Hello my loves!!
We have many teachers along the way, but few mentors I think. To me, a mentor is someone who is more than just a teacher. A mentor leads us toward knowledge, not just teaches us a tool. A mentor inspires us, guides us, helps us hone in or open up. One of my early mentors is a woman named Paula Shaw. She is an actress from New York, transplanted to LA and then spent part of the year up in Vancouver. She is old school, Uta Hagen, theatre trained and not afraid to be REAL. There was no way of not being honest and real and true with Paula, she could see right through anything and everything. I worked with Paula for a few years. I took acting classes, self expression workshops, and later assisted her with weekend intensives. I spent a lot of time with her in emotionally charged and vulnerable situations. She taught me how to connect with my body, by recognizing emotions, thoughts and physical sensations, and how to differentiate between the three. It was one of my first formative experiences in truly getting to know myself.
One evening, in an acting class with Paula, it was either the first or second class I had taken with her, I had a lesson in how to take something and make it my own. I was in the midst of my first couple of lines of the scene, sitting at a vanity doing my hair, putting on make up and talking to my sister. I was miming the hair brush and the make up, and I was making big facial gestures as I “put on my make up”. It was only one or two sentences of that and she stopped me. I remember hearing stories of studio owners taking classes of new teachers and stopping the teacher part way and taking over the class for whatever reason. I imagine Paula stopping me in my miming tracks is a similar experience. It was mortifying at the time. She stopped me mid scene with a “wtf are you doing”, and one or two lectures about pretending and make believe and acting before she had me begin again (with a real hairbrush and real make up, I will add). What happened next was this: I did the scene being myself but using someone else’s words to present another persona.
Now, on to B.S. vs. B.U.
In all the years I spent visiting Bikram’s Teacher Trainings (TT), I spent many many many hours in posture clinic…which means I heard so many people from all over the world say Bikram’s words. (Not to mention all the classes I took with teachers from all over the world).It does not take a genius to figure out who is saying the words as the yoga teacher part of themselves, and who is trying to be some kind of whoever they think a yoga teacher is. One is natural, and even though it might be nervous or what have you, it’s real and honest. It’s using a real hairbrush. The other, although might have good and insightful moments, ends up feeling weird and disconnected. Miming how they think a yoga teacher should be. I like to lovingly refer to option A (natural, real, honest) as “B.U.”, and option “B” (fun to start, then weird and disconnected), as “B.S.” It’s simple, be you, or bull shit. There are only those two options. Be you, be yourself, be honest, be truthful, act with integrity, and Be You. The other option, be entertaining, be interesting, be self centered, be disconnected and I call Bull Shit.
Of course we all love a fun class with a teacher who tells fun and entertaining stories. But how good do you feel when you leave a class and feel like you learned something new and useful to your body or practice and can’t wait to get back to class again? Feels different than when you leave class and all you learned was the latest dirt on the Kardashians.
So here we are. As I travel to different studios I am seeing them change. There is a sense in the yoga world that one product is not enough, that one yoga is limiting, that there must be many options. It seems that many studios feel there has to be a shorter class and an easier class and a flowing class and a not as hot class in order to be successful…or at least to keep up with the other guy down the road. As I am not a studio owner I can’t say what is right or what is wrong, of course, but I will say this: when you have two feet in two boats, you will inevitably end up split in the middle. Two feet in one boat. Call your studio whatever you want, whether it’s hot yoga or river yoga, this yoga or that yoga, but it seems to me when studios begin to scramble to change their name and take Bikram out of the equation, that’s when the culture gets foggy and the boats begin to drift in different directions. I get it, I get why everyone is changing their name…but what I don’t get is changing the yoga. Bikram yoga is authentic, it’s hard, it’s hot and it works. Works to do what, exactly, is up to you and the culture that you create. The authenticity you provide for your students is directly related to their success.
That’s all. Those are my thoughts for tonight. I believe in Bikram yoga and the benefits it provides. I believe we make adjustments to help our students, and I believe we change the way we teach to suit the students in front of us and the studio we are in, but that doesn’t mean we throw in a few down dogs and call it something new because that’s what we think real yoga is, or what a real yoga studio should be.
Be authentic. Be true to you. Be true to what you teach. Use the real hairbrush.
Thanks for reading, lovelies. We are just leaving Montreal and headed for Ottawa. We’ve been on the road for a little over 2 months and have visited about 20 cities. I felt it was my duty as a Canadian to drive across my country at least once in my life…tick that one off the list.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving. xox