Emmy Cleaves, a Principal Teacher of Bikram Yoga, arrived at training this Monday. Emmy is somewhere in her 80’s but does not look a day older than 65. She is originally from Latvia and survived one of the concentration camps during World War II. She has been teaching yoga with Bikram since the 1970’s, and her classes have been some of my favorite thus far through training.
Her teaching style is quite different than Bikram’s; she strays from the dialogue but still gets the important points across about each posture. I have really enjoyed the information she includes in her classes as well. For example, today she talked about fast twitch and slow twitch muscles, and how practicing Bikram Yoga can actually convert some fast twitch muscles into slow twitch muscles which will help maintain strength and endurance throughout the class as well as the nine week training. She speaks in a serious Latvian accent (I’m guessing what she has in a Latvian accent although hers is the first I have ever heard) and her personality and teaching style seem to make everyone student push to his and her limits. It’s like we don’t want to disappoint her, and when she goes off on a subject of medical benefits of Bikram Yoga while we are in Triangle Pose, we all remain in Triangle Pose until she tells us to come up.
Emmy has also given us some interesting lectures this week during the daytime lecture block, specifically one about pain. She explained that oftentimes when athletes from different sports come to Bikram Yoga for the first time, they think they are experiencing so much pain in their bodies when they first begin when really, what they are experiencing is just different sensations that they have never felt before. During hands to feet pose, where we stretch our bodies down to the ground and the goal of the posture is to eventually touch our heads to our feet, I often am guilty of complaining to myself about the pain in my hamstrings. After Emmy’s lecture on pain I really tried to label what I was feeling as more of a sensation and to be honest, I actually enjoyed the posture and maybe stretched a little further.
Some of the other interesting “pain” points she touched on were that real pain is actually important for our survival but yet distraction makes us not even feel pain. Obviously ignoring serious pain is not a good idea, but recognizing that the feelings that we are quick to label as pain may not actually be that bad for us.
On a different note, I am feeling much more like myself this week in yoga class. Don’t get me wrong, it is still extremely challenging, but I have not felt nauseous or dizzy once, and I’m actually starting to push myself a bit. I think last week my nerves just got the best of me and the nauseous and dizzy feelings were caused by stress and anxiety. (I’m knocking on wood right now…)
Only three more yoga classes for the week…woohoo!