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 96-97Okay, 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?"