Saturday, March 20, 2010

One of these things is not like the other

I did another double today, and even though the two classes had the exact same 26 asanas and two breathing exercises, they were very different. Not only was my body different, but so too were the teachers. This got me thinking about the teachers who have guided my Bikram practice over the last year and a half. While they were all trained by Bikram himself and were required to learn and deliver the dialogue in the same way, they bring something unique to their classes once they get home. Let's look at the teachers who led my classes in the last 24 hours:

Paul McQuillan (Friday, March 19 at 6:30 pm) -- Paul is an actor and brings a fair deal of theatrics to his teaching style. He's a great teacher to have if you're a first timer, as he's very encouraging and will demonstrate the poses. He's got some classic lines, and even though he says them every class, they never lose their entertainment value. For instance, he likes to point out all the sexual benefits of eagle pose and when rabbit pose comes around, he tells us how before he started doing yoga, he was only 5 foot 2. The absolute best thing about Paul's classes is the yoga chant he sings while we're lying in final savasana. It helps me meditate and absorb all the benefits of my practice, and brings the class to a peaceful end. I've never had another Bikram teacher do this before, so it definitely makes Paul's classes unique.

Richard Browne (Saturday, March 20 at 10:30 am) -- Richard is the newest teacher at my studio, having just come back from Las Vegas in December. He's a Bikram purist; his dialogue is verbatim what you learn while in teacher training. In fact, as I've started to learn the dialogue myself, I find his classes to be particularly helpful. Richard jumped into teaching full force and quickly established himself as one of the toughest teachers at the studio. He likes his classes to be hot and when his students complain about the heat, he responds with "there's no such thing as too hot!" I have a usual spot when I practice, which is in the hot part of the room. But when Richard's teaching, I move to the cool spot, by the windows. And so does everyone else! It's the only way we can make it through. Richard's passion for the yoga is unlike anything I've seen before. He delivers the dialogue in a strong and confident manner. If only he could turn on the air!

Carmen Diaz Pollak (Saturday, March 20 at 12:30 pm) -- Carmen hails from Chile and she's been at the studio for about a year. While I don't speak a word of Spanish, you'll often find me in her Spanglish class on Saturdays, where she teaches the first set of each pose in English and the second in Spanish. If you've never taken a Bikram class in another language, I highly recommend it. Not understanding the words can help you focus more on your practice. For a bit of Spanish flair, Carmen changes up the dialogue for the set up of hands to feet pose. She likes to say "move your hips right and left like rumba, salsa, cha cha cha..." And in balancing stick, instead of saying "your body looks like a T as in Tom," she says, "T like Tremendous!" Carmen has a warmth and energy about her that is very inspiring, and I find her classes to be calm and peaceful.

Each of these teachers (and all teachers for that matter) injects their own personality into their classes, making them their own. I often get asked if I ever get bored of Bikram Yoga, given that each class is exactly the same. My response is that each class isn't the same at all. When you combine the differences in my body and mood each day with the different approaches of each teacher, you realize that no two classes are ever the same. And that's what keeps the yoga interesting!


  1. Very cool description of the teachers. I totally want to take from Carmen now! And instructions in Spanish are so much tougher than in English ;-) My teacher gives lots of corrections in Spanish--"Lock the KNEE! Amasista LA PIERNA!"

    I should not have been surprised you went to grad school--your writing is so precise. I never even ATTEMPTED a PhD. That environment is so competitive!

  2. I've yet to take a class in a language other than Spanish (or English), but would love too! I'm of Italian decent, so perhaps a trip to a Bikram studio in Italy is in order!

    My writing may be precise, but nearly 10 years in university stripped it of any creativity. I now work in corporate communications, so that hasn't helped either. This blog represents my first attempt to write on a personal level since I was probably in high school!

  3. It's fun to hear about Richard, my fellow trainee... the sweetest guy and toughest teacher! Love it. Tell him Anna from Vermont says hi.