Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tips for Bikram Yoga Teacher Training

I was going to write this one myself but I never got it finalized, I put it down & never got back to it. Fret not, my awesome TT/Posture group buddy/class Valedictorian Steven wrote this brilliant piece that absolutely covers everything I would have written. (Also available on FB TT 2012 group page) Remember this is a personal take, I personally agree with everything here. There are even a few things I never thought about which would have helped. (HydroFlask!)

Hi guys,
I know you're getting anxious to "Rock & Roll" so I thought I'd share a few tips for teacher training.  I went to the last training at the Radisson LAX, so hopefully some of this information will be helpful to you. Of course, this is only my perspective and your mileage may vary, so take the advice that rings true for you and ignore anything that doesn't.

The essentials:
Mindset--Change your mind!  It's normal that you're a little nervous and anxious, but don't let that stress you out; This is going to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of your life--so stop feeling scared about it!  Your goal should not be to merely "survive" but to thrive!  If you find yourself thinking "How am I ever gonna survive this?" try thinking something like "how can I experience as much joy as possible throughout this entire experience?" instead.  When else will you ever have the chance to immerse yourself in yoga for 9 weeks!?!  It's best to have no expectations and just go with the flow. Enjoy it!

Yogawear-- as you buy new yoga clothes think about teaching as well as practicing.  You might look hot in your super short shorts, but you won't be able to teach in them later!  So buy a combination of both.  I highly recommend having 11 kits (one for each class) so that you always have a dry/clean one to put on.  I would rinse mine out after class (get into the shower with my clothes still on) and then hang them up.  After the first few weeks your system is so clean that they're pretty clean just after a rinse, but I'd still wash them every weekend.   Others will tell you differently:  they brought like 4 or 5 pairs and washed them in the sink, etc.  This works ok, but everyone I know who did this tossed their clothes after training!  On the other hand, I still have all clothes I took to training--7 of which I can teach in--and they all still look, smell, and feel good!  You'll need something comfortable you can teach in for posture clinincs, too.

Yoga mat--They sell them in the Bikram store for pretty cheap, so there's no need to fly with one unless you have the space.  Get an extra shower rod for hanging up your mats in the bathroom.  I brought some tea tree and a small sprayer, too, but only used it occasionally.  Again, your system is so clean after a few weeks that a quick rinse is sufficient.  Take a big fat sharpie and put your name on the top of your mat facing away from you (i.e. upside down).  This way the teacher can see it from the front of the room and you can get corrections by name--write big, don't be shy!

Water bottles--40 oz Hydroflask.  Google it now!  They also make a 64 oz one, which I always envied.  Think about what you'll want for both class and lectures.  For me, the 40oz was perfect for class but I always took 80oz of fluids to lectures and posture clinics.  Better to have it and not drink it all than to be sitting in the lecture room (for hours!) thirsty!

Transportation--Make friends with someone who has a car!  If you have a car, guess what?  You just found 3 study buddies who will never leave you.  ;-)  If you have a car, be a sport and loudly announce "I'm driving to Whole Foods, who wants to come?" as you walk out of the hotel.  There are enough people with cars to go around, plus TT will set up shuttles (eventually) and there's a bus station near by.  You can also split a taxi with 2 other people to get your groceries home for relatively cheap.

Laundry--There are a few washers at the hotel, but not enough for 400 people.  I recommend going out for breakfast Saturday morning and then doing your laundry and grocery shopping. Obviously all 400 of you can't go to the same one, but there are lots around--spread out!  Some people went up to Santa Monica, others down to Redondo Beach.  I usually went to Whale of a Wash in Manhttan Beach.

Food--Listen to your body and give it what it wants!  Don't make the training any harder on yourself than it needs to be!  I saw a lot of unnecessary suffering as people tried to adhere to strict diets (vegan, raw, etc) when their bodies clearly wanted something else.  On the other hand, some people had no problems at all. So, again, listen to your body! There will be plenty of time AFTER training to experiement with fasting, cleansing, mucusless diets, and "no food is the best food" (I highly recommend Maria Rippo's "The Green Smoothie Challenge").  Who knows, one day you might live on prana & positivity alone, but I don't recommend trying that the first weeks of training!!!

No, you're not supposed to cook in the rooms.  Some people did, and some people got caught (I think it was a $250 fine)!  Be smart! If you blow a breaker in the hotel, you're busted.  If the maid and everyone else on your floor can hear your VitaMix going, you're busted!  If you bring appliances, there's a room where you can set them up and use them.  There will be a couple of microwaves provided (obviously that's not really enough for hundreds of people--it's better than 0 though).

The closest grocery stores are the Ralph's and Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods and Costco aren't too far away. There may be farmer's markets on the weekend, too.  Bless you, California.  :-)

If you find the fridge is too small for a week's worth of food, buy a cooler.  If you have a car, you can take it with you shopping and buy a block of ice while you're out.  The ice machines tend to run out of ice before class, so never fill your coolers then!  Do it in the middle of the night, or at other times when there will be several hours for the machine to recover.  Be kind to your fellow yogis!!!

Make sure you have stuff on hand to cover your cravings: Sweet things, salty things, electrolytes, etc.
I went through a lot of raisins, dates, bananas, dried mangos, dark chocolate, grapefruit juice, coconut water, Body Balance (message me), nuts, popcorn (for movies!), really delicious salt, soup, pickles, and sauerkraut (I love the Farmhouse Culture brand--especially the horseradish flavor--available at Whole Foods).  I also had a SodaStream so I could make my own sparkling drinks (you can buy one at BB&B). Don't be surprised or discouraged if the food you're craving on the weekends when you shop isn't what you want to eat during the week at all. And just cause you liked it last week doesn't mean you'll like it this week.  :-)

Restaurants--The hotel has a salad bar and the food is pretty good, though a bit pricey.  A block away there's a Subway and then lots of other stuff a little further away (within walking distance).  The Thai place is great (and delivers), the Greek place is pretty good, too, and there's a Chipotle right down the road (their meat is clean and free range, so this would be a good place to break your veg diet if you're craving meat). On the weekends, I recommend getting away from the yoga bubble and eating out. There's lots of good breakfast spots all over the place.  Some other highlights:  Sushi King in Santa Monica, Monte Alban mexican in West LA, Bistro Du Soleil and Tandoor-A-india in Playa Del Rey.  Lots more... explore!

