Category Archives: For Teachers

Teaching Clinic: Bikram Burn-Out

For all the eager trainees coming into the last weeks of teacher training, it is nearly impossible to imagine feeling stagnant and uninspired by Bikram Yoga. But for even the most devout teachers, after teaching for a few years (or months) burn-out is hard reality.

Joseph Encinia teaching photo: Bennie Shapiro

In a community that embraces, promotes, and rewards daily practice, doubles and a full immersion into all that is yoga, not feeling love for the practice becomes a burden that many carry in silence.

Vesna Jarcevic, owner of Bikram Yoga Red Tree thinks it is important to consider how burn-out effects us as teachers. “How are we going to explain to our students how to stay in the yoga room, or with Bikram Yoga for years, if we as teachers are having the same problem?” she asks.

For many, the answer is not always simple. In the Fall 2005 Teacher Training, Craig Villani said that most Bikram Yoga teachers burn-out after two years. Many leave teaching for other pursuits, scale back their classes or begin teaching other forms of yoga.  Still, there are those push to persevere through their doubts and seek ways to regain their inspiration.

Senior Bikram Yoga Teacher Diane Ducharme, recently identified three causes of burn-out on her “Bikram Yoga For You” Facebook forum :

  1. Teaching too many classes per week, sometimes out of necessity. Everyone has a number of classes they can COMFORTABLY and JOYFULLY teach. Stick to that if possible. You can always do more on a TEMPORARY basis, but take care of yourself first.
  2. Not maintaining a personal practice OR practicing too much like these 100 day challenges. First, take care of yourself.
  3. The most important one I’ve found is not teaching with the dialogue. This by far is the biggest reason teachers burn out. They go in there every day and “make it up.” That requires a tremendous amount of energy. Saying the dialogue is not only a meditation for the student, but also for the teacher. When you are not feeling your best physically, you can, with little effort, get in there for 90 minutes and say the dialogue and teach a very safe and good class.

A fourth reason why many teachers get burnt out is professional conflict. Spending a lot of time at the studio surrounded by co-workers often blurs lines of professionalism, making it difficult not to take things personally. This, coupled with low job security can make it personally challenging to deal with certain situations. If at all possible, it is important to communicate clearly with co-workers and owners and teach in studios with a positive work environment (often easier said than done).

For different reasons, falling back in love with the yoga can take time, patience and perseverance. Here are some tips from Toronto’s senior teachers about overcoming burn-out.

“Practice, practice, practice. The more I practice the more I love it. It helps the teacher/student connection while teaching, making it more meaningful for everyone involved.”Jocelyn Doyle, Bikram Yoga Toronto

When you get bored looking at the canvas,  it is often from focusing on the canvas as a whole.

In that moment step in, examine at a micro level, and find the one brush stroke that really grabs you. One that seems brand new- though you know you’ve seen it a million times. With this new-found clarity and understanding something seemingly small but exciting, you can start from scratch. And once again, you can behold something grand unfold on canvas before you.

What may seem daunting is the search of finding that first stroke.

But it is there; perhaps to be found in a word, sentence, or idea in the dialogue, a change within your own practice, or inspiration justly drawn from a student’s growth or accomplishments.

When you do find this new bud, growth begins again, and behind it may lie a whole new field of flowers …or as my pal Sting always tries to ram down my throat, perhaps even “Fields of GOLD.”Damien Smith, Co-Owner Bikram Yoga Toronto

Read Books.
Attend Seminars.
There is never enough time to say it all in 90 minutes!!
If you get “burnt out” or Bored..
Then YOU are BORING!!!!

Janice Guertin, Owner Bikram Yoga Forest Hill

I’m gonna sound like a Bikram broken record but….GO BAAAACK. Seriously, hitting up TT, a seminar or anytime with Boss has been the #1 revitalization in my teaching career. – Dana Moore, Co-Owner Bikram Yoga Toronto

Add a little GIN to your water bottle lie down at the front of the room in savasana and start teaching… Just kidding!

Some times we feel burnt out, but you have to remember why you are there: to help all the cranky, burnt out, lazy students that walk in that room. No matter how bunt out we are, our students are normally more burnt out than us!

