Adventures in Teacher Training

May 4, 2007




For those curious about training in Hawaii, I thought I would give a little info on how it is all going…as usual, this is a bit long, so peruse at your leisure. If you are headed to Hawaii, do check out a PS at the bottom.

First off, never fear, there is indeed a Bikram Yoga Wear outlet in the hotel! A small office off the lobby has been transformed into a small boutique to provide the yoga wear YOU need, though, of course, given the move to Hawaii, the trainees are not blessed with the lovely Barbara interrupting savasana with deal specials. Given the location switch, there are quite a few things we experienced the new trainees are going to miss. But more on that below.

So, yes, the training has moved to beautiful Hawaii and is located at the Ilikai hotel, which the hotel website says is located ‘Where Waikiki begins…”  This is a little like saying Oakwood is ‘near beautiful Beverly Hills.’  Well, yeah, I guess. Suffice to say, for the trainees to get to the beach, they have to make a bit of a trek out the hotel, across a long bridge, walk through a large parking lot and then down a long stretch of sand, at least to get to a place in the water where you won’t cut your feet on sharp rocks on the bottom of the ocean. So they don’t have it quite so easy as just running out of class and jumping in the water. Still, they can indeed leave class and get to the ocean, which I must say is pretty awesome. I’ve hit the water after every class I’ve taken this week and something about sweating out all that salt, then swimming in salt water, feels amazing. Some kind of osmosis something or other must occur, I dunno, I guess I slept through that, um, missed that in Anatomy. (Yes, Dr T is here! And Cathy.)

Even given the 5 to 10 minute walk to the ocean, I am surprised how few of the trainees are taking advantage of it, at least during the week. Most just seem to want to disappear into their hotel rooms for whatever free time they have. Which is understandable, but when in Hawaii, I’d take advantage of Hawaii. The hotel rooms are of course one major difference they have from our training. And I am not sure in every way for the better. I was no fan of the parking lot, but there is no real place for the trainees to gather here, in the way we did between classes and lectures. They are rather spread out on their breaks, so I have a feeling they might miss the whole ‘communal’ thing we had and not become as close as a group. This might change once posture clinic really gets rolling.

Separate posture clinics began this week. I’ve heard a lot of ‘they have it so easy’ whining going on behind the scenes down here, given they are in Hawaii and that the heat is not as intense in the yoga room. May be. But posture clinic is where they are going to pay dearly. They are divided into 12 groups, rather than 6, and will be in six different conference rooms on the second floor every time they go to posture clinic. Not only, then, it is going to move a lot faster, these rooms are small. I mean, SMALL. Imagine a room half the size of our Room C, the back room where everyone went to pass out during or after class…half the size of that horrible room but the same amount of people. In the posture clinics I’ve been in, the only way we could get them all into the room was for their backjacks (yes, backjacks! 400 backjacks shipped to Hawaii!) to be literally touching side by side, no gap anywhere, and they were so close front to back that most of the people had to sit with their knees into their chest like Wind Removing. Once 4-hour posture clinics kick in, this is going to suck. They literally cannot move or fidget the space is so tight. And the ceilings are so low that when anyone over 6’ tall puts their ‘arms over their heads sideways,’ their fingers hit the ceiling. I’m telling ya’, it is tight.

The big room where class occurs is a trip. It is shaped a bit like an arrowhead, with the bottom of the arrowhead being the front mirror. So the walls on the sides are slanted in. Given the side walls being on a slant, and being that there are about 8 columns in the room -- and all the columns, along with the side walls, are covered with mirrors -- you feel a bit like you are in a fun house at the state fair when taking class. Everywhere you look, you see reflections in the mirror but unless you are on the front row, you are looking directly into another person’s eyes, rather than yours. It’s kind of like being on an awkward first date with someone; you feel like you are practicing face to face with a person, rather than yourself in the mirror. So you have to look anywhere but where you want to look. I took class the other day and when I looked straight ahead, I look right into the eyes of Craig, who was about 3 people down from me, and he mine.  His focus is such he probably never noticed, but all I know is, I worked harder than I ever have that class, which my old bones are still paying for presently.

The heat is not as intense as we had it. They are trying hard to get it up but a variety of problems have faced the staff. In a week or so it should be raging, and I am sure subsequent trainings will have the old heat back. But it is still quite humid, more humid than ours, and the air in the room is very still. You still get an amazing sweat in the room and there are definitely pockets in the room that are almost as intense as we had it. They also seem to be crowded in tighter than we were. The weirdest thing about the room, if you are a returning teacher, is that the back wall of the room, where returning teachers set up, is floor to ceiling windows. So besides working to be good in class so the trainees don’t make fun of you behind your back for having a crappy practice (as we all did with people whose names I will refrain from mentioning) you also have to work really hard because a group of people start to form outside the room to watch from the outside. You are right there on display. For anyone who comes down, I really encourage you to skip a class and just stand outside and watch a whole class. It is an amazing, beautiful sight to see about 320 people do the yoga, in unison, from behind. I have learned quite a bit just watching the class. Floor Bow, in particular, is breathtaking to watch.

