A couple days ago, my studio owner and I had Jim Henson on the brain. (One of our mutual friends posted a note about him on Facebook, and we are both slightly compulsive Facebook stalkers.) In case you live in another country (or under a rock) and you are not familiar with Jim Henson, he was the guy behind The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal (which I still need to see!) and all kinds of other brilliant stuff.
We had fun with our Jim Henson theme. When she was teaching standing separate leg head to knee pose in the morning class, my studio owner S was like, "Turn your hips 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times... I sound like The Count!" ("Vun, two, three...") I carried this thought into my evening class, and in between sets of balancing stick I told my class: "You know, this is really like Sesame Street yoga if you think about it. Make the letter 'H'! Make an 'L' as in Linda! Make a 'T' as in Tom! This posture is brought to you by the letter T!!" That actually got everyone laughing, and for second set my dialogue went something like: "Your-body-should-look-like-a-T-as-in-Tom-THIS-POSTURE-IS-BROUGHT-TO-YOU-BY-THE-LETTER-T-body-down-leg-up-chest-down-leg-up-stretch-and-stretch-stretch-stretch!"
I rarely improvise with my dialogue, but this was a great hit...
But in a certain sense, in all seriousness, this is totally Sesame Street yoga. That's one of the things that I love about the instructions. Bikram takes a truly challenging subject - classical yoga asana practice - and breaks it down so that anyone can understand it. You can take any average idiot off the street and say the dialogue to them, and they will do a pretty respectable approximation of good yoga asana on their first try! No joke. We've been getting a huge influx of beginners at my studio - I taught a class a week or two ago with 40+ people and 17 first time students - and it's taught me one thing: the dialogue fricking works. We get people from all walks of life - it's not like I'm teaching rooms full of professional athletes or rocket scientists here - and pretty much everyone can pick this stuff up.
Bikram definitely teaches this way on purpose. At training, he always told us, "No one else can make it so easy! So simple, just like 'A' apple, 'B' a bat, 'C' a cat, 'D' a dog, 'F' a father." (He always skipped the letter 'E', and he never used his favorite 'F' word, even though we all thought we knew what was coming...) When we studied together, my roommate would always say, "I looove how Bikram breaks it down Sesame Street style!" So simple.
And why do we make it so simple? Well, that's the point. The yoga is meant to be accessible to everybody. It's actually easier to teach a class for advanced students full of jargon and Sanskrit and technical language. But that's a form of discrimination; if you teach that way, you discriminate against the raw beginners and the people with no yoga background. Bikram also told us that he intended for the dialogue to be a universal language: "No discrimination." That's a big deal!
On that note, I've gotta go put together a 7-layer dip for a yoga party. Our studio finished an awesome 60-day challenge today (which I should talk more about later), and we are having a potluck tonight after class to celebrate. Hooray, I'm so hungry. More later!
Edited to add: Just for fun, here is one of my favorite old Sesame Street videos. So many great moments in this one. "Dum, dum, dum, cha cha cha." "Me just, uh, sauntering by..."