Dialogue--There's only one way to learn it: verbatim.  You might think it's a typo, you might think it's not English, doesn't matter! Learn it exactly how it's written, word by word.  Everyone learns a different way, so I recommend trying lots of different methods to find which one works best for you.  Whatever you do, work in chunks and take breaks every 20 minutes!  If you stare at the diaogue for hours on end, you're just wasting your time.  Don't forget to sleep, either!  Keep in mind that for most people, it's two distinct processes: getting it in (memorization), and getting it back out (recall).  You'll need both!

Try to learn as much as you can before you get to training.  The more you know, the more you'll sleep. That said, do NOT stress about it, even for one second, ever--it doesn't help.   Most people I saw spent more time stressing about the dialog than actually studying it (I had my moments, too).  Don't focus on what you don't know, focus on what you do know!  If you know Half Moon by the time you get there, you're going to be absolutely fine.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you know it all before training (there will be lots of these people, and you'll learn to love them and ask them for help, not despise them!), you should still stay up late with your study buddies occasionally, otherwise you'll miss out on some of the best parts of training.

You can do some studying on your own, but once you get to training you need to balance that by working with a study buddy (or several).  Make sure you're saying things out loud--in your head doesn't help as much as you think it does!  Eventually, you'll want to have 3 or more bodies in front of you doing the pose as you say the dialogue so can start to see the bodies.  But first things first, you gotta learn the dialogue!

There are too many study methods to write out here so go to the first study session to hear lots of methods that might work for you! The right way is the way that works.  There are lots of different variations around writing it, saying it, hearing it, or some combination.  Common methods: Find a study budy and repeat lines back and forth, 3 lines at a time. Write the dialogue out in your own handwriting a few times (and use it to study). Record yourself saying the dialogue.  Record someone else saying the dialogue. Stand in front of the mirror and read the dialogue to yourself.  In groups, each person can say 1 word (or one line) going around in a circle.  You have no idea what's going to work for you until you try it.

The two methods that worked best for me: Record yourself saying the dialogue. Leave space between each line so you can hear it, then say it back once or twice (especially if your recorder/phone isn't easy to pause and unpause).  Once you think you have it, record the first word (or couple of words) of each line and try to fill in the rest.  Or say the first word, give a pause, then say the rest of the line. etc.

Do the same thing visually:  make "cheat sheets" where you write just the first letter of each word, line by line.  For example, Half Moon would start like this:

It becomes kind of a game, like a sudoku or something, trying to figure out what each word is and when I learned postures this way (solved the puzzle), they seemed to stick very well in short term memory, and with a little review they were transferred into long term memory.  Remember to take breaks!

If that gets too easy, or you can do it when looking at the cheat sheet, but it's still not really in memory, make it harder:

Misc Tips--There's no green allowed at training--not your mat, water bottle, clothes, nada!  The tap water isn't that bad, but we bought jugs of water each week.  There's also a couple of water filters around in the hotel--be warned though, if you all hit them at once they will run out of water (it's a reserve tank, cause the filtration is SLOW). You'll want some easy slip-on, slip-off shoes and maybe a robe or coverup that can get sweaty to go to/from the yoga room.  Buy yourself one of the mini, laminated dialogues as soon as you get there--much nicer than carrying around a binder or folder.  Put more emphasis on listening and staying present during lectures than on note taking.  Take notes, too. :-)  Eventually there will be a place outside to hang up your mats and get a little sun on them.  Don't forget to have some fun and take care of yourself on the weekends--massages, pedis, studying by the pool or on the beach are all nice.  TT is not the time for scarcity, so let yourself feel abundant and expansive.  Boss will say some things that will blow your mind, and many of the things he says won't make since until months (or years?) later! Try to keep an open mind about everything you hear.  Meet everyone you can and make as many friends as possible!  Don't stress! It's just a posture clinic, or it's just an anatomy test--it's not the end of the world.  You'll probably want a nice set of clothes for graduation.  Do your best, every moment, and be kind to everyone around you (especially the staff)--then when you're having your bad day, people will be kind back to you!  Lastly, keep your wrists straight and your knees locked!

I hope to come visit a couple of times, so I look forward to seeing you in posture clinics and in the hot room!

Have a blast! Enjoy every moment! Namaste. Steven


  1. It's 4 AM and I'm reading this pist for the 3rd time since I discovered your blog! Thank u! It has more meaning now that I've confirmed my decision to attend TT in the Fall. Thank you so much for your detailed, companionate, rational advice! ;)

  2. Wonderful to hear, happy this has helped you. Good luck in the Fall. The guy who wrote the tips is actually on staff at this TT so he may well be back in Fall so you can thank him personally ;-)

  3. Hi, what a great web blog. Thanks for these tips about yoga teacher training.

  4. hi there. Planning on doing TT in 2014. Was wondering if you had a source for dialogue studying? like a cheat sheet or a book? Thanks

    1. Where do you live anonymous? I am attending training in Spring 2014 and want a local study buddy prior to training.

  5. Hi. Congratulations on going to TT. No I'm sorry you have to get a copy of the official dialogue from Bikram HQ when you register. Once you get that it's just a case of finding the best way you can memorize it. Thanks.