by Barbora Simek
Dear New Student,
Welcome. Like it or not you are now a part of the Bikram Yoga family. Whether today’s class will become something that is laughed about with friends and never attempted again, a daily routine, an occasional pass time or obsession, your experience today will stay with you forever. This means I have ninety minutes, and ninety minutes only to show you a practice I have dedicated a part of my life, my heart and much of my body to. So listen carefully, because this is important, this can change your life in ways you never thought possible.
I know the room is hot, and the poses are difficult. This is not because we are trying to prove something. This is because these specific elements: the postures, the heat, the mirrors, the style of teaching — are the perfectly combined to heal your body, heart and mind.
I know there are a lot of people. This is not because the studio is interested in a big pay-day. This is because the more we can practice together, the more we can share energy. Your neighbors will help you get through class, inspire you, become your friends and maybe even your future fiance (it’s happened more than once!) So be kind. Be patient. Because the more patient you can be with people here, the more patient you will be with them out there in the world.
I know my voice is loud. This is not because I want to dominate you. My voice is the best tool I have, along with the dialogue (the directions), to help you through your class today. When you feel weak, my voice will be strong to support you. When you are tired my voice will be energetic to help you off the floor. When you are discouraged, I will encourage you. All this is I will do with my volume, my intonation, my words. I want you to hear just how much I care about you and your practice.
Yes, our outfits are small. This is not because we are vain. This is because it is hot and because when you can see your body in the mirror fully, you can more easily make adjustments and learn to appreciate what you see. Small clothes stay out of our way, so we can focus more on our practice than on adjusting our shorts for triangle. In time, we’ve learned in this room that contrary to what the world says, every body is beautiful and every body should be appreciated. So we wear short shorts and we LOVE them on us and on each other.
No, New Student, you cannot talk. Not because I want to silence you. I want your voice to fill the halls, the change-rooms and lobby. I want your voice to be one of the many threads that builds the ever-expanding web of our Bikram Yoga community. But in the hot room, I want you to listen. First to me, so that you can do the class safely, but more importantly to yourself. I know you try hard and listen to so many other people all day. Today, you start to learn to listen to yourself: your breath, your heart, your true thoughts. Enjoy that opportunity, don’t waste it by chatting.
You must stay still New Student. Not because I want to control you. You must stay still so you can let go of all distractions and connect to the vast benefits of this practice. You work hard in your poses to open your body, and when you stay still your cells recover and begin the process of healing. Give your body the chance to heal.
I know sometimes my jokes are not funny. But we do not call this the “torture chamber” because we enjoy your discomfort. I try to make light of how hard this yoga is because we all know that it is hard. Every teacher you will have, including me, has cried here, hurt here, wanted to leave here. So we joke because we understand how hard this is. The fact that we persevere is the one thing that connects us all in the hot room. I want this experience to be at least a little bit fun.
I am not correcting you because I think badly of your effort, New Student. I know you have taken other yoga classes, or your body is aching from your injuries and you have been through a lot in your life. Knowing all of these things makes me want to help you even more. And the best way I know how to help you, is to teach you how to do the postures to the best of your ability. I promise your best is enough. If today, you simply imagine your posture a different way because of a correction, then you are on your way to an improved practice, body and life.
It’s okay to feel emotional. This is a safe space, we’ve all been there. Remember this is a place of healing and sometimes your body hangs on to your emotions even when the mind has released them. Just cry, everyone will think it is sweat anyway.
Come back New Student. You did well today. Remember the worst class is the one you don’t come to. I can’t wait for you to see how this series can change your life and I am here to help every step of the way.
Your Bikram Yoga Teacher
86 responses to “An open letter to a new student on their first class”
what a great post! this letter would really help a lot of new students understand the practice.
Thank you so much Bonnie!
Tears ran down my face reading this. It’s all true.
Thank you for sharing.
I love my Bikram Yoga family.
Fantastic…I am sure this letter will be spread to many new students and may encourage even more to keep on coming. Thank YOU!
I LOVE This!!!! This is an amazing letter that reminds every teacher why we do what we do, and why we love it so much!!! Thank you for encouraging not only the anonymous student, but also the anonymous Teacher!!! Namaste 🙂
This is great!!! Really lovely!!!! Thank you!
