The Dilemma of the Faithful

by Gabrielle on August 31, 2010

Yesterday I received an interesting email from JT in California, a Bikram Yoga Teacher. And I thought that you might like to read that email! So here it is (of course afterward I want to share with you my response):

Hi Gabrielle,

I have been teaching Bikram yoga for 9 months, 10-12 classes per week, and for the past two months have been trying to reconcile my training with your Hot Yoga Master Class (as informative as it is beautiful).

I also practice in the hot room at least 5 days/week. It’s been challenging for me. I must admit, my first reaction to some of your teaching was “no, that’s not right.” Well, I also quickly realized that my dogmatic reaction was a result of the training I’d received!

I know that you believe just as firmly in your teaching as Bikram does. And in the short time I’ve worked with your book, and through the forum, I’m starting to see the benefits, in practice and teaching, to a different way of doing things.

It has, however, made it difficult to keep my focus during class. I seem to constantly question the dialogue, and yet it is the foundation of the training I’ve received to teach.

I’m interested in coming to Costa Rica, but a little apprehensive. I spent a significant amount of money going to TT, and the idea of doing so again is, frankly, pretty scary. I went to TT to get certified to teach. As a learning experience it was, well, pretty pitiful. I’m wondering how you made the transition from your own Bikram teacher training to “hot yoga doctor?” I guess I feel that asking you personally might help me make this decision in the coming week.

I know that I could always wait, continue to teach, and perhaps attend another teacher training in the future. Something tells me not to wait, but to find a way to make this happen. Bikram’s way is the only way I know, as a student and a teacher (and I’ve only been practicing for two years). I’m also absolutely convinced that Bikram yoga has changed my life for the better in ways I’m not even aware of yet. It’s just the beginning.

Any thoughts you have on how your upcoming training would benefit someone like me would be welcome. It seems like a very large leap of faith for me.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.


JT California

I actually have already answered JT in a personal email, but I thought that YOU might want to read what I said and possibly benefit from this too! So here’s what I said, in essence:

Thank you JT for writing to me and expressing your thoughts so eloquently. You’ve raised a good many points in your letter. So I want to dissect the issues and firstly chunk them down into the main key points for clarification! You’re wondering:

  1. That as you’re a teacher you want to know how my program at Costa Rica could possibly benefit you. (And additionally to my letter to JT, perhaps you wonder how, even if you’re not already a teacher, if you too would benefit from coming along!)
  2. And maybe you wonder if you have been using a script recital method, how you could break free and get past that limited mindset.
  3. And perhaps, you’re finding it hard to reconcile the notion that many people think there’s only one way to do hot yoga, when your recent experience is telling you something else.

As I see it perhaps you have become aware that there’s more to this yoga stuff than you’ve been led to believe given:

  • The limitations that you’ve unearthed in the training you’ve received;
  • In the discoveries you made in your own personal practice by choosing a different path;
  • In the responses you’ve noticed in your expanded way you’ve been teaching
  • … and the way your curiosity has been awakened recently….

Life is an evolution. You’ve heard the saying “you learn something new every day”. Well, I believe you can choose to enrich your life by being curious and entertaining new or different ways to do things. To create a new awareness about experience is what I really want to offer people.

By offering people their own choice I believe that you can offer them the power of discovering the best way to do something … and something that’s not based on a dogmatic ‘my way or the highway’ approach. And I believe I offer a way to learn, practise and teach hot yoga that’s grounded in practical techniques that can be easily taught and replicated.

I wondered when I read your letter if the difficulty in focus you experience from time to time, might be when all of a sudden you become consciously aware that you’ve reverted to reciting the script. Perhaps you have programmed your mind to question what you’ve been saying but have not quite yet removed yourself from the automatic habit of reciting at least some parts of ‘that script’.

I see that stumbling or lack of focus as a good thing. It won’t and can’t last. Basically your mind is coming up with ways to replace your old habit. It is a vestige of your reliance on something which I believe deep down you know doesn’t serve you fully anymore.

I was going to write something about teaching methods but I reread your email and I realize I picked up on something that I find is sometimes ingrained in comments (not just to me, or in the forum but about Bikram yoga in general). And that is the concept that for some reason there are people who feel, (by the very fact that they recognize there is more substance to a subject or skill that they have already “learned”), that they are somehow “betraying or discrediting” the source of the first exposure to that skill.

In this case people feel that they owe Bikram something and that somehow by acknowledging existence of instruction beyond his specific teachings, they are switching allegiance and / or they are somehow betraying the origin of their transformation.

Many, as a result somehow lose track of the fact that you can acknowledge the provenance of your skill and still welcome newness. It doesn’t have to be one or the other – both can co-exist. I believe that there is sufficient space in the hearts and minds of humanity, in the yoga world, for acceptance and sharing and to allow for evolution.

