"Hell-Bent" Required Reading.
*Originally posted May 2, 2016
Day 13 was a real treat! I walked into Bikram Yoga Highbury & Islingtonand who do I find teaching?! Andrew Jungwirth! We went to Teacher Training together way back in 2008. I talked to him after class and apparently his regular class at BH&I is the Monday 10am. Get to it. His positive energy is infections. He also has a way of delivering the dialogue that keeps you on you’re toes. If you’re like me and have practiced for a while, it’s easy to go on auto-pilot and anticipate coming in and out of a posture. Andrew really helped me get out of my head and stay in in the class. I’m still creaky from this weekend. But today, I felt like I was able to work and stretch out the aches and pains as oppose to yesterday where I felt like I was struggling to just stand on my mat.
Taking class from Andrew makes me reminisce about our Teacher Training in Acapulco Mexico. We stayed in a luxurious hotel for nine weeks, to be honest if you live in ANY hotel for nine weeks it stops feeling luxurious pretty quickly. All 300 of us practiced in a giant hot room with poor ventilation. Because our training happened during the rainy season in Mexico it was particularly humid and the Hot Room had no windows, so as it heated up the humidity would also rise making it unbearable. In the back of the room they put large buckets forus to puke in if we needed. I never threw up the entire training. Hashtag humble brag.
It’s hard to explain Bikram Yoga Teacher Training to someone who’s never done it. I remember being there in Mexico, sleep deprived, dehydrated, and a bit delirious thinking, “Why didn’t any of my teachers tell me it was going to be like this? Why didn’t anyone prepare me? “ The answer is simple. They couldn’t. No one can. Everyone’s experience is a little different and if someone did explain it all to you, it wouldn’t sink in until you experienced it for yourself.
That being said, since starting this challenge I’ve been reading a book called Hell-Bent by Benjamen Lorr. I remember when this book came out and people in the New York Yoga scene were talking about it. I don’t know why, but at the time I didn’t pick it up. I bought it at the beginning of this year during one of those, “I’ve been meaning to read that” purchases.” It’s sat on my shelf until day two of this 30 Day Challenge when I picked it up figuring it’d be a good book to get me in the yoga mood. I think some books come into your life right when you need them. If I had read this in 2012 when it came out I’m not sure if it’d have the same effect. If you were ever curious of the inner workings of a yoga community read Hell-Bent. It. Is. Brilliant.
Benjamin Lorr apparently took/takes Bikram Yoga in Brooklyn, New York. While living in New York I lived in Harlem and never ventured to Brooklyn to teach or take but the Bikram community is small and the New York community is smaller so I know people he’s talking about in his book personally. I used to practice and take class with Joseph Encinia at BikramYoga Grand Central. I remember when Esak came to my teacher training and didn’t allow people to so the warm-up before hands to feet pose. A memory I forgot about until in Hell-Bent when Benjamin talk about back bending club. It was a strange book to read because it triggered memories that have been dormant for years. And given the Bikram community is as small as it is, the whole book I was wondering”Have I met Benjamin? I think I have, I’m not sure.” It’s a strange query to have niggling at the back of your mind while devouring a book.
He explains the aspects of Bikram Yoga perfectly. When I was reading about his Teacher Training and the challenges he went through during that time it made my own Teacher Training memories flood back to my head. Chula Vista the hotel dining room we had breakfast in every morning. The empty hotel rooms we sat on the the floor for posture clinic and how are backs ached from taking class then sitting on the floor for hours with no back support. That horrible day in the middle of Teacher Training where we were required to take three classes in one day. Two of them back to back. Benjamin also does a perfect job of explaining Bikram the man. In my second blog post I referenced the lawsuits and sexual harassment cases against him at the moment. Bikram is someone who’s gotten so popular in his own little bubble that at times, he’s insufferable at best and cruel with a complete disregard for others at worst. Bikram Choudhury is also, funny, charismatic, and can make you smile not just with your face but with your heart. He can fill your insides with joy. As I write that I’m well aware how cheesy it sounds but if you’ve ever met him, or someone like him you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Benjamin’s book nails it. It made me realize that my daily blog about getting back into yoga after an hiatus only scratches the surface of the confusing world of yoga addicts I’ve slowly distanced myself from the past couple of years. Doing this challenge has sucked me back in in ways I didn’t expect it to. I want to hang out after class to work on back-bending. I find myself wondering if my legs will improve enough so I could start taking advanced class again. I find myself realigning with the “Hell-Bent” practitioners as Benjamin Lorr calls them.
If you have the time, when you’re done reading this please go and pick up his book. I’m not sure what it’s like to read it if you’re new to Bikram Yoga, but if you’ve lived in that community for a bit you’ll find it to be accurate, honest, funny, and brutal. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Once you read it, please shoot me a message and let me know you’re thoughts. I’m dying to talk to someone about it.