah to J and Beth! Diane's is a great example of how the dialogue can be personalized and establish that very human--and needed--connection.

Beth, come out of the ether more! :-) Blog!

Anonymous said...

People get "bored" with a class because there is no energy to the teaching. "There's a connection, there's communication, and that's why it's a dialogue."
No monologues or soliloquies allowed.

You follow me? ;)

thedancingj said...

Hi Beth! Miss Best Dialogue, right?! We JUST missed crossing paths in Boston... I think I must have been hanging around West Rox a week or two after you were there. I'm psyched that you are reading! Thanks for popping out of the ether to say hi. It's so nice to connect with the fellow dialogue dorks!! (Stay strong!! Hehe.)

Yolk E and Lynx - Hell yes. All about the human connection! When it's there, it is unmistakable. And "no soliloquies," I love that. Leave those to Hamlet. ;)

Johan said...

I hadn't thought about those corrections, but I can think of hundreds little in dialogue corrections I've heard now. Good stuff.

Beth said...

J - Yep, that's me. What a shame to have missed you! I'm sure we'll cross paths at some point, the Bikram community being what it is :) I look forward to reading all about your TT adventures. Oh, and thanks for tagging all those photos of Mr Sweetie on FB. I had no idea he had is own page, but I suppose I should have expected it. hehe.

Yolk E - we'll see about a blog ;-) Currently I'm better at reading them than writing them.

hannahjustbreathe said...

Diane has perfected the personalized dialogue indeed---as will you, I'm sure, as her protégé. :)

catherine said...

I *so* wish I could remember anything Diane said in the class I took from her. I love good-dialogue classes too!

Any chance you'll be back out here before training? You'd love Audrey's class soooo much.

KatieO said...

I admit that I have often wondered why it was called a "dialogue" with just one person speaking, but as usual, J makes this as clear as a crisp star-filled winter sky in New England!

Anny said...

I'm new - been taking bikram less than a month and had been wondering the same thing. I'd assumed my part of the dialogue was how my reacted to their words but I like this explanation so much more!

The best teachers are definitely the most enthusiastic with personality thrown in :)

ariella said...

excellent point - thank you for helping me to remember to target the lines at people by tagging the name at the end!

Finally I'm starting to be able to use names, new people included, in a class.

I will say that I try to use all the commands in the dialogue but that I spread them out into two sets... and that I forget stuff. It's so much to remember. Still learning, still learning, still learning.

I love TEACHING. I go in there and stuff comes out. It's mostly dialogue but I do let it become mine and I do add stuff for sure. Robot would drive me crazy.

bikramyogachick said...

Again, I can't WAIT to take your first class. :)

thedancingj said...

Johan - You did NOT just call me "Boss"!! Haha.

Beth - Yeah, that's where it all begins! "Just reading" blogs... then you start commenting... then your comments start getting long... and then one day you find yourself writing a blog. ;-)

hannah - I'll try!! <3

catherine - No way I can make it back east in the next two months, but DEFINITELY will be back sometime after training. I'm psyched to meet Audrey!!

Mom - Hahahaha. Hey, see above comment - you should go meet the new owners at Bikram Northampton!

Anny - You're totally right, that is part of it! It's just that there are LOTS of parts to it. :-)

ariella - Or tagging the name at the BEGINNING, even better! ;-) But yeah, using names is definitely more "advanced" teaching. There's so much other stuff to get the hang of first! I'm glad you liked this post. Spreading into two sets is probably smart. (Or four sets - HELLO balancing stick!!)

BYC - Just, seriously... don't expect me to be able to do all this shit on the first try!!!!! Hahaha.