Saturday, October 15, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
The information and advice I put down here is based on my 9-month travel across the US visiting a variety of Bikram Yoga studios and learning everything I could about building, operating and teaching at a Bikram Yoga Studio. It is also based on our own experience creating and now operating a studio for one year. Other people may have other advice, or design their studio a different way. This is just how we did it. And we have been told ours is the one of the best studios around - in regards to design and room operation.
STEP 1: FINDING GOOD PEOPLE
Even if you know your city like the back of your hand, get yourself a really good commercial real estate agent. We were lucky enough to find one who has bull dog determination and she was able to negotiate for things that we did not even know to ask for. Your agent will be able to provide you with very specific demographic information in the area, and although the swanky shopping area looked really good to us, the demographics showed that the surrounding area did not have the population we needed to support a studio. Our agent found us a building that was perfect – it had no interior supporting structures (meaning no columns in the practice room – this is HUGE), it had a lot of existing material that we could re-purpose for our own needs (like toilets, doors and lights), lots of parking (no parking is a show stopper) and the location was perfect.
Now, there are two ways to go with location. Actually three. The first is to buy a building or land and build to suit. If you have a LOT of cash (or access to money), this can be a great way to go, especially if this is a second career. Because when you are ready to retire, you can sell the yoga business and hold on to the building and charge rent! But know that you will be responsible for maintenance and a lot of up front costs. The second is to lease an existing building and build to suit. This is what we did. We paid for the entire construction, but we got a HUGE discount on monthly rent. We had about $300k upfront costs, but our monthly nut is pretty reasonable. The third option is to work with a new development and have them pay for most of the buildout. Your rent will probably be higher (You will always pay for the buildout cost in the end, know that), but you will have less up front costs to manage. If you do option 2 or 3, make sure in the lease you indicate that the heater, humidifier, mirrors and anything else that you can negotiate for (and that you pay for) is chattel; meaning, you can take it with you when you vacate the property.
When you negotiate for the lease, make sure you consider the CAM (common area maintenance) fees. Although your rent might be stable for 5 or 7 years, your CAM fees can fluctuate wildly, especially if you are the only tenant in a large strip mall. Usually the CAM is shared by all tenants, but if all the other tenants move out, you’re holding the bill for snow removal, lawn maintenance, taxes and insurance. So, look closely at that.
We got a 5-year lease. We wanted a 7-year lease, but we got a lower rent for less time. If you have a common utility meter (we started out with that, but they converted to separate because they could see huge problems thanks to our constantly pointing it out), make sure you establish a good way to split costs.
We had an unoccupied restaurant next to us and I had them put in the lease that they would not rent to a deep fried restaurant. They took it out of the lease, claiming they were assuredly do their best to rent to an upscale, healthy business. We got a deep fried place next door. Now they have been very kind, but the stink of deep fried food is not exactly what you want when you come out of yoga. And BE CAREFUL where you put your ventilation. Luckily we situated our vents as far away from the restaurant as we could, but every now and then, when I open the damper, the scent of fried shrimp can come wafting into the practice room. Damper is immediately closed.
Your real estate agent costs you nothing – she will help you for a full year after you lease to solve any problems with the landlord, and if you’re lucky, she will practice your yoga (give her a six-month unlimited package).
Then find yourself a really great architect and contractor. You can use some people in the Bikram Yoga industry, and that may be great for you. We chose to go local in order to have contacts for maintenance and warranty work. It totally paid off. Our heater went on the fritz just last week over the Labor Day weekend, and we got the machine serviced for free. We interviewed 3 architects, and we chose the woman who did the original work on the building before we moved in (it used to be a grocery store). We could see that she had built a beautiful structure before, and frankly, she listened the most to the vision we wanted to create and she understood what we wanted to do. She built some amazing plans, and really pushed the engineers hard when they either over designed or under designed the room. She had a lot of experience, and she knew the local laws and was able to make a few shortcuts that saved us a lot of money. She also understood that we wanted something beautiful, but that would last and require not a ton of effort to keep clean. So she designed it that way.
We also interviewed 3 contractors and chose the one that could get the work done faster than the others (they were also the least expensive). It ended up taking four weeks longer to build out, but other studio owners tell me that that is pretty good – other studios have gone 4-5 months over schedule.
