Thursday, September 30, 2010


It always starts the same way.  You take the first class.  Maybe you love it right away, maybe you hate it, maybe you're not sure.  But for some reason, you go back for the second class, then the third class, then the fourth, and then you're hooked.  Maybe it's been a few months now, and you don't know what number class you're on anymore.  Maybe you've signed up for a 30 Day Challenge.  You've bought your first pair of Shakti shorts.  You have a Spot at the studio.  All the teachers know your name.  You plan your schedule around the yoga class times  You have a separate pile for yoga laundry.  You're starting to feel really good - your spine is straighter, you sleep better, and your skin is glowing.

And now everybody knows about it.


Because you can't stop telling them!

I refer to this phenomenon as "yogavangelism."  As in yoga evangelism.  Noun.  "Yogavangelism, n.  The irrepressible urge to extol the benefits your yoga practice to everyone you meet, including your close friends, your immediate family, your distant relatives, the grocery store clerk, the Starbucks barista, your tax accountant, some guy at the bus stop, your cat, and your golfish Goldie."

And it's totally awesome.  It's good for the yoga studios, which get most of their advertising by word-of-mouth.  It's good for the people who you manage to drag into the hot room with you.  (I had to be dragged into class on several separate occasions before I started going on my own.  Thank you, Amy from Kennewick, WA and Anita from MIT!)  And it's great fun for you when you can get more of your friends involved in your little obsession, not to mention the good karma!

Yesterday I tried to post a Facebook update on the topic of my new car insurance, and within minutes the topic turned to Bikram yoga.  Everyone wanted to know: "Did you recruit your insurance agent to come to yoga??"  There's no escape!

I do end up inviting an awful lot of people to yoga, because the "what's your job?" topic inevitably sends me in the direction of yoga.  When I was helping my sister shop for cars, all the car salespeople would ask us both about what we did for work, and then I'd end up spending the whole test drive answering questions about yoga.  "Is it good for diabetes?"  "How long are the classes?"  "What if I'm out of shape?"  "What if I have a knee problem?"  (I bet this drove my sister nuts.)  So I recruited the heck out of all those guys, and I really hope that at least one of them will end up in a class sometime!  I also nag my parents about yoga periodically.  And I've very proud of my friends who have become addicted since I introduced them to Bikram - shout-out to Cat from MIT and my roomie Alex (aka Slappy)!

On the other hand... I'm really not the world's most fervent yogavangelist these days.  I haven't been for a long time.  I prefer to just plant the seed of an idea - "Hey, there's this yoga class..." - and then let it grow in its own time.  I don't pressure anyone into coming.  If someone shows a spark of interest, I'll fan the flames a little bit, but that's it.  I'd rather let people come in their own time, on their own terms.  When the time is right, they'll show up.  You know that saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?"  I think it might work in the other direction, too.  Students come when they're ready, when their seeds are starting to grow.

I remember one lecture during my teacher training when someone asked Bikram a question along these lines.  One woman was concerned that not everyone would want to listen to her message and do yoga.  She wanted to know, "What do we do about the people who don't want to learn the things that we have to teach them?  How to we convince them to listen to us if they're not interested?"

Bikram's response?  "Tell them, eat shit and die!!"  (A favorite Bikram phrase.)

After the laughs died down, he explained himself further.  He said that when he was young, when he first came to this country, he felt the same way.  He said that he wanted to "stand in the middle of the road" and shout to everyone about how wonderful it is to do yoga.  But after a while, he realized that "it doesn't work."  Some people just aren't interested.  Forget about them.  They're not your students, at least not yet.  As a teacher, you do still wish that everyone could do yoga, but you don't lose sleep over it.  You can't spend your nights crying over the students that you don't have.  Instead, you have to focus all your energy on the students who are in the room right now.  That's how you teach a good class.

And then, if I teach a really good class... all of my students will go home and tell their friends about it!!  Ahaaa.  It all loops back around.  The yogavengelism is up to you guys!  So get going, get talking, and bring me your friends.  I'm always there waiting for you, ready with the rental towels, the new student registration forms, the intro spiel ("breathe, everything else is optional") and a smile.

No comments: