I am lighthouse rather than lifeboat. I do not rescue, but instead help others to find their own way to shore, guiding them by my example.–Modern Affirmation
I took class today in the middle of what might be the hottest heatwave of the year. It was juicy and satisfying. My hamstrings aren’t a hundred percent yet but Stephanie skillfully guided me through Class 19 as I developed my mental toughness.
Everyone around me seemed to drop like flies, overwhelmed by the heat. This was one of the rare classes where I maintained my stillness through most of the postures but I held on to some postures for a breakthrough.
I was able to hold both sets of standing bow on both sides without falling out for the entire duration. Now that’s a miracle! I held onto my leg without kicking out during the second set of standing forehead to knee on both sides. Another amazing feat considering that I would rather–and often–assume the posture, fall out and then fiddle around until it’s over and never get back into it.
The heat was a bit much for everyone around me and yet it didn’t bother me. Maybe these consecutive days are developing my tolerance for heat and humidity.
I included the quote about the lighthouse at the beginning of the post because two classes this week brought it to mind. On Sunday, Kathryn mentioned this meditation while we were in savasana. This was after a relatively new student just about fainted in the middle of standing bow. It turned out that she had not eaten any food all day before our 2:30pm class. If you don’t eat or hydrate, Bikram will bite you in the @$$. Trust that.
When the student experienced difficulty, Kathryn assisted her, gave her over to another student to watch over her outside the room and then continued with class. In that way, she guided the student and the class like a lighthouse. She did not carry her or derail the class to attend to her. Teaching Bikram is truly a guiding process by people who have been through everything that their students encounter through their rigorous training.
Today, in Stephanie’s class, there were a number of disruptions that made the practice for everyone even more challenging. One of the rules of Bikram class is that you do not leave the room. No one will restrain you or anything and you’re free to leave at any time and the agreement is that you do what you need to do to stay in the room for the full 90 minutes. If you’re tired or dizzy, you can sit or lie down on your mat. This is crucial for first-time students so that they can become acclimated to the heat.
When you take your first Bikram class and you are astonished by how hot it gets in there, keep in mind that it will always be hot in every class. Barring some malfunction, the studio will always be 105 degrees and nothing less. So when you begin, you might as well get used to it because the heat is going nowhere.
In class, a long time student decided to leave the room to use the bathroom in the middle of standing series. The teacher is then placed in the highly difficult position of asking the student to forego the bathroom or allowing the student to leave and, in turn, begin a chain of events where everyone suddenly has a pressing need and will leave as well.
Fortunately most of the students stayed put. Unfortunately, a first-timer, overwhelmed and uncomfortable in the heat, decided to leave. Well if the first student left, then obviously she could leave too, right? Not quite. The first student knew better but didn’t care or her emergency superseded all yoga etiquette by leaving. Her leaving took a wave of energy out of the room and caused a distraction that required other practitioners to find a way to focus on their postures again.
Then the first-timer who left deprived herself of the complete experience and the accomplishment of staying in the room the first time. All you have to do when you take a Bikram class the first time is “Stay in the room”. That is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. I hope she will attempt to do that the next time.
Even more unfortunate, the disruptions did not stop there. The person that came to class with the first-timer decided to leave the classroom in the midst of standing series when he realized she was not coming back. He then proceeded to to come back into the room to retrieve something he’d left in the room. At some point, the long time student returned.
I can only imagine how frustrating it is for a teacher to watch her class seemingly slip out of her control as students disregard etiquette and consideration of other people practicing by entering and leaving a space that is intended to be unbroken by egress for 90 minutes.
Yet Stephanie overcame that and continued to guide us and, in her ability to do that, we able to eventually focus on our practice and let the frustration fall into the past to power our way to the end of our session. In that way, Stephanie and other Bikram yoga teachers are truly lighthouses. They do not save us or carry us to the shore. Their voices guide us to and through the healing and transformation of our bodies onto safer shores. One day, hopefully, I will be a lighthouse too.
Are you thinking about taking your first Bikram yoga class. It is critical that you prepare yourself so that you can succeed. Lack of hydration, nourishment or rest undermine your experience. For some great advice for people considering their first class, read tips on Heather Molina’s blog here. Good luck!