Oh - and the best help around? A good partner. My husband is a CPA - he is our company's CFO and general sanity checker. His support and balance is invaluable. If your spouse is not your business partner, talk to Lisa Ingle. She and Steve have the best partnership I have seen and they make it look easy. But they have a fabulous strategy that works.
So that’s the first installment – get good help. Next will be the list of must have’s in design.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Written for our very own Teddy, but if you are preparing for training and this helps you, again, have at it!!
You are about to embark on an amazing journey and have a life-changing experience. Here are some things to think about to make the most of your training:
- DRAMA – you will encounter people who are very burdened with drama. If it’s at all possible, bless them and be on your way. The time it takes to be involved with drama is time that could be much better spent learning the dialogue, learning about yourself, learning from Bikram, sleeping. And if you feel the need to engage in drama of any kind, take the opportunity to let it go.
- TEACHERS – for every person who gets on the podium to teach a class, whether it’s Bikram himself, Emmy, Rajashree or the dozens of visiting teachers, take time afterward to note what you liked about his/her class, what you disliked about the class, what you can take with you as you develop as a teacher yourself and what you reject. Seriously – jot down some notes.
- YOUR PRACTICE – You are not there to impress anyone with your standing bow. You job is to suffer so that you can understand how to extend compassion when you get up on the podium. Your practice will go to shit. Don’t worry about it – it will come back after training. Just do the best you can and try the right way. Bikram will yell at you (if you are lucky), and that’s okay – that means he cares. And he will call you out if you are being lazy – but he will show you amazing compassion if you are in pain. He can tell the difference.
- ISSUES IN THE TISSUES – Chances are, emotional/psychological stuff will come up – and there will very possibly be a time when you break down, either in posture clinic, or in the practice room. That’s okay, go with it! I purged a lot of sorrow from my body in the practice room – I cried, I wailed and nobody cared. Well, everybody cared - they cared enough to allow me to have the experience and not stop it. I hope you get the same experience.
- POSTURE CLINICS - You will get some amazingly accurate feedback, and you will get some feedback that will leave you scratching your head. Don’t worry about it – they are critiquing you based on a moment in time and their feedback may or may not reflect how you really are. So as you progress in posture clinic, have a personal goal every time you get up to deliver a posture. Whether it’s to be louder, to get the dialogue 100% correct, to channel nerves into positive energy, to get up first, to get up last, to have fun. Whatever the goal is, have it established in advanced and make note of how well you achieved your goal. Then use those results to identify your goal for the next posture.
- LIVE IN THE MOMENT – You will be pushed so far beyond your daily challenges, and that is a huge gift. If, in week one, you say to yourself, “I can’t do this for nine weeks,” that’s GREAT! Because you will learn that you can’t think of nine weeks without going insane, then you won’t be able to think about one week, then you won’t be able to think of the next posture and THEN you will figure out that you don’t have to! All you have to think about is whether you can do the pose you’re supposed to do right now, and if you can’t, that’s okay, but then ask yourself again – “can I do this?” And if you can, get up and do it! Don’t worry about ANYTHING but the moment you are in. Then you’ll learn to live like that all the time and it’s so incredibly freeing.
- THINK LIKE A TEACHER – Immediately start putting yourself in the mindset of a Bikram Yoga Teacher. You are no longer a student (except that we are all always students); your time at training should be used to consider how you can utilize the information you learn to help others – not just yourself. Sure, if Emmy can help you to improve a posture that you are having trouble with, then by all means, take her help! But remember HOW she helped you and think about HOW you can use the same information as a teacher.
- DIALOGUE. DIALOGUE. DIALOGUE. You are going to hear some crazy stuff, and there will be people there who will try to convince you that at some point you can lose the dialogue and teach an equally (or better) class using your own words. It’s tempting, but don’t believe them. The dialogue is a poem, a meditation and you will see the power of it as soon as you get on the podium.
- STAY IN THE BUBBLE – As much as you might want to contact your friends at home, keep your phone on, go check out LA, do your best to refrain. Just stay in the yoga bubble – you will never have this opportunity again and the more you immerse yourself in it, the more you will get out of it. You may not think so at the time, but trust me on this.
- YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL – By this I mean that you should not expect special treatment of any kind. And believe me, you will not get it. And that’s a gift too. Your job over the next nine weeks is to follow the rules, and if you break the rules, pay the consequences with pleasure. Consider it an opportunity to absolutely, completely let go of your ego and just do it. Hold on to your self-confidence, but let go of your ego.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF – Stay hydrated, keep your electrolytes up. If you are in major pain, take motrin (or whatever) before you go to sleep, but NEVER before class. Eat well, eat PROTEIN, listen to your body and eat as well as you can.
- CONNECT WITH KEY TEACHERS – You will find some teachers that will speak to your heart. You will say to yourself, “You are my person.” When you find that person (or persons), make sure to introduce yourself to him or her. Say something that will allow them to remember you later. Then follow up after training and tell him or her that they made an impression.
- BE KIND TO THE STAFF – These guys are working for FREE and they often get less sleep than you do. If they are short with you, have compassion. They are having to ensure that 400 people are having their intended experience, and they are taking care of Bikram too. Believe me, they probably won't show it, but they are suffering as much as you are. Just in a different way.
- TRUST THE PROCESS – They will tell you this so much you’ll want to throw up on it. But it’s true; this process works. It seems wacky and strange at the time, but it works. So utilize it and give in to it.
- MAKE FRIENDS AND HAVE FUN – You will meet people from all over the world who are just as passionate about the yoga as you are and you can make friends for life. Many of the people from my training found their life mate – what a wonderful thing! Maybe you’ll have the same experience, wouldn’t that be great? But no matter what, know that the time will pass quickly. Savor every moment, even the really hard ones. You’ll never have an experience like this again.
Finally, know that we are rooting for you! There are a lot of people who are cheering you on, who are providing support to you and sending you strength and happiness and health. Breathe it in!!
Monday, August 29, 2011
Learning the Dialogue
A Handy Guide for Teachers Who Struggle
If you are having trouble learning the dialogue, consider why. For most people, the trouble lies in one or more of the following:
- Trouble memorizing
- Public Speaking Apprehension
- Misunderstanding the dialogue
I’ll discuss each of these challenges below and offer some solutions to overcome each problem.
In my own experience in training, and observing others in training, it seems that people “of a certain age” have more trouble than their younger counterparts memorizing the dialogue.
More mature folks, I believe, are challenged when asked to use another person’s words unless they can thoroughly understand what they mean, what they imply, and then they need to make those words their own before they can use them with ease. This takes time. Because many younger people are still familiar with what’s referred to in the world of pedagogy as the banking model of learning (make a deposit of information, withdraw said information when needed), they more easily are able to memorize the dialogue and pull it out on cue. If you’re one of those people, good for you!
But I have also seen, entirely too much in my opinion, an inability by those who learn the dialogue easily, regardless of age, to keep the dialogue pure after a while. The easy learners often lose it and end up using their own words after they’ve been up on the podium for six months or so. Take caution rock star performers – please keep your dialogue!! For those who struggle, take heart – in my experience, the people who work the hardest to learn the dialogue, own it for life.
For those of any age who have trouble memorizing, here are some ideas to help:
Know what kind of learner you are. Here is a link to information on learning styles: http://www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/ You could have one or more style, and this site offers a questionnaire that will help you to learn your most dominant learning style. Here’s a discussion related to a few different styles.
Are you an auditory learner? If so, you will learn best when you hear the dialogue over and over again. Tape yourself or another person and listen over and over again to the pose said THE RIGHT WAY. Don’t listen in posture clinic or in class to people who say it the wrong way – if you do hear it incorrectly, then make sure you say out loud (quietly) the right way. That will eliminate any programming your brain will take on with the wrong words. And take notice, if you learned half moon best from hearing it 350 times in weeks one and two, you will probably need the same number or more to learn the rest of the poses.