Amazing. I love it and I love you.
And I LOVE you!! xo B
So lovely…thank you for this beautiful statement.
Thank you so much for the nice comment Nick.
You just made my heart sing…
bikram has become part of each of us in different ways—for me so much–cannot imagine my life without it–and it is hard EVERY DAY and a source of comfort EVERY DAY
Wow… truly a brilliant piece. Pretty much summarizes…well…everything that needs to be said. Well done.
inspiring, deep, graceful welcome!!! thanks for sharing.. A.
Wow. So beautiful, so true. This will be posted at my studio and…depending on how long it takes to read it, (90 minutes of work to do in 90 minutes!!!) I will read it from time to time. Maybe just excerpts. Thank you.
This is very nice. I would like to show you blog in the “blogs I read” part of my blog.
I would love that Charlie! Thanks!
So Inspiring! So well written
This was just beautiful. I did get a tear in my eye a couple of times while reading it. I love teaching this yoga. This was very well written. Thank you for sharing this.
I love Bikram, it has healed me many times over the last 6 years of practice — which is how I came to it — and always will. I am what I am physically because of Bikram and know that a bad day in class is better than no day in class. I appreciate the direction and have learned (finally) to ignore the distractions, it is not the teacher but the dialogue, it is not my neighbor but everyone’s energy, and it is not just 90 minutes — its my life now.
i just cried reading this, thank you for reminding me exactly why i do the best and hardest job i’ve ever had. thank you for reminding me to keep trying so i can help others to keep trying. thank you for reminding me i am a happy servant.
Wow, thank you for such a heartfelt reply!
This is a beautiful article. I wish I could take YOUR class 🙂
If you’re in the Toronto area, I teach often at Bikram Yoga Toronto’s Bloor location, check the website for schedule times! And don’t forget to say hello!
Thank you for this lovely letter. To all teachers, thank you for your love, your wisdom and encouragement. Every teacher with every class shares a part of themselves with their students and for that I am so very grateful.
I’d like to read this in class tonight…
thank you, you write well, but best of all: the truth, and from the heart!
Thank you for the kind words Maureen, feel free to share this with as many as possible!
what a nice letter,Iam also sold on Bicram yoga. Wish i had more time to practice,but i go regularly,it’s treat at the end i feel happy. Thanks to all yoga teachers including my beautiful daughter Gabriella
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This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read, brought me to tears.
I am planning to be at bikram teacher training in the fall & this is EXACTLY why. Thank you so much for the post. I really love it & am sharing it with everyone I know 🙂
Thank you so much Kalee!
Brilliant concept. This is great, Barb. Totally heartfelt and it really says it all. Thanks for writing and sharing!!
Of course we could tell them all of this on the first day, and most of them still wouldn’t “get” it… If you’d read this to me on my first day, I’d have told you to get out of town! But the understanding comes in time (like a flower petal blooming), and it is so beautiful when it comes. 🙂
Wow Barb, so amazingly well put I am in tears (but why does it not surprise me). You are an inspiration… words from a Bikram Angel 🙂
Thank you for sharing all your love and passion for the practice with the community, especially all those just beginning their journey.
Love you so much.
Love you and miss you Lisa,,,, we need a big catch up soon!
Dear Barb, what beautiful connection you have sparked among us. I read somewhere heaven is where everything is connected and hell is just the opposite. Thank you for taking us to that place of heaven in us.
Would love to have you teach sometime at bikram yoga toronto east.
Barb I am so proud to be your mom. You reminded me why not to procrastinate and just do it. Love your M:)ma
It’s a well written article, no doubt about that!
But I’m not so sure about Bikram Yoga. Tomorrow I’ll finish my dayli 30-day practice. I seriously have given it a try, but my conclusion is that there is to much missing in this practice – espesially inversions. I’ve practiced Ashtanga yoga (Mysore-style) on a dayli basis for six years and from my viewpoint Ashtanga has a lot more to offer an experienced student.
The reason for not doing inversions in Bikram is simply because it is aimed to be a beginners practice and accessible to all at any level, body shape or injury. Bikram is a great way to promote overall body health. What I find satisfying about the practice is that it works the body so completely… I’m never left feeling, ‘I wish we would have done more hip openers.’ Still I understnad your comments, maybe you want to combine the two? I personally can’t do a daily practice, it drives me insane, so I do other things on other days that I feel add to my life and allow me to feel balanced. I’d hate to see someone leave the practice all together, so I would encourage you to mix it up and still come back to the hot room a few times a week.