I can understand the place that Bikram has played in your own personal history and thousands of others, including mine. My aim is not to go up against Bikram but to enhance those teachings. And yes, where I find flaws I will challenge them, although my aim is never to be dogmatic. In challenging I also offer myself as challengeable. Let’s be honest, there is a Bikram propaganda machine. He’s got a lot of influence and he’s a very enigmatic and interesting character.

I too believe that this yoga has changed my life in so many wonderful ways. I do believe that that fact can always be acknowledged and can also be part of one’s history. I don’t wish to invalidate it. My aim is to expand on it, move beyond it and continue to grow.

Change … evolution … happens. It’s natural. We could still be driving around in Model-T Fords if we resisted evolution. Ford’s place in history is there, cemented. Of course there are a million other examples that we could throw into the mix.

As for my own Hot Yoga Doctor Pro Teacher Training Program, I am crystallizing the way I have always taught yoga. Because I could NEVER bring myself to teach the verbatim script. It has never felt right to do that, I could never teach a class and ‘catch everyone in my teaching net’ that way.

So transitioning from TT to Hot Yoga Doctor was natural. It was the biggest shock when I arrived at training and found out I was supposed to recite a script. I had written my own words to review (and not learn verbatim) because I thought that was what I was going to have to do. I thought I was going to learn to chunk poses, break them down to understand them, learn more than I already knew (not do less). Hmmm.

So coming to spend 4 weeks with me I offer something much more than script regurgitation and learning a few body parts. I offer the opportunity to learn, debate and discover. I will give you the tools to expand your toolbox enormously.

  • Not just sound technical knowledge of the poses
  • But how a holistic knowledge of the workings of the body can enhance your and your students’ understanding of the body and your / their  practice.
  • You’ll learn how to improve your observation skills,
  • The art of linguistics and how to influence your students in a way that’s entirely consistent with supporting and facilitating their growth.
  • And I will help you hone your group facilitation skills.
  • All these skills together will help you teach a better class that allows you to express more of your own unique essence and create a satisfying result for your students and yourself in your own transformation as teacher and student.

Yes, I will teach you my way of doing things because I do believe that’s what people want to know. But I hold your opinion highly too so if you challenge my beliefs I will pay attention, try it on see to if it fits and incorporate it if it works for me and I see it of benefit to everyone. I will ask the same of you when you come to Costa Rica.

Warm wishes


Learn more about my Hot Yoga Doctor Pro 200 Teacher Training Program in Costa Rica May 15 – June 12, 2011 by clicking here!

Oh, and if you want to read the update then I have now written a post about JT’s and my Skype conversation last week where we had some great ‘aha’ moments. You’ll find that here:
See you over there. I would love to read your comments. :)


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

heather March 8, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Hi, I do enjoy the Bikram Yoga. I have been doing Yoga for over 30 years various classes and styles/ teacher training @ White Lotus/ Polarity Therapy Training/ etc, but I haven’t taken the plunge into teaching. My excuse is that I am nervous about giving up my job which has an erratic schedule with travel. I wanted to take Bikram’s course because I know can work at the Bikram studios nearby. Can I teach @ a Bikram Studio by taking your course? Where do most of your grads teach?


Gabrielle March 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Hi Heather

Thanks for the question! I will email you directly. My experience is that nothing is set in stone. Most studios want good teachers. Some will be adamant that they want a Bikram trained teacher. But if the emails I get from disgruntled B teachers (with respect to that training who think that it is way under par) is anything to go by then I know there will be studios who will take you on. There are many other studios that teach the same set of poses.

I will contact you via email because it’s kinda quicker response between us should we a conversation develop!



Kari April 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

HI Gabrielle,

This letter and your response touched me. I could have written it. As a matter of fact, just looking at the dates, my guess is that she and I were at the same Bikram training. The main difference between myself and JT is that I “left the fold” about 9 months ago. (perhaps she has too, by this time) For the last 9 months I’ve been teaching at a little studio that is not Bikram affiliated. I’ve toyed with the idea of opening my own studio, but I feel that I just don’t know enough. I think to own a studio you have to be confident in your knowledge, and the training I received just didn’t give me that.
This is my first visit to your site, I haven’t had a chance to go through your guides yet at all. But it’s your PHILOSOPHY of teaching that will bring me back to have a better look. Perhaps one day I will make it your training. Thank you for challenging!


Gabrielle April 23, 2012 at 10:51 am

Hi Kari

Welcome to my websites. Thank you very much for taking the time share your experience with us. You are definitely not alone in your thinking. Thanks for your courage and inspiration.

Perhaps our paths will cross one day.

Warm wishes
Gabrielle 🙂


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