Sunday, August 22, 2010

Here It Goes Again! (Thoughts on preparing for TT)

"Opinions are like belly buttons.  Everybody has one." - Unknown
"It's kind of a long term process." - Bikram

I just got caught up on blogs and Facebook and all that, looked at a calendar, and realized that the next teacher training session starts in less than one month.  WHOA!  When did this happen?!  Has it really been more than two months since my class graduated??  Time flies.

I remember the month before I went to training so well.  A lot of WEIRD things happened in my life that month, and I don't think I was convinced that I was actually going to training until I pulled into the hotel parking lot in Vegas!  I couldn't wait to get started.  I also remember that, towards those last few weeks, EVERYBODY had different advice on what I should be doing to prepare for training.  God bless them all, but it got to the point where I started thinking, very aggressively, "Okay, I get it!  Everyone has a fucking opinion!!"

So here comes my fucking opinion, for all you wonderful, crazy people who are about to take the plunge into the world of teaching Bikram yoga.  You can take it or leave it.  But after reading through your thoughts, worries, and questions, I do have a couple of things to say!

I want to talk about the dialogue and posture clinics.  Ok.  Memorizing the dialogue is always kind of a hot topic with the teacher trainees, and by "hot topic" I mean "the only thing on your minds from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep."  My advice for pre-TT is to quit worrying about how much you've memorized and focus on how you're memorizing.  (This advice is totally unoriginal, by the way.  There will be people at training telling you this until they're blue in the face.  I'm just giving you a heads up.)  Once you find a solid memorization technique that works for you, your life will be busy, but not so stressful.  Whatever technique you choose, you will get better and faster at it with practice, so don't worry if you're not super fast at first.  Just find something that works for you, and you'll be fine.  There are tons of ideas out there, which I won't go into.  But seriously, it doesn't matter if you've learned the whole thing at this point.  Just start with half moon and go from there!

Next, posture clinics.  I had a huge revelation about posture clinics recently.  Here's what I realized: it doesn't matter if you're good at posture clinic.

Wait, what?!

No, really, it doesn't matter.  You guys are kind of missing the big picture.  I realized this over the past month when I got the chance to take classes from some of the people from my own training.  I think I've taken class from 9 of my classmates so far.  And here's what I saw:

- There are people who had verbatim dialogue at training who have gotten a lot "looser" very quickly.
- There are people who were amazing in posture clinic who are having a tough time actually teaching.
- There are people who teach exactly the same way they did in posture clinic.  Some people who started good are still good, and some people who had trouble still have trouble.
- There are people who struggled like crazy in posture clinic who are now teaching AMAZING classes with full-on, verbatim dialogue.

Basically, it's all over the map.  But it's not random.  I want to talk about the last case, the guy who couldn't get through posture clinic but has started teaching amazing classes.  There were a few things that made this happen.  First, he comes from a great, supportive studio where the students are behind him and the owner gave him lots of classes.  (He's taught about 40 classes so far.)  You HAVE to teach as much as you can after training.  Second, he comes from a studio that teaches by the dialogue.  And third - this is the part that took me by surprise - he did actually learn the dialogue at training.  He worked super hard and spent tons of time studying.  He just couldn't get it out of his mouth during posture clinics because they stressed him out.  But he still studied the dialogue, and at the end of the day, that's the part that matters.  I was shocked at how well he knew the dialogue when I took his class last week.  He was awesome.

So get your focus off the posture clinics.  You're not studying for posture clinics.  You're studying for teaching.  BIG DIFFERENCE.  Your job is to study as well as you can, so that you are prepared to teach class when you step out into the world as a yoga teacher after 9 weeks.  The posture clinics are a means to an end.  The posture clinics are just another teaching tool.

Don't get me wrong, the posture clinics are totally useful.  You learn about delivery.  You learn about studying.  You practice teaching postures on real people.  You practice being nervous.  You practice teaching when you're tired.  You practice faking it when you're not really feeling it.  You practice being excited.  You practice being TOO excited.  You practice getting through the posture when you're not sure what to say next.  You practice taking feedback, some of it helpful and some of it less so.  You practice patience.  You practice performing under pressure.  You practice hearing the dialogue.  You practice saying the dialogue.  Most of all, they force you to study the dialogue.  The more engaged you can stay, the better off you'll be.  But please remember this one thing: none of it is about posture clinic, and all of it is about teaching!!

And just like practicing, teaching is a lifetime practice.  Teacher training is just the start.  After I taught class this morning, I spent the afternoon at a restaurant down the street eating "Eggs Rothko" (so hipster), drinking coffee, and re-reading through the entire dialogue, noting down the parts that I want to go over.  Last week, I taught class for three different teachers whose opinions I really respect, and they all gave me constructive feedback with things to fix, things to tweak, and things to keep doing.  You don't have "just nine weeks" to learn this stuff.  You just have nine weeks to learn it in a highly controlled environment, before they set you loose and you start learning everything out in the real world!

So that's my opinion.  That's the stuff that I've figured out so far.  You'll figure this out all on your own, eventually.  In the future.  You have to see it for yourself to REALLY believe it.  It's fun.

Oh, and for fuck's sake, I don't want to hear anything about people doing crazy double classes the week before teacher training!  At this point, your practice is your practice.  It's not gonna change much between now and training.  Keep practicing a moderate amount, keep figuring out that memorization stuff, but do yourself a big favor and take it easy for the last month!  There's no point in killing yourself at home.  They'll kill you plenty when you get there.  When Bikram tells you to start killing yourself, then and ONLY then, you can start killing yourself for real.

Alright, that's enough from me!  No more opinions.  Have fun.  I'll see you there.  :)

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