Truly inspirational, as a new student to Bikram yoga I can relate to each and every word you wrote.
I wish you could come and teach a class at Mississauga studio, I’m sure we’ll all learn tones of wisdom from you.
Student @ BYM
Thank you so much Nuzhat, I certainly will try make my way out there this spring. Enjoy the hot room! xo B
This is simply wonderful. Thank you for putting this so eloquently!
I love this letter and it’s so true, I hope when the day comes when I become a teacher that my new students will understand Bikram Yoga. I’m going to read this over and over. I do Bikram in Dallas and my teachers have saved my life.
Beautiful article, it has brought tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine my live without this practice 🙂
Thanks for translating your arrogance and self-righteousness into a fluffy new age language. It was very amusing.
Thanks for being honest Mazi, I am glad that our readers feel like they can express both positive and negative reactions to our work here.
People often use cynicism because they think they can negate the sincerity of other people simply because they do not agree or cannot understand another person’s viewpoint. Thank you for your inflated sense of worldliness, I look forward to seeing you in the studio.
Love you Barb
Awesome post, even for someone who’s been practising for a year and a half! Thanks Barb! Hope to see you at Beaches again soon!
I am moved to the core. Thank you, teacher, for your words of loving wisdom and inspiration. I would like so very much to share this with my community. namaste
What a great letter! I read this thinking back to my first Bikram class over 9 years ago. My practice is my journey and my journey is my life. I wish every class could be my first class because of special my practice is to me. Thanks for putting me back there. Nameste! MC
I’ve got impressed..
Well put! I’ll definitely be sharing this in my classes =)
Thank you Barb for reminding me if why I teach everyday. I am honored to be the humble servant of this yoga. I remind myself everyday that I am just the voice in which this song(dialogue) is sang to every soul that wants to hear.
I normally DO NOT waste time posting comments and anyway someone sent me the link to this letter which I read straight through without a halt. After reading this candid and extremely well thought out and well written letter, I just feel COMPELLED to say that it is a REALLY REALLY BEAUTIFUL letter and I wish that when I was a new student to yoga 5 years ago, someone had told me all these. Yes, I have tried Bikram yoga. No I DO NOT like it, I can’t really explain why. But this letter has totally changed my attitude and thinking. I resolve to book and attend a Bikram class tomorrow. And the day after. I’m NOT a new student but I shall start afresh with positive thoughts and new awareness. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
I am so happy to hear that you are giving the yoga yet another try. Please let us know how you progress, I would love to follow your story.
It’s a real effort to get to class right now for a variety of reasons. Your letter is bigger than all of the reasons put together. Thank you!!!
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Wonderful! Well said! Thank You I love this!
Nothing sums up the love and devotion we feel for Bikram yoga like this letter. I’ve just read it for the fourth time and it keeps getting better. Thank you for sharing this.
I don’t think I will ever try a Bikram class (I live in Jamaica, and I have a deep issue with the man himself – but those are MY issues) – this is a beautiful entreaty, and proof that yoga, at its purest, is available to everyone 🙂
Many people have personal issues with Bikram – the man. Even many Bikram teachers and studio owners – don’t let your feelings about him get in your way. The yoga is SOOOOOOO worthwhile and while many disagree with his bombastic personality, even that has it’s purpose.
“If you let anyone steal your happiness, peace away from you then you are the loser.” ~ Bikram Choudhury
Awesome post — more people should get into Bikram. I was really intimidated at first, but by my third class I’d gotten the hang of things (it helped that the instructor was really patient). Now, I genuinely look forward to the classes!
Thank you for such a beautiful letter. I, like some of the other students here really wish I had read something like this when I first started my practice five years ago. All this stuff I had to do/work on in class seemed endless and I didn’t understand it. Kind of like the Karate Kid….wax on wax off….but he doesn’t see why until later. Bikram yoga has changed me in so many positive ways! I took an 11 month break from my practice and tried other forms of yoga. It has been fun and a great workout, but coming back to Bikram’s felt like coming back home. I still do other yoga because I like to mix it up, but I have a love for Bikram’s that just will always be there for me!