Given the trainees are in a hotel in Hawaii, certain changes have been made to try to keep it just as difficult. The morning class, for instance, starts at 8:30, rather than 9:30. Even though this might seem easy given they don’t have an hour commute, the elevator situation in the hotel is a nightmare. Only three of the 5 regular elevators are working, and they only seem to work sporadically. The hotel has opened up the service and freight elevators, but it is still quite a chore to get down to the lobby if you are using the elevators anytime remotely near the start of a class or lecture. Also, they have to sign-in 4 times a day, not twice! And just as many people space out and forget the sign-ins, so the makeup classes are going to start filling up soon. If they don’t show up for morning class, phone calls are made to rooms and I imagine some door knocking might go on as well. So it is not all a dream to be so close to the training. I imagine toward the end a certain claustrophobia might set in, even given they are in a hotel on Waikiki. Some of them are even three to a room. The rooms are nice, but they are similar to a normal sized hotel room. I’m not sure I’d want to be with three people in such a space for 9 weeks, even if I have a view of the ocean.

They do have Saturday morning class with Craig. It is at 8 AM. Make up classes for missing sign in are at 6 AM on Tues and Thurs, and 10 AM on Sunday. The twist with the Saturday class is that, obviously, it would be easy on a Saturday morning to roll over and think, screw it, I’ll just go to the makeup on Sunday. But if you miss Saturday morning class, you have to do two makeups, not one, and you can only do the 6 AM classes, for missing Saturday. So they have great incentive to get to the Sat AM class.

I took Craig’s class this morning, btw. It is everything you remember! Awkard part II was a breeze compared to the over two-minute standing bow! But if you can take his class, do so, because not being so beaten and exhausted, I was able to hear a lot more of what he had to say about the postures and appreciated his class even more. I am now in the airport and again, sore as hell. Damn am I sore.

Bikram himself seems very happy and relaxed. I guess he really does love being in Hawaii. I have had three of his classes and they were terrific, he was in full Bikram mode, funny and charming. The first two were 2 hours at least. But he was having a ball. They have had more of Bikram these first three weeks than we had the whole time… decide on your own if that is good or bad. The positive of course is that he has taught them a lot, and the classes I took really were terrific. He also lectured 3 of the five nights I was here, week three and they had other lectures from him week one and two. Most ran very late. I somehow seemed to miss his lectures this week. Not sure how or why I missed them.

Emmy was here for the first 2 and a half weeks, so she taught the trainees a lot. But now she is gone and might not make it back. That, too, is going to be different for them. The first two weeks, almost every class was either Bikram, Rajashree, Emmy, Craig or Jim C from San Diego. So they started off with a bang, But for week four none of those people save Craig will be here and they will never again have a week where they have all four, the way we did almost every week. They might not even get to experience Juan’s class. But there are a ton of visiting teachers, given the locale, so they are going to get some excellent teaching from the senior teachers who arrive.

Finally, it has been great to see people from our own class. Mira is on staff for the whole 9 weeks, and while I have been here Toni Jo (she has done a double every day for two weeks, she is rocking and rolling), Brandy W, Chris Y,  Jonathan H and Marina have been in and out. I missed Kerith, a huge bummer, and I crossed with Satchie, who arrived as I left. Luke is on staff full time for this training, which is great for them, and so is Julia, who many of you may remember from posture clinics. (She also taught us a great class and told the ‘Soup or Pussy’ joke.)

That is enough news from the front, I really wish I could have kept hanging around. I feel like just having been here, listening to a lot of the senior teachers talk and taking class with them, is really going to improve my teaching. I’ve heard things I heard in our training, but hearing them now, after teaching about 70 classes, they make a lot more sense. So if you come, dive in, help and listen. It has really been a good experience.


One more note to anyone who visits: I hate to sound like a dad here, but, hey, given I am older than many in our class, (sob) maybe it is my calling. I heard a visiting teacher whining to a staff member that they didn’t feel all that welcome. If you come, understand that there are 7 people on staff: Craig, Antonia, Luke, Julia, Rowena, Kyoko and Mira. They are under an enormous amount of stress and get virtually no rest. These first three weeks most of them operated on much less sleep than the trainees. So if when you arrive they are in the midst of a crisis and don’t do a back-flip and give you a big old nelly hug and order you a Mai Tai, relax. Just stand around and see what needs to be done. They actually are happy that people are coming, because any time a teacher can sit at the desk for sign-in, for instance, or take ‘puke duty’ during a class -- which is when you sit outside the class and watch the class, and then if someone comes bursting out of the room with a physical or mental malady you help them and try to get them back in the room - it gives the 7 staff members a break to go do something else that needs to be done or maybe even get some rest. (And again, seriously, it is very cool and very informative to watch the class from behind.) Just stand near one of them for about 30 minutes and you will see what they have to deal with: 310 students asking the same questions over and over or complaining about the dumbest things, or whatever. They are constantly being pulled at in ways I never even dreamed of in our training. And not just from the trainees, but from the visiting teachers. There is a remarkable and amusing amount of drama that can go on behind the scenes about who gets to teach the big class and who gets to do posture clinic, etc. It has to be incredibly tiresome to the staff, who are just trying to do their jobs, jobs that should not include coddling or stroking egos. I don’t mean to sound like I ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ here. It’s just the reality. So if you go, just ask what needs to be done and once you figure out something that continually needs to be done, such as rolling up staff mats before a lecture or some such, just do it. They will really appreciate it. Ok, dad lecture over.