Why I'm Not Doing Bikram Yoga Teacher Training

Written by Low Lai Chow

The next Bikram Yoga teacher training begins this month in Khao Lak, Thailand.

Only two months ago, I was convinced that right now, I would be saying goodbye to life as I knew it. I'd be on my way to Thailand to learn to give back to the yoga community on a higher and deeper level. Over the next nine weeks, I would build a more consistent practice, with two 90-minute (or longer) classes almost every day. I'd learn alignment in posture clinics, and recite the dialogue over-and-over, until I could say it as well as my teachers.

Bikram Yoga teacher training will be the right path for the 400 or so people who make it to the mat there, but I won't be one of them. The first warning sign came when I started telling my friends and family that I was going to teacher training — just so I could convince myself into actually doing it.

When you have to put in that much effort into making a decision your reality, something just isn't quite right. I should have been able to go ahead with it, without having to arm wrestle myself into it with social pressure.

Here's why I changed my mind:

1. Teaching yoga makes it work, not play.

I react to Bikram Yoga on a visceral level. I like the heat, the fixed 26-posture sequence helps me meditate, and I get to face my inflexibilities — physically, emotionally or mentally — they are all interlinked! And I'm not alone. Bikram Yoga has helped many others like me. While the author Roman Krznaric wrote, "On balance I think mixing work and play is usually worth the risk of potential contamination", I decided I'm happy to not mix work with my practice.

2. Practicing and teaching are vastly different things.

Granted, teaching is a practice in itself, and the only way we can practice it by doing it. Anyone with six months of practice can sign up to undergo Bikram Yoga teacher training. With two years of practice (and counting), I certainly qualify to do so, but leading a class is a responsibility that has to be earned. It is extremely humbling to share your practice with complete strangers and serve as their guide. Certified or not, I still consider myself relatively new to Bikram — even as a practitioner.

3. Good news: I'm addicted to Bikram Yoga. Bad news: I'm addicted to Bikram Yoga.

I recently wrote about how addictive Bikram Yoga can be and while there's nothing wrong with that, an addiction is still an addiction, no matter how beneficial it may be. In The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz cited the example of a long-time alcoholic who used meditation to overcome drinking, but still suffered withdrawal symptoms whenever he missed a day of meditation. He also wrote that, "The underlying structure of positive addiction is the same as that of negative addiction... it still produces an undermining effect."

4. There's still a whole world of yoga to be explored.

While I cherish Bikram Yoga for its systematic approach, exploring other yoga disciplines has helped to keep me on my toes in my practice. For instance, a simple hint by a teacher to tuck my tailbone in during a Mysore class has had the ripple effect of helping me to re-align myself better in Eagle pose (Garudasana).

Sometimes, I take a break from studios and head off to my gym sauna for self-practice, staying in poses for a long time, much like in Yin Yoga. While Bikram Yoga devotees or purists might say I'm detracting from the good stuff, I personally see broadening my practice as a good thing. As people, we often improve in ways that seem unrelated and indirect. Life is organic, so yoga should be too!

5. It's NOT now or never.

Teacher training for Bikram Yoga takes place twice a year, once during summer, and once during fall. It's probably not going anywhere! When I wrote a playful commentary about the things I wished people would stop doing in Bikram Yoga, many stepped forward to talk about what their practice means to them. Why? Because at the end of the day, yoga is an immensely personal journey. No one else knows the full magnitude of your practice like you do. That goes the same for me. I may take a while to show up for Bikram Yoga teacher training. I'm exactly where I need to be for my practice, and that's OK. I am exactly where I need to be right now.

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