Inspiring letter, been doing Bikram 10 years everyday. At the
age of 65 your body needs this balance more than ever.
Exersized all my life and nothing is more complete than Bikram.
Really keeps me In tuned for my golf and tennis swing.
Thanks for sharing! This sums it up nicely and shows the impact that the Bikram series has on all of us. For those of you who are not challenged, perhaps you should try the advanced series of 84 asanas. You will begin to appreciate the Beginner’s series even more with all of its intricacies.
Beautiful! We are sharing this with our community! Thanks so much!
Beautiful Barb. May I have your permission to put this on our website? Single tear. 🙂 xo jen
Every new student should read this letter. Beautiful!!
Wow, what a beautiful letter. I am off to TT in LA this Spring and reading this letter has just re-confirmed every reason for my wanting to be a Yoga teacher.
Can I put a link on my blog so that others can read this?
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This is amazing! I think if every new student or prospective student read this, it might just help a bit with retention.
I would really appreciate your permission to use it for just that purpose – posting on our website and printing copies for our new students. Please let me know if that would be okay. Thank you
I loved this letter! I agree with many who wrote it would be great for beginner students.
I would like to have permission to “reprint” it. If you could let me know at my email, that would be great.
Beautiful! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I would love to post this link on my page. Would you mind? I feel so blessed to be a Bikram Yogini. We are special people;)
This is an interesting Letter,
I would like to share this mith you,
As a dancer i was really interested by Yoga, i then heard about Bikram Yoga.
So i gave it a try. The practise is really interesting and good to my body, and i still practise today.
Unfortunately, more than ever, what makes me want to leave the room is most instructors i come around. Very recently, this week as a matter of fact, i couldn’t focus and concetrate on my practise because i absolutely couldn’t bare the instructors vibrations, her tone of voice, jokes. It drove me crazy to the point, i just sat on my mat and waited for the class to end.
My body just rejected all that seemed like violence to me. Why?!
I really don’t get it.
Specially, i know there are very special instrutors (one so far that i meet).
Who have a very tender, respectful approach about Bikram Yoga. With such genuine generosity makes you want to honor your practise. Not feeling like commando being prepared to go to war. There is enough violence outside to bring it in such beautiful space.
I hope this is something that can change.
Being new to Bikram Yoga, i don’t if this is how instructors are trained? It would be sad if it was.
I think that your response is really important. I went through exactly what you describe in your post.
It is certainly true that some instructors are more aggressive about how they teach the class. Your post is not the first time that I have heard the yoga described as being violent. I would say that there are two things to consider in your situation.
1) Often times when we experience a really strong reaction to something in yoga class it is because it is hitting a sensitive spot for us. it will bring up something we need to let go of. When I started practicing sometimes male teachers would bring up some of the emotions I felt toward my dance teacher or father, and I had to learn how to let go of old grudges and frustrations. As I said in the letter, I like to think of the discipline of yoga to be its greatest tool one that brings us in direct conflict with the things that make us most uncomfortable so that we can be free of those feelings and reactions. Perhaps ask yourself if the things you are experiencing are simular to reactions you’ve had before and if you could change perception of your experience in the yoga room for the better of your practice.
2) Just because people become certified in yoga does not guarantee that they are humble, compassionate and do not fall victim to their ego. Yoga teachers are just people and it is possible that your instructors vibrations could have been negative, and her jokes inappropriate.
I have in my time encountered teachers who I don’t feel are teaching from their hearts, and I am not ashamed to admit that I go out of my way to avoid their classes. When I do this, I fully acknowledge my part in it. I work to understand why I feel the way I do and then I decide if it is more healthy for me to try to work through the situation or to walk away. When I do happen to be in their classes I make my goal to practice kindness and patience.
Let me know if that helps at all.
I just started hot yoga and am in love. And i have cried in class and thought those exact thoughts…who cares. People will just think it’s sweat!
yeah! love your blog! Gonna subscribe to it right now! Thank you!
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I read this not as a newbie but all the points resonate with me just the same. If there was ever a Bikram Yoga creed, this should be a part of it! Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much for sharing. Positive Vibes!
Best Bikram Yoga post ever!