A Slow-Burn Story

As I’ve grown into learning to recognize and trust my intuition, I’ve noticed that she usually appears as a gentle nudging before growing into a flame. This is how I came to the decision to dive into the Hot 26 Teacher Training.

I’ve been practicing Hot 26 for five years now, and part of the HYEN community since the beginning of 2017.  I discovered the Hot 26 series while living in Texas in 2013, dipping my toes in for one of those 30-day deals. I was on a journey of discovering what my body connected and responded to when it came to exercise, and there was something about the Hot 26 series that was both challenging and calming all at once. I was drawn to that. Life changes moved me out to California, and while living beneath the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains, I found a Bikram studio in a nearby beach town that became a haven to me. Weaving a consistent Hot 26 practice into my routine opened up a portal to feeling more connected, centered, and calm in my body than I had ever been. I knew then that I had stumbled into a life-long love and practice—a ritual I could integrate into my life to help me stay attentive to and manage my depression in a holistic way. I had found something that both calmed my mind and pushed my body simultaneously. Showing up to my mat day-in and day-out was grounding and sacred; knowing that while there were so many things in life outside my control, I had the power to cultivate an inner calm that would be untouchable.

Thinking back on it now, when I would witness a thoughtful and skilled teacher leading a class, I remember having the passing thought that I could see myself doing that someday. I admired the sense of inner power that it took to confidently, and yet naturally recite the Dialogue to a packed room of dedicated practitioners. The idea of leading others through a practice that had given me so much was appealing; but, timing is everything–and I knew I had more work to do in becoming more at home in my own body. I kept the thought in my pocket, trusting that if the desire was still there when opportunity arose, I would consider pursuing becoming a teacher someday.

The Decision

You know those rare, magical moments when intuition and opportunity align— as if the universe is confirming your path, nudging you in the right direction? That’s exactly what happened when I decided to enroll in the Teacher Training this past December. I had asked Cindy (one of the badass women leading the training) in passing one day if she knew of any upcoming Hot 26 teacher trainings, and she just smiled. Literally the next day, Brooke announced the upcoming training via Instagram. I simply couldn’t ignore the synchronicity of it all. But being a songwriter pursuing a career in music, I was hesitant about diving into the training since I wasn’t looking for yoga to be my sole focus. But I had enough friends who know me well assuring me that pursuing a teacher certification would only enhance and strengthen my other passions in life. They had witnessed firsthand how my yoga practice helped me stay present and awake to my life. So I took the financial leap to gain a skill I could carry with me throughout the rest of my life.

Electrolytes, Electrolytes!

Over the course of the nine week training, we logged a total of 54 hot yoga classes. Six classes per week–and on training weekends, two 90-minute classes on Saturdays. While finding and carving out windows in my schedule to practice yoga took over my world for a few months, I noticed that I was sleeping better and more deeply. I could feel my muscles growing stronger. While my body didn’t change dramatically, there were enough subtle shifts that reminded me how being in the flow of multiple classes per week made me feel more in touch with a sense of possibility, agency, and a hopeful outlook. I found myself looking forward to how I knew I would feel at the end of class, and craving whole foods for replenishment. One of the most challenging weekends of training was when Esak Garcia came to town. We had been required to read Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr (highly recommend if you’re curious about