Are you a visual learner? If so, you might have to look at the words, over and over again. Say the words out loud as you read them and then say them again with your eyes open looking at bodies. Many people who are visual learners close their eyes when they recite the dialogue in posture clinic so they can see the words on the paper in their mind. This is a good step in the learning process, but work to transfer your visual learning from words to bodies because as you know, you will eventually have to keep your eyes open when you teach. Also, this is important, try to get your body facing the same way as the “teacher” delivering dialogue in posture clinics – you have to train your eyes to look from the mirror out to the students doing the yoga – it is a completely different place for your mind to process. If your podium at your studio is large enough, ask your studio owner if you can sit on the podium during a few classes (while the teacher is teaching a class) to just listen to the dialogue and watch the bodies from the other direction. It will help you A LOT.
Are you a tactile learner? When you say the dialogue, you may need to use your arms and legs to help you memorize. Remember, you can’t jump up and down or put your body in toe stand when you teach, but you can touch your right hip when it’s time to say, “push your hips forward, little bit towards the mirror, opening up your hips and pelvis.” And that little touch to your hip can be the cue you need to remember the words. When I say, “streeeeetcccch” while teaching dialogue, chances are you will see me pull my fist from a high to a low point. When in posture clinic sitting and waiting your turn, LOOK at the bodies (hopefully from behind the teacher) and how they move when you hear the dialogue said THE RIGHT WAY and mentally attach the words to their movements. Allow your mind to do the postures even though your body won’t actually be executing. The more you attach the words to a feeling (physical or emotional), the better you will learn the dialogue.
Do you learn best in social or solitary settings? If you are a solitary learner, take some time on your own to study, but work with people too – remember that although it may not feel good, you will have to teach the dialogue among people so you have to get used to it.
The obvious key to memorizing the dialogue, whatever kind of learner you are, is repetition. You have to put in the time to learn it. The only thing that’s even close to a short cut is to practice before and after training at studios that are loyal to the dialogue so you don’t pick up all those phrases that veer from what’s correct. But even so, OVER and OVER and OVER is the key. And when you leave training, keep working it. This is not easy, but one of the best ways to learn the dialogue and really get it down is to tape yourself teaching a real class, and then do two things: (1) Listen to the class you just taught and compare it to the dialogue. Identify the posture that needs the most work and work that one until you have it verbatim. Continue from there. (2) Take the class from the tape you made (yup! Do the poses!) and pay attention to your timing, to your voice and to your enthusiasm. There’s nothing like taking your own class to help you make appropriate adjustments to your timing, enthusiasm, and enunciation.
And if your studio is not dialogue driven, try your best to find and work for one that is. My experience is that studios that use the dialogue religiously are the most successful, by far. And if you want to be successful, you will work for, and hopefully eventually own, a dialogue driven studio.
Finally, if you are one of those people who are in week nine of training and you feel like you hardly know the dialogue, take hope. Don’t give up. It could take you a year or more AFTER training to really learn the dialogue and that’s perfectly okay. Just keep trying the right way and you will get the benefit. Sound familiar?
PUBLIC SPEAKING APPREHENSION
If you are one of those many people who fear public speaking more than death, then GOOD FOR YOU!!! Congratulations on facing your fear through yoga! WOW!!!
Public Speaking Apprehension (PSA) is a real condition and is manifested in the body through a variety of ways. As a stressful event, your body assumes fight or flight symptoms: the hypothalamus flashes signals through the nervous and endocrine systems of your body to produce a surge of chemicals into your bloodstream. You may sweat profusely or you may get blotches on your skin. Your voice may sound shaky which can make your nervousness accelerate. Oh and all those words you memorized and know by heart? They can just disappear! Over the short term, it can be exhilarating; over the long term (i.e. a 90 minute class), it can be exhausting. In short, PSA can affect your ability to deliver the dialogue successfully, but you can overcome it!!
Ironically, a lot of the things we do in yoga can help overcome public speaking apprehension. Before you get on the podium, go to a private place and do a few slow pranayama breathing exercises. Just enough to calm you down – don’t pass out. Then when you start to teach, BREATH NORMAL – in through the nose, out through the nose. Try not to hold still as a statue – this will actually increase your body tension, and that tension will then manifest in your voice. Use your body to release your tension – but move with purpose to emphasize the dialogue, not compete with it.
