Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Welcome to your new life, Terry Two."

If you don't know the source of that quote instantly - off the top of your head, without pausing to think about it - you should probably go out, pick up a copy of Bikram's blue book (i.e. this one), and read it.  Cover to cover.  If you have it on your shelf gathering dust, pick it up and crack it open.

I've had a copy of the book since 2007 (and it actually lived on my bedside table for a year), but I'm telling you, every time I read it I still find something new.

I picked up the studio copy of the blue book and re-read the first 50 pages over my lunch break a couple days ago. And it turns out that reading it as teacher is a totally different story, because I am even more amazed at how complete it is.  Please forgive me for stepping onto my soapbox here, but this is really good stuff.  All the concepts that I'm always trying to explain to my students, over and over again?  It's all in there.  In like, the introduction.  In the first 6 pages. 

For example, here's a paragraph from the 2nd page:

"This Hatha Yoga is for everyone and every body.  It doesn't matter how well you do each posture, only that you try the right way.  Even if you can only do part of the posture, you will recieve one hundred percent of the benefit medically if you try the right way.  I explain this by giving you step-by-step instructions for each posture." 

The book also show the crazy, fun, and gentle side of Bikram that you don't get to see so much in the media.  He's really kind to his new students, no weird aggressive drill-sargent stuff whatsoever.  He tells his newbie student:

"All beginning students are scared, and it is the biggest obstacle you must overcome to make progress.  Don't fright, don't scare, I will take care of you.  Okay?  You do just as much as you can honestly do the first day.  You don't have to be a hero.  The best you can do is all that I ask.  That is perfection in Yoga, the best you can honestly do on any particular day."

Now that is a nice little opening speech!  Much better than the lecture filled with rules that you often hear: "stay on your mat, don't fidget, don't drink you water until after the 3rd pose, only drink in between sets, don't move when people are balancing, don't leave the room..."  None of that!  Just "do your best, don't be scared."

The book is also very funny, especially when it's describing what the postures feel like to beginning students, the "ideal" versus the "reality."  After explaining how the postures SHOULD be done, the book also explains what will probably happen on the first try.  For example, here's what it says about pranayama:

"After a couple of inhalations and exhalations, you'll swear your arms had been poured full of lead.  You'll begin to cheat by cocking the wrists and flapping your arms like waterwings.  Soon even your hands will grow heavy... By then your toes will have crept apart, your knees will have bent (not necessarily both in the same direction), and as you try to correct those problems you'll forget if your chin was supposed to be going down while the arms were going up and whether you were inhaling or exhaling and why.  You will understand the meaning of eternity at last, for surely you've done many more than ten cycles, and yet the class just keeps going on and on."

Now that is spot on.  Don't you remember your first class?  That is definitely what I felt like when I first started!  But then the book also gives a very lucid explanation of what it means to breathe through your throat, and I've gotta say, there are students who have practiced for YEARS who still don't know how to do this properly.  But it's right there, on page 7, in black and white.  This book is like a free posture clinic; it can answer your questions about your practice that you didn't even know you had!

One of my teacher friends made a comment about the "reality" section a few days ago, saying "teachers should know that shit inside and out," and I really couldn't agree more.  (I am still working on this, by the way.)  It's basically the text version of Bikram's week 9 lectures at teacher training, where he goes through the postures and discusses them in the context of a very new and struggling student.  I think it's so important for us to remember what our students are going through, so that we can address them with compassion and understanding instead of just thinking, "Dang, what's wrong with that guy?!"

My favorite new discovery this week was a very simple little sentence hidden in the middle of page 43.  In the middle of the paragraph, there's this one short line: "With Yoga you add to yourself, and thus to the world."  That's a big deal.  Think about it...

Now I'm gonna hop back off my soapbox - thank you for your indulgence - and go stretch my poor body, which is feeling awfully creaky today.  My last request is that you go and read something written by Bikram, instead of just written by me, because an awful lot of the stuff that I talk about is really from him.  And then let me know about your favorite parts... cause you'll probably find something that I have missed...

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