This happened. It is real and it is true, so let us not turn a blind eye to something that has split the Bikram yoga community into a million fragments. I swear by this style of yoga, but I do not swear by the man behind this style of yoga.
I met Bikram Choudhury when he came to visit South Africa a few years ago. I did not see him as a guru. I do not see any of my yoga teachers as gurus, I think that is a very dangerous way to think. I saw him as an old man who knew how to sell his brand exceptionally well. He has had a lot of success exporting his style of yoga to the West and you can pretty much find a Bikram yoga studio in every major city across the world. Then this happened and now, like, how do we deal with it? You know when HBO get involved, you are going to have a challenging time looking at the story from all angles. It is interesting to watch how he handles all this heat. It really is a mess and the media is having a blast with it. I am not going to sensationalise the story further, but I will acknowledge that it is happening.
I teach and I practice this style of yoga. I love this style of yoga. I am not certified by Bikram himself, but I am certified by Sally which means way more to me because I have real access to her, thus making my teaching more pure because of that real connection. I subscribe to her way of teaching this style of hot yoga. That is the line in the sand that I draw. I teach this style of hot yoga because I honestly believe in it. It works for me and I’m sharing that with my students. I do not aspire to be like Bikram, I never have and I doubt I ever will.
We live in a time where we have access to more information than ever before. Be responsible, make up your own mind about what works for you and what doesn’t. For any drama like this to play out, there is an energetic entanglement on all kinds of levels and everyone is going to see things from their own perspective. This is not stopping me from practicing hot yoga. Bikram doesn’t own hot yoga. He doesn’t even own Bikram yoga. #Truth.
I don’t know about you, but I am sorta-pissed off about the state of our modern relationships. I know I’m a yogi and being angry isn’t quite the ideal one has of a yogi. But I do get super angry-sometimes too, when it counts. I cannot live inside my phone anymore and have pseudo substitute relationships with the people in my life. Most communication in our modern relationships is happening online and not face to face anymore. My heart has had a hard time with this.
For the longest time, I was a culprit. It was just so much easier to pop a text or email, instead of calling someone and expressing myself with my own voice, and really listening to the other person on the other side. There is something comforting in hiding your real feelings in carefully typed out words. Your voice doesn’t lie, though, and neither do your eyes when you’re connecting with someone face to face and heart to heart. So, I was angry that too many of my relationships were in my phone or online and had not been in my heart. I did something drastic about it and turned it all around. You can expect to hear my voice and see my face a lot more. The wheels are already in motion and in two swift weeks, I have reconnected my heart to the special people in my life. And it it glorious! It is true: the magic is in the heart to heart connections.
So, what does virtual reality and online pseudo relationships have to do with yoga, though? I had a conversation with a business friend of mine recently who encouraged me to take teaching yoga to the net and teach virtual classes across the globe. Financially, it makes sense. If you build up enough of a following, you can teach thousands of people in one go as opposed to forty or sixty per class. I was horrified. That is not what yoga is about! Am I getting that old? I work in digital media, I know how this stuff works. However, now that I’ve been teaching yoga, my heart leapt out and declared, hell no! Yoga is about you connecting to your body, not to your mind. A good teacher holds the space for you to let go of your mind and get real inside your body. That is where the magic is. I don’t think you can translate that magic through a screen for a premium. Do you?
Thinking about this virtual yoga idea spun my mind left field and I realised that this is the future. It is just a matter of time before someone takes virtual yoga to the next level. Are we losing our connection to our humanity? Are we losing the connection to our hearts? Am I turning into one of those hippies who says hells-no to technology and it’s potential destructive influence on our lives and our relationships?
My answer: it all depends on how you use it. If you use technology to expand yourself and create solutions for the world, and you’re coming from a love space, go right ahead. But if you’re using technology that stunts your emotional growth and you’re coming from a fear space, you’re going to have a hard time. The advertising industry is renowned for monetising people’s feelings. Movies do too, however it is usually a win/win because you learn something new about yourself through watching other stories and projecting your psyche onto the characters.
I cannot stand for the emotional axing I see around me anymore. I encourage you to get real and speak to each other face to face, human to human. Do a group activity and connect to each other at a heart level. There is power in collective energy and the connection of a shared, lived experience. Isn’t that what we are all here for? For the love? I think so.
Where to now with this particular insight? Is there a way to merge yoga and technology together in a beautiful and beneficial way? Watch this space. YogaTherapy is 80% close to finishing up on a re-brand…
To ego or not to ego? That is the question, isn’t it? Yoga teachers are not perfect and putting anyone up on a pedestal has a ton of drawbacks that eventually play out in some way or other. I have put a few teachers on a pedestal at some point in my ten years of practicing. Now that I am teaching, I am being made aware of just how easy it is to ride that ego-magic-carpet and think that you know “better” because you are “teaching” people. Hot26 yoga has a ton of instructions that need to be clear, concise and in an ordered fashion – that is the style. It demands discipline. I can only teach you from my body and my experience, you get to do all the hard work yourself. There is nobody that can save you from your own self. You have to put in the hard work. This is why the dialogue is so specific. The words do not make me a guru or anyone else a guru for that matter. I think it’s important that you know this if you are practicing any yoga; it is not a religion and your teacher is not a god. Don’t give away your power like that.
There are times when the ego can come in handy. For example, as a television producer and director, my ego helps me get things done quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. I need to be able to confidently tell a large number of people what to do, how to do it and when to do. Add in travelling to different African cities on the continent, working with many other egos and personalities in often very short time frames, I can tell you now: I would not be able to do my job well without my ego. But do I need my ego at the yoga studio? Hell no. I’ll gladly leave that at the door, it is such a relief! So, in short, I both embrace having an ego and not having an ego equally. The context really does make all the difference. It is wise to know this difference.
There is still so much to learn along this journey. The biggest lesson I’ve taken from becoming a Hot26 yoga teacher is that it isn’t easy, it doesn’t get easier – it gets different. I still practice as often as I can and teach as much as I can. Each class brings with it new rewards and insights. Seeing people smile at the end of class after working incredibly hard inside class feels good in my heart. I live for the transformation and growth. If I can grow and transform the way I have, so can you. It’s a commitment to yourself that you get to keep and see results with. See you all in class! xx Eliza