Try to channel your nervousness into two emotions: Passion and Compassion. Before I teach every class, I tell myself to teach with Passion and Compassion. My passion is evident through my voice, my motions, and my enthusiasm for the yoga. My compassion can be seen by understanding and communicating that everyone must do the best they can, the right way. But I don’t know what’s going on in anyone’s mind or body. I can share my enthusiasm, and certainly encourage each and every student, but I never scold or berate anyone. Nerves can highjack passion and compassion. So keep those words close to your heart to remind yourself and take comfort in knowing that it’s about the yoga, it’s not about you.
Do your best to know the words inside out, bones to skin. The more you can rely on your ability to really KNOW what’s coming next, the less nervous you will be. And of course, the more you practice teaching, the more competent you will become.
Here is a link that offers a number of suggestions for PSA, but pick and choose what is appropriate to teaching Bikram hot yoga. The recommendation to “not memorize” won’t work in this case. But knowing the gist of the pose and being able to talk your way through it can help you if your nerves have left your mind blank!
MISUNDERSTANDING THE DIALOGUE
Believe me, I was the biggest doubter out there. When I got my first copy of the dialogue, I retyped the first six poses and made it grammatically correct. I was incensed by the incorrect verbiage, I HATED the visual descriptions, and I argued with everyone that cobras didn’t have one leg! But here’s the strange thing that happened: as I gave in and taught the dialogue, I noticed that those words really worked!! They were succinct, and they gave people the information they needed when they needed it and silly sayings such as, “you have to make up your mind to use your 100% strength in half a second” was actually wonderfully effective in allowing people to catch their breath and then gain the confidence through the words to do the next pose to the best of their ability, the right way.
There are many reasons we use and adhere to the dialogue when we teach Bikram yoga. Here are some of them:
1. It provides you with everything you need; nothing you don’t: It is designed to communicate how to do each posture while keeping your mind engaged and focused. It gives you the instruction you need to do it the right way for the most benefit within a specific time frame. You may even find over time that you hear something new, even though it’s been there the whole time; your body and mind will hear what it needs as it needs it and will respond accordingly.
2. Trust in the timing leads to strength in the postures: By regularly hearing the same dialogue over time, you will learn to turn off your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to hear what it needs in order to execute the pose the right way, the best way it can. And when you start to trust the process, your body will then know how much time it has to push to exactly the limit it needs to get the full benefit. When you trust the instructor to teach the posture the right way within the right time frame, you yourself can trust your body and your mind to respond in the same way.
3. Collective movement equals collective energy: You will find that when everyone in the class moves together to the best of their ability, the collective energy is palpable and will help you to have a better class. That’s the power of the dialogue – when everyone works together do what they can the right way, the collective energy helps each member of the class.
4. Open eyed meditation improves the mind/body connection: Over time, the connection you have between your mind and your body will become stronger and stronger. So strong, in fact, that you will, with a regular practice, have the ability to turn off your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to hear what it needs in order to execute the postures to the best of your body’s ability. And by turning off your conscious mind, you grow to develop a laser sharp focus in the moment of the posture. That calm, sharp focus will transfer to other parts of your life outside of the studio, and again, over time, you will find that you can calmly and with focus make your way through what used to be very stressful situations.
Talk to a senior instructor who really understands the dialogue (although I have a lot of mentors, my #1 go to person for understanding the dialogue is Diane Ducharme) and learn as much as you can from him or her how the body responds to the dialogue, how the mind makes connections to the body and what actually happens when you use the dialogue the right way. You will be blown away by how smart these silly words are!
And then watch the bodies from the podium. You will see it for yourself! It’s incredible! Watch people respond to your words, watch how they make micro adjustments to improve their body and their pose. Watch how they turn off their monkey brain and trust the process. Over time, you will see the power of what you are teaching. It’s amazing!!! Alternately, pay attention when teachers veer (sometimes wildly) from the dialogue – notice how your mind stays engaged, not in a good way, but often in a questioning or critical way. You will see that students who practice without hearing proper dialogue often won’t improve, they won’t be able to get that deep peaceful meditation, they won’t have the amazing healing that I know you have felt from the teachers who, with passion and compassion, teach dialogue.
Make the commitment for yourself to adhere to the dialogue and use it 100% to the best of your ability, the right way...for the rest of your life. You owe it to yourself and to your students.
Best of luck to you, enjoy every moment of the teaching experience - even those that feel horrible! You'll love to tell the horror stories later!