Practicing Together: Yoga Teachers & Students

Felicia Taliaferro

Me and Sywann  after class

Me and Sywann after class.

If you’ve ever practiced Bikram yoga, you’ve probably had a class where  all you can think of is how miserable you feel.

At some point you may hear the instructor say something like “ I do this yoga too, I know how you feel. Each class is different. There are days when class still feels extremely challenging.” Then they go on to deliver an anecdote on one of their tough classes. If you’re paying attention, you may take it as encouragement. If you’re a skeptical yogi like me, you may begin to question the truth of that statement.

When people become yoga instructors they don’t suddenly stop being students of yoga.
  • When people become yoga instructors they don’t suddenly stop being students of yoga. As yogis, we are “eternal students”—continuously practicing, learning, and gaining a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. They experience the same challenges and benefits of Bikram as we do, the only differences are: they’ve been doing it longer and possess an in-depth knowledge about Bikram Yoga.

    At first I was afraid they would shift into teacher mode right next to me. The last thing I’d want to hear from my mat neighbor is “stomach in!” or “Lock your knee”

    That never happens. What does happen is I get a chance to observe some of the best teachers I know as students. When class begins and I see one or more of the BYA instructors in the hot room a bit of curiosity takes over. I want to see how they get into poses and experience class. I know I am supposed to focus on myself my practice, but it’s like a unicorn in the hot room, you just can’t look away. I usually glance a couple times to see how the posture is supposed to look, then I refocus on myself. After all, it is their practice, their meditation, their opportunity to learn and to see themselves.

  • The truth is, teachers practice just like us. Sometimes they have difficulty with a posture and other days where they can’t calm the distractions. We never know what someone else is going through , not even our teachers. Whatever they may be facing comes out in their practice, and they strive to leave it all on the mat just like us.

    I had the chance to talk with Antonia about how it feels to practice among the students; she explained, “We are just so into our bodies that we just go into ourselves. And in the back of my mind of course thinking of being a good role model, but being a role model means being honest in your practice. When my focus is out the room, it’s better for me to take a seat to take care of myself than push myself – that’s part of being a role model.”

The next time you take a class and find yourself with a yoga instructor neighbor, embrace their presence and feel the energy and integrity of their practice. Take the opportunity to be motivated and inspired during the 90 minutes you have together!

Share this Post

Have you ever practiced alongside one of the Bikram Yoga college of India in Alexandria instructors? Or thought about it? Share your experience!

“If it Doesn’t Challenge you, it doesn’t Change you”

30 Day Challenge

By Felicia  Taliaferro

If it Doesn’t Challenge you, it doesn’t Change you” 

Bikram Yoga College of India in Alexandria is currently undergoing A Group 30 Day Challenge! A 30-day challenge is when you practice for 30 conservative days, if you miss a day, which happens because we all live lives outside the hot room, you do a ‘double’ (two classes in one day). This challenge promotes the mind-body connection that is rooted in Bikram Yoga. As well as gain, the therapeutic, mental, and physical benefits. However, participating in the GROUP challenge you feel supported, there is constant encouragement, and popsicles plenty of popsicles; this challenge builds as it reinforces the Bikram Yoga College of India in Alexandria community.

The Challenge 

The essence of this challenge is mentally and physically committing to do something for 30 days. Showing up for yourself, getting to the mat, and being patient with yourself, ultimately allowing the transformative power of yoga to change you.

It’s the final week of the challenge! I have learned a lot about myself and the yoga. I have experienced many of the changes that come with practicing every day: an increased sense of focus and discipline, less stress, and more open and optimistic. There were days where I couldn’t stay present, like hitting a mental roadblock. In some classes locking my knee and stretching up more, seemed impossible. Yet, despite the struggles, I see and feel myself making progress—growth! Classes where I have been able to endure the standing series with a sense of calm and enjoyment, even if I fall out the asana or need to reconnect my breath.  I felt so good in one class that I smiled and winked at myself in the mirror during the awkward pose series!

The days you feel like you aren’t making any progress, remember that you are! Every day you learn more and build on top of what you already know. “ If you saw a video of yourself from your first class to your most current class, you would agree that you aren’t in the same place as you were when you first started, you keep going forward.”—  Perspective from Michael

Here are a few things I’ve learned and quotes from instructors that resonated and helped me during this 30 Day Group Challenge:

1.“ Practice Excellence” -Swyann

Performing your best for where you are, accepting yourself, and practicing without judgment.

2. “Fall in love with yourself every class” 

In one of my 30 Day Challenge classes, I had the pleasure of practicing with Jessica B. During savasana she said “Fall in love with yourself every class”, which really resonated with me because I know how hard I can be on myself on the mat. I had the opportunity to follow up with her to ask her about what it means to fall in love with yourself every class. Here’s what she had to say:

Looking in the mirror is a challenge, a very personal individual challenge and we take it for granted and through this process [practicing yoga], I’ve learned self-acceptance and accountability, and it starts with you. It’s a struggle, but it’s a choice

3. “Forgive Yourself” – Jean

When we practice we tend to hold a lot of tension, judgment, and stress in our bodies and minds. All of that follows us to the mat and it influences how we see ourselves (and looking in the mirror can be hard enough), especially when we fall out a posture or can’t get into it! The ill- feelings will pass, don’t be too hard on yourself! Forgive yourself—let go, BREATHE, and distance yourself from the things causing you to feel uneasy or worrisome.

4. Embrace the Journey 

Honestly, there are so many lessons being thrown at us while participating in the 30 Day Challenge, but it’s hard to acknowledge them when all you think about is finishing the challenge. Each class is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and about the yoga. Take advantage of that!

5. Listen to Your Body

This challenge, more so this yoga prompts your body to heal, which is great! Yet, for the healing to happen our bodies have to go through a lot of stretching, pulling, bending and compressing which is  AMAZING for our health, but it hurts (a good hurt!) If you experience any pain, discomfort, or begin to feel overwhelmed take a step back and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Maybe you are pushing yourself too hard or doing something incorrectly in the posture. Your body is telling you to be a little more gentle with yourself and take notice of what is going on. If you ever need someone to help you understand why something hurts or is uncomfortable, reach out to an instructor! They are available before and after class for questions.

 What have you learned about yourself? How do you feel?

The Challange is almost done! We got this Yogis!

Continue to LOVE your SWEAT!