As a teacher it’s always a good idea to tell your self you’re awesome because some one will always have something bitchy to say about your class. No matter what, love yourself and do the best you can that day! David Mook, Teacher: Bikram Yoga Toronto, Bikram Yoga Forest Hill, Bikram Yoga Centre

Visit Bikram studios other than the one(s) you’re usually at and take a variety of other teachers’ classes not only in the city where you live, but especially whenever you travel.
You’ll keep in good shape on vacations and gain many valuable insights from the variety of teachers’ experiences and knowledge you encounter all over the world! You’ll also be able to steal many many great jokes and pawn them off as your own.
Andrea Blakey, Teacher: Bikram Yoga Toronto, Bikram Yoga Forest Hill, Bikram Yoga Centre

My advice:

Accept that we are bored and have nothing anything against it.

To stay teaching (like to stay in the room when it is hot) and still be useful to those who need us

To get entertained by how bored we are and not to judge ourselves for it until the boredom disappears, and it will!

It will go the same way as it came.

-Vesna Jarcevic, Co-Owner Bikram Yoga Red Tree



Filed under Bikram Yoga Centre, Bikram Yoga Forest Hill, Bikram Yoga Red Tree, Bikram Yoga Toronto, Daily Feature, For Teachers, Senior Teachers, Tips and Tricks

Teaching Clinic: correct your corrections

By Barbora Simek

Each teacher has a handful experiences in their teacher training that set the course for the type of Bikram Yoga instructor they will be. One of the moments that has stuck with through the course of my teaching career was a posture clinic lead by Darius LeGal, co-owner of Funky Door Mid-Town in San Fransisco.

Four years later, stumbling across the notes I took that day in the smelly La Cienega yoga room, I find that his tips could make any teacher’s class stronger. Below, are Darius’ tips from 2005, with my reflections after four years of teaching.

Photo: Bikram Yoga Huston

About corrections…

Get your students fully into the posture first, and then correct.

Getting your students fully into the poses means that individual attention will take less away from the group but also that you will be forced to make your corrections more concise to adhere to even timing.

Address your corrections mostly to the whole class. Make general corrections and save individual ones for special cases.

I recall Craig guiding us to first use the dialogue to correct, and to direct instructions to a specific student that needs to make an adjustment and to only rely on correcting individuals if necessary. While giving students some individual attention in each class is great, it is important to make sure that it doesn’t take away from the group dynamic.

Don’t use too many corrections and keep them short and sweet.

My home studio-owner, Brad Colwell, used to say to his students, “If you can learn one thing, or improve one thing in class, I am happy.” When we spoke about teaching he always would point out that with everything that is happening in the Bikram series, it is hard for the average student to retain to everything you say. Keeping this in mind, and cutting back on superfluous corrections and focusing on meaningful ones can tidy up your class and make your teaching more effective.

Use compliments sparingly so that your students maintain the motivation to improve.

I confess, I have a bad habit of saying ‘great’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘gorgeous’ after saying ‘change’. It is unnecessary and sounds insincere when it is done too often. But a sincere, well placed compliment can keep a student going in class.

I know a student who once said she chose not to sit out second set of a posture because the teacher had told her she had ‘perfect form’ in the first set. So, compliments can be a great way to motivate your students, but only if used effectively.

Say corrections loud enough for the whole class.

Our classes are made up of individuals, but they are still a group and the group follows the teachers energy. If a correction is specifically for one person, you can say, “Only for you ______ ….” Making sure that everyone can hear your corrections serves the group dynamic of your class.

Some teachers feel that corrections should be private, but there is no need to make a student feel as if getting or needing a correction is not something that can be discussed openly. Saying corrections out loud shows there is no shame in being corrected and gives other students the chance to benefit from someone else’s corrections.

Ultimately, if we are to ask our students to listen ‘word by word’ it is only fair that they should hear every word.

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Filed under Daily Feature, For Teachers, Tips and Tricks

Posture Clinic: Balancing Stick

by Barbora Simek

Balancing Stick


One of the most invigorating and challenging postures in the Bikram Yoga series, balancing stick is a hugely beneficial to the internal organs and as a large calorie burner, helps to tone the entire body. Like standing head-to-knee and standing bow-pulling pose, bringing the chest parallel to the floor helps to stimulate and strengthen heart giving huge cardiovascular benefit. Finally, it requires extreme concentration and helps to release emotion and open the heart.

