Monday, July 18, 2011

One Month In: Helpful Hints & Was It Worth It?

First, a quick update on teaching.  As of Friday, I'm lucky enough to now be working at TWO studios - Mission Yoga is my first love, of course, but I'm also teaching a few times a week at Bikram Yoga Walnut Creek, the home studio of friend and fellow trainee Tiffany, pictured below with the boss's watch.  

So if you're looking to take my class...check out the Mission Yoga schedule HERE or the Walnut Creek schedule HERE and look for my name!

Moving on...

Just before I left, Andrew gave me a bunch of great photos he'd taken, so I'm just going to pepper the rest of this post with them, regardless of relevance.

gamebred said...danielle! thanks so much for sharing your journey! i cant believe it's already been 9 weeks and im in the real world. i'm so excited for my turn in the fall. 

wishing you well wishes for your first couple classes. also, a blog post for future trainee helpful hints would be so super awesome! i love to get everyone's hints as a guide for my prep. 

thanks so much for your positive outlook on training.

It's impossible to be fully prepared for the madness that is training, but here are some ideas:

Talk to people.  Talk to your studio owners, your teachers, anyone you know who has been to training. Especially, talk to people who operate in the world similarly to you (for example, if you're really shy, you're probably not going to have a similar experience to someone who is really loud and outgoing).

Trust the process.  You'll hear this so much it'll be alternately ridiculous and infuriating.  But it's true not just in the sense that there is a method to Bikram's madness (there is most of the time...not ALL the time, let's be honest) but true in the sense that if you just let go of expectations, frustrations, intentions, so forth and take training exactly as it is, you'll have a far, far better experience.  It's kind of another way of saying "This is it. Fuck it.  It is what it is."  

Study the dialogue beforehand.  The more you've started to get a grip on the dialogue and your studying techniques beforehand, the more time you'll have to adjust into life in the yoga bubble when you get there.

Think about how you'll feed yourself.  One of the most useful things I brought was a high speed tea kettle, to make soups, lentil mix, tea, you name it.  Some people brought toaster ovens or hot plates.  What will keep you fed on the cheap?

Bring a drying rack if you have one.  Very useful.

Plan to use two yoga mats.  Either bring them, or buy them there.  My first mat (that I bought from the Bikram store for $30) had to be tossed after only 3 weeks; the two $10 mats I subsequently bought at Target lasted through the rest of training.  Having two mats gives them time to dry in between classes.

Pack sweatshirts and warm clothing.  I figured I was going to LA and would need sundresses and tank tops.  But I was living in a heavily air conditioned hotel that, sometimes, I wouldn't leave for days.  Keep that in mind when you're deciding what to pack in your suitcase.  Basically, imagine that you're a cat lady and take it from there - stretchy, comfy, warm clothing. 

Be okay with getting fat.  Or any weird physical side effects.  You're putting your body through a lot of stress and it's going to react in strange ways, so listen to what it wants and don't stress yourself out even more because you're breaking out or getting fat or whatever.  

Maybe you're going to retain fluids and feel sluggish...maybe you're going to eat burgers every weekend whereas red meat used to be an every-two-months treat...maybe your lips are going to get so chapped that moisturizing them every five minutes is not enough...maybe you'll lose your flexibility from sitting in hotel chairs for hours and forget how it feels to be even CLOSE to locking your knees in Pada Hastasana (and yes, all these things happened to me).  Just be okay with it and you'll have a far better experience than if you're running around whining about being fat (I swear I got better at being non-judgmental!  Really I did!)

Keep a journal.  Everyone told us to do this but I never felt like I had time.  I couldn't even keep up with weekly blog posts!  But the few emails I sent to my friend Stephanie are the only moment-in-time records I have of training (yes, I didn't include EVERYTHING in this blog, believe it or not), and I really value those now.  So even if it's just five minutes before you crash at 2AM, it's definitely of value; see if you can develop the habit right away.

I DID, of course, keep a notebook full of lecture notes and doodles, and found the following list of mantras/affirmations Kelly had collected at the start of training -  all of these are also good to keep in mind:

Stay Focused
Trust the Process
No Expectations
Be a Sponge
Love and Be Kind
Stay Positive
No Judgement

Jill said...Hey Danielle, your TT experience sounds a ton more delightful and encouraging than another blog I read. I am planning on going to TT in the fall. Do you think that the money spent on TT is worth it? I feel after reading the other blog that it isn't worth the time, effort, and money. I have a full-time job and am very passionate about Bikram yoga and feel a calling to go to training. I am just a little discouraged, nervous, and anxious especially the $$$ part. What are your thoughts and what do you suggest? Thanks for your blog and insight.

