May 24, 2011

Bikram, mon amour.

That’s what I would call Bikram - though others may call him names - and here is why:

This is a story I have been wanting to write for a long time, but have been too scared of. Writing about it for me, is like writing about the love of your life – it’s really beautiful and you really don’t want to mess the story up. Yesterday I at least gathered the courage to start with some notes. Then I got the little sign from above by meeting a girl before my 6pm class who I recognized from somewhere...turns out she goes to my old studio in New York and I remembered her face.
If you haven’t gathered what this is going to be all about – it’s yoga. More exactly Bikram Yoga. The little comments and mentions I let slip ever so often, don’t cut it anymore. So here we go, in honour of Mr. Bikram...

My love for yoga started very late. So late that my mother, a yoga instructor for 40 odd years had surely given up on me. I recall when I was about 11 years old and my school was offering ‘project week’ that my Mum offered a yoga class for kids. You would assume her only daughter could support her with attendance. No, not me. I preferred hiking in East Germany during a time when they still called brown sugar water Coca Cola.
It didn’t get much better over the time. In college I had to do a PE class so I thought yoga would be an easy way to score an A. I underestimated the fact that getting out of bed and into a cold classroom by 8am was quite hard for me; laying on the even colder floor on a stinky mat trying to breathe just wasn’t enough motivation.
Only when I went home a year later did I attempt another try. My sister-in-law, who I was in awe of at the time, was doing Bikram yoga and it was the new cool kid on the yoga block everywhere. It took an hour and a half (the exact length of a Bikram class in case you wonder) and I was hooked.
Back in New York I went on the mission to find myself a studio. Do you know the feeling when you walk into a new place and you just feel ‘arrived’? That’s how I felt when I walked into Bikram Yoga LES: Everything was pink and reminded me of my long lost friend Barbie. Also there were fun teachers, hot guys next to me dripping in sweat, ice cold coconut water for afterwards and me in my little shorts, I would have never dared to wear before.
It became my joy, my challenge, my safe pink haven. I ran or crawled to class six times a week, depending on whether I was late or buried by snow. And when I hit a rough patch in my life that literally glued to the couch in front of the TV with anxiety, my classes were the only thing that got me off once a day.
The idea to teach did not come to me in a very profound or meaningful way. At some point I was just browsing the studio’s website and found the teachers section, where they give everyone a little questionnaire. I liked the idea and in my mind was answering the questions as if I was a teacher. All of a sudden I liked that idea too.
I did like the idea of moving to Cape Town better though and so I did. The nice thing about Bikram is that you can do it anywhere in the world and always get what you know what you’ll get. Or so I thought. My first studio here was fine at best. More laid back, too laid back for my taste, the classes and the teachers. I went, but not happily so.
I was saved about a year ago when Jai Yoga opened. It was not a pink haven, but a white heaven I found. A new home for my passion, conveniently located between Col’Cacchio and a liquor shop. Have I mentioned that I am a bad yogi who will make use of places like that way too often? I secretly think they should give discount to all Jai Yoga attendees, because surely I can’t be the only one.
Thanks to Sy, my teacher and mentor I also can take now the elevator (I should explain – back in high school only a student with a sick pass or teachers were allowed to use the elevator. So I only use the elevator now when I’m teaching, but the stairs when I practise myself. Taking the elevator may seem lazy, but it puts me in teacher’s mode). He taught me how to teach, though I don’t like to call it teaching as it is really more a sharing of an experience.
Before I walked into my first class, Sy was teasing me, told me he wanted to see me cry in there (apparently that had happened to him or something). I didn’t. Instead I walked in, all of a sudden became very calm and felt again that I had ‘arrived’ somewhere.
So now there I am a few times a week, not turning myself into a pretzel. In fact Bikram is very un-pretzely, which suits me fine. What I don’t like to tell people who get very impressed when I tell them I teach yoga, is that I’m one of the most inflexible persons I know. Also I have days when I doubt I should be wearing tiny little shorts. Then I think – so what? This is what yoga is all about. It’s for everyone. It doesn’t judge. It doesn’t gossip. It doesn’t tell you, you are too this or too that. All it does is teach you how to breathe, stand still and be loving to your mind and body. While I teach others, I still learn all of this for myself. Every single time. That’s the beauty of it.

P.S. In case you wonder if I ever did fill out the teacher’s questionnaire – of course I did! Will post it tomorrow.

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