Leslie Christiansen in Balancing Stick Pose photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

Anatomical Focus


  • Upper Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Shoulders
  • Abdomen
  • Trapezius Muscles
  • Deltoids
  • Ankles


  • Hip Joints
  • Shoulders
  • Full Stretch of the spine


  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Kidneys
  • Nervous System

Physical Benefits

Improves balance

Increases endurance

Increases lung capacity

Stimulates the heart and arteries, strengthening the heart

Helps to clear blockages from arteries helping to prevent future cardiovascular problems

Helps varicose veins

Burns fat (up to 300 calories during the posture according to Rajishree Choudhury)

Slims waistline and eliminates deposits fat on the body

Relieves tension from the spine

Energetic Benefits

Activates and opens the heart chackra

Mental Benefits

Improves memory and concentration

Emotional Benefits

Releases doubt and fear of giving and receiving love (by activating the heart chackra)

Allows you to open yourself to love and soul expression

Posture Tips

BREATHE This is especially important because you are working the cardiovascular system which is aided by the respiratory system

SUCK YOUR STOMACH IN, using the abdominal muscles in this posture will stabilize your core and will ultimately help you to balance in the posture.

Point your toes from beginning. After you step forward and before you bring your body down, lift your back leg one inch off the floor, and point your toes.

Improvement in balancing stick will help your locust pose and vice versa.

Tips from the Pros

The set up determines how well you will do the posture, lock everything before (knees, elbows, etc) so that you will have more stability in the posture – Craig

Lean back slightly in the set up to stretch the chest as you step into the posture – Craig

Come down absolutely straight, and use your strength immediately – Bikram

Use your eyes to continue the stretch of the spine, the spine stays straight but the eyes look forward – Craig

At the end of the posture stretch forward a little more than you stretch back – Craig

Check out more posture tips from Bikram Yoga NYC here

Tips for Teachers

Keep the set up in a regularly paced tone, once the student is in the posture make the dialogue more energetic – Craig

“Sound is almost the same as solid matter. Voice and volume is tangible.” Craig Villani

Because of the intensity of the posture, you must increase your vocal energy and intensity to help the students complete and endure through the pose.

Put emphasis on stretching forward. Before coming to the repetition of ‘stretch, stretch, stretch’ at the end of the pose, make sure the final instruction is to stretch forward. – Craig

Correcting the alignment of the hips is a correction for intermediate and advanced students only, not for beginners – Craig

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Filed under Benefits, For Teachers, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks

Trust the Process and other Teacher Training advice

Craig Villani at the Fall 2005 Teacher Training in Los Angles photo: Barbora Simek

by Barbora Simek

You’ve packed more short shorts than you ever thought you’d own, you’ve got a new waterbottle, pens journals, clothes and have spent hours drawing your name on your yoga mat so it looks just right. And now, you’re wondering, is there anything I’m missing?

Relax, you’re more ready for teacher training than you think.

To send off this year’s spring trainees with a little OMB love, we have compiled a small list of training advice for you all. Enjoy!

  • Pack something that makes you feel comfortable, safe and home. Anything that can make you feel safe is invaluable during challenging moments.
  • LISTEN and OBSERVE now, judge later. You will have plenty of time to make up your mind about what you hear and experience in training. You will be pushed physically and mentally (sometimes intentionally), you will not agree with everything you hear, but it is not the time to judge. The more open you can be to listening and observing through your journey the more tools, knowledge and experiences you will have to become the best teacher you can be.
  • Record what you learn. There is no way you’ll be able to remember everything and training notes can be a valuable resource in the future. Many of the articles you see on OMB are the result of teacher training notes.
  • Make new friends from new countries. Teacher training is a great opportunity for networking. You never know who will give you a couch to sleep on when you are traveling, who will open a studio or can offer you the chance to guest teach. Try to venture out of your comfort zone and meet people from around the world. You won’t regret it.
  • Make connections to visiting studio owners and teachers, they are there to meet you so don’t be shy to say hello and ask questions, it is why they are there.
  • Don’t freak out. You aren’t going to die. Trust the process.
  • Listen to your body. If you cramp, you need electrolytes. If you are hungry eat. If you aren’t hungry, don’t.
  • Be patient. With your teachers, your fellow trainees, with the training staff, with the yoga. It is guaranteed that you will at some point get frustrated whether it is with yourself, with circumstance or with others. In those moments try to remain open minded and take a deep breath.
  • Master the art of the power-nap. In down time between class and lecture, in final savasana, before class starts,(not during lecture, unless you want to face the sleep police) take a shot nap. The key to power napping is to only sleep for 20 minutes. This amount of time allows the body to fit in one REM cycle which is the most restful cycle of sleep. Sleeping longer will signal to the body that you are going down for a full nights sleep and will result in grogginess.
  • Enjoy your day off. Whether you chose to cook, travel, sight-see or hang out by the pool, give yourself some time just for you. Put away the dialogue for a few hours and allow yourself to decompress. Use this time to socialize, connect to your trainees and live a little. Remember, we do yoga so that we can live fuller more rewarding lives, so don’t forget to live a little.