First I wanted to speak to the whole money part, because Bikram Teacher Training costs a LOT.  There's the mandatory housing (and sure, you'll probably hear about people who get away with living off campus, which I also tried to do - but in the end, I was really grateful that at 4:30am, I only had to walk upstairs to get to bed, not to the parking lot and drive all the way home), the tuition, the food (anywhere from $800 - $2K for training, depending on how much you eat out and whether you shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joes), then all the incidentals like laundry, car expenses (gas, parking), yoga clothes, etc. 

So if you're thinking about going to training have a plan for how to pay for it.  Keep in mind that you're going to come out of training and be making $35 - $40/class - and that's before any taxes.  Some studios don't even pay new teachers.  Your best bet is to teach part time, but if, like me, you really want to teach full time for a little while upon your return, make sure that you've saved up enough buffer money to get you through the first few months.  

I can't recommend highly enough for this sort of thing.  I started saving for teacher training two years ago using this site - totally free, it helps you keep track of your money and where it goes, set budgets, track progress, and best of all, set a goal (like "Yoga Teacher Training"), tie a specific savings account to that goal, and let you know how much needs to be set aside each month to get there (sure, it's a little disquieting that all my financial information is all tied into that site, but all that info is out on the interwebs in one form or another anyway, so I'm okay with it).

There are definitely people who just put the whole shebang on their credit cards and hope for the best.  And I've talked to current teachers who did this successfully, and are glad they did it, but they're still paying it off.  If you're like me, and throw caution to the wind ONLY TO A POINT, make sure you have a budget, a plan (and if the plan changes, fine, but have a plan), a savings account.  This is a huge investment that shouldn't be made lightly.

Now to the Ultimate Question...was it all worth it?  If you interviewed a hundred folks at our training and asked them what the experience was like, they would probably give you a hundred different answers.  But ask whether it was worth it, and the vast majority would give you the same answer: FORTY-TWO.  I mean, YES!

As an illustrative example...Kelly will be the first to tell you how much she doesn't miss training.  Long, repetitive lectures till the wee hours of the morning; classes that left her physically and emotionally drained; she was not a fan.  But if you asked her if it was worth it, her answer would be an unqualified YES.  She is a teacher now, and a really fantastic, stand-out teacher, and she loves the yoga again, and if training was what she needed to suffer through, well then, it was worth it to achieve this particular dream.  

Second example: another friend went to training without EVER intending to teach - she just wanted to take some time out from a stressful job and learn more about the yoga.  She was frustrated that we didn't get structured classes on yoga theory, history, etc and instead there was so much emphasis on the practicalities of delivering dialogue.  But now?  She's taught several classes and loves it!  Was it what she expected? Not at all.  Was it worth it?  Yes.

I read blogs that made me think twice about going too.  People get angry, frustrated, pissed off.  A lot of the time it feels like there's no structure, that no one really knows what's going on.  Not only does Bikram repeat himself endlessly, but he can act like a jerk (he said it himself: "I'm more American than you!  But underneath I'm very conservative, old fashioned, a little bit prejudiced").  I thought this blog did a great job of expressing the darker side of the experience, the push and is definitely not all sunshine and rainbows.
But of course it was worth it for me.  It was worth it because I'm now part of this worldwide community of people who all went through the same intense experience of training at one point in their life, and share that bond with me.  It was worth it for all the time I had in class to really think about myself and how I live my life, and what I value, and what I want to change.  It was worth it for the close friendships I made that I know will always be there, even if years and years go by before we see each other again.  It was worth it for the laughter, the tears, the joy, the challenges, the new way I look at challenges in my non-yoga life.  It was more than worth was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Jim encouraged us to make a list titled "Why am I here?" and refer back to it whenever training was breaking us down.  I thought I might end this post with my list, since it's also relevant to the whole "is it worth it" question.  Also, if my fellow new teachers want to pipe in with their own tips, tricks, and musings on this blog, I'm sure it would be much appreciated - and I'm curious!

Why Am I Here? (as of 4/25/2011)
Because I love doing bikram yoga.
Because I want yoga to be an important part of my life, for the rest of my life.
Because it is a challenge I can meet.
Because I know it will help me break bad habits and become a better person inside and out.
To realize what power I have (per Bikram)
To cultivate compassion (per Jim)
Because I paid $11,000 to be here!


  1. Thank you so much for this, very, very useful. Your light is truly shining. Bring on Fall 2011! Good luck with your teaching :-)

  2. so so so so so very very very thank you for this. this was a great hints and tips blog post for sure. super congrats man. and thanks for the hitchikers guide to the galaxy reference. that was awesome. i CAN WAIT to go through all that is training.

    happy teaching. im from the bay area, and currently live in seattle, when im there i will see where you are teaching and take a class.

  3. this was great. currently planning in fall 2012. thanks. also from SF.

  4. OH MY GOSH!!! I don't know how to Thank you enough!!! I hope one day to meet you :) I am attending this has been a long, painful,decision making process...You are an amazing person love you blog. Jill