The answer as to how I’d cope with two classes per day, along with lectures, posture clinics, and late-night Bollywood movies for the next nine weeks was, somewhat unexpectedly, remarkably well – which came as something of a pleasant surprise after my first class with Bikram pretty much tore me apart. As the days and weeks progressed it became apparent that there was something to be said for the rigorously scheduled days we were confronted with, most of which went something along the lines of:
• 08:00-08:25 - sign-in
• 08:30-10:00 - yoga class
• 10:00-12:00 - free, but basically shower/shovel as much food down your throat as you can/learn dialogue
• 12:00-12:25 - sign-in
• 1230-16:00 - lecture/posture clinic
• 16:00-16:30 - free time, but basically ‘get your shit together for…’
• 16:30-16:55 - sign-in
• 17:00-18:30 - yoga class
• 18:30-2100 - free time, but again: shower, eat, learn dialogue like your life depends on it (because it does)
• 21:00-21:25 - sign-in!
• 21:30-00:00 - lecture/posture clinic
• 00:00-stupid-o’clock - Sleep if you’re lucky, otherwise … Bollywood movie!
The lectures during the first two weeks of training actually consisted of us stepping up on stage and presenting half moon pose to Bikram while three other students practiced the pose. And yes, by that I mean all 400-odd students going up one by one.
My intention was to get up and get it done as quickly as possible because I thought that if I left it more than a few days nerves would start to set in. And anyway, I figured the sooner I got it done the quicker I could get on with learning the dialogue for the next posture in the sequence. Did I mention dialogue? In Bikram Yoga you have to learn a set dialogue for all 26 postures and two breathing exercises. I know - intense huh?
But intending to do something and actually doing it are two different things, because they would only accept students ready for half moon in batches of 20, which meant it was all a bit of trial and error looking over to see when a new batch of students was needed, and then basically legging it as quickly as possible to the special 20 seats set aside for those about to present. I can’t tell you how many times I pegged it across the room only to find myself the unfortunate number 21. It was like a really shit version of musical chairs without the music. Eventually my little core group (or the British Invasion as we were later dubbed) started strategically planning were to sit so we were as close as humanly possible to the pre-half moon seats.
And after a couple of days … BOOM, success!
Getting up and presenting half moon was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done - not because I had to stand up in front of 400 people but because … well, it’s Bikram, isn’t it? You’re standing up in front of the man who created this yoga, who put his name to it, who knows it inside out and you’ve got to try and impress him. So, y’know, it’s a BIG DEAL.
Anyway, eventually my turn comes and I step-up onto the stage, take the microphone and say “hello Bikram, my name’s Tim and I’m from Bikram Yoga Chiswick.” He nods and says “begin please.”
So I do as I'm told and begin.
My biggest fear was that I would just go blank and the words I’d worked so hard to memorise - that I’d actually taught on several occasions back at my studio in preparation - would just go flying out of my head. We’d seen it already with a few other students where nerves had taken hold and their confidence fell away and I was petrified it would happen to me. But with no other choice I took a deep breath and began.
“Everybody together. Feet together at the line, heels and toes touching each other. Arms over the head sideways, palms together…”
And then I was off. The words just spilled out of my mouth like they’d been fighting to be released for so long and I’d finally said “oh go on then - get out” to them. And as they came I got more animated, gesturing with my free hand, changing the tone of my speech when saying words like “come down and push, and push, and push,” truly believing that I could get my three students to do the very best half moons imaginable with just the power of my voice.
Then before I knew it I was done. My students came back up, stopped in the middle and brought their arms down by their sides. I lowered the microphone and turned to face Bikram who sat in his chair with a look on his face that I simply could not read. Would he smile and say well done? Or would he wave his hand in the air to indicate it was OK, but could've been better? Worse still, had I completely misjudged how I thought I'd done and he would tell me I was awful?
The seconds that followed felt like an eternity … and then he said the following words, words I will never forget:
“Excellent. Faultless. I have no correction. Thank you, Boss. NEXT!”
The next thing I know I’m handing the microphone to someone else and taking my place ready to perform the posture for the next student. Obviously, I was deliriously happy for the rest of the day, and quite frankly the rest of the week if I’m truly honest.
Any time I felt l like I was struggling at training I’d always think back to Bikram’s words in the lecture room that day and take a little strength from what he said to me. Because when your guru, the man who started it all, tells you he has no corrections you know you’re doing something right, right?