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Posture Clinic – Standing Bow Part II, tips from Craig

Notes from Craig

The dynamics of the pose are kicking and stretching – forget holding.

The kick and the stretch create the balance of the posture

Direct your fingers to stretch forward so that there is not stopping, liberating any tension in the shoulders.

Make sure the energy of the stretching does not stop in the wrists

The chest must come down to create the stimulation of the circulatory system.

You MUST kick -when you hold back in the posture you create tension rather than stretching, you are preventing the full benefits of the posture

Always grab at the ankle, as this is the center of the force for your kick.

Do not think of your hips, when you shift focus to the hips you lose the rest of the posture, the hips are an extension of the  form.

For advanced students

  • Try to keep the axis of your face perpendicular to the floor.
  • do not anticipate the positioning of your hand, always grab at the ankle
  • flexible people often forget to contract the thigh and allow the knee to come unlocked, make sure to keep it locked.

If you do not bring your body down all the way and the weight remains in the heel, you are grinding your femur bone into the hip joint.

If you fall diagonally in the posture it is diagnostic, and is telling you that your legs are out of alignment.

Check out some more great tips here from New York Hatha Yoga Champion, Kyoko Katsura.

Tips for Teachers

If students are keeping their weight in their heel in the pose, and are resistant to bring it forward, approach and explain to them after class – Craig

It is important to make beginners bring the body down first, because otherwise they never would. For regular and advanced students you can instruct them to focus on the kick first to create a trajectory and achieve a fuller posture – Craig

Source: Fall 2005 Teacher Training Lectures


Filed under Craig, For Teachers, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks

TIPS: Why you should review your dialogue

Teacher training is all about the dialogue, dialogue, dialogue… as our contributor Andrew Moniz said in a recent post,

“During the 9-week journey you eat, breathe and shit dialogue!”

But after teacher training, there is little incentive to keep studying, unless studio owners demand it of their teachers. So, OMB has put together a list of five reasons why you should crack out your old dialogue and refresh your Bikram-isms.

1) Clean Up Your Class

While  it may not be as eloquent as Tennyson, the dialogue is simply the most effective, straight forward way to get students in and out of the postures.

“The dialogue must be viewed as a mantra, if you add-lib in the postures, you are taking students out of their meditationCraig Villani

2) Break Patterns

Even the most dialogue savvy of teachers will forget a line or two here and there, you may be surprised what you are missing in a pose. Little things like “Chest up, spine up, ribcage open,” get forgotten in spine twist all the time, and can drastically alter a students understanding.

3) Improve YOUR yoga

We tend to teach how we practice, and that means we remember the instructions we utilize the most when practicing. Sometimes this means details get lost that can help improve not only our teaching, but our own execution of the postures.

When I discovered that Standing Bow dialogue said “Try to touch your shoulder to your chin,” and NOTchin to your shoulder” my entire shoulder alignment changed.

4) Save yourself the sweat

If you are getting frustrated, and feeling like the students just aren’t ‘getting it‘, most likely you need to review your dialogue.

“The dialogue is a set of variables that must be executed in a sequence, each must exist in order to allow the other to happen.” Craig Villani

5) It’s good insurance

We have all had long days, off days, taught after late nights ( up meditating of course!!) or gone through tough times. It is during those times that the dialogue will give to your students when you are low; refresh now so that you can you can tap into the energy when you need.

We want to know, what are your reasons for reviewing dialogue?


Filed under Craig, For Teachers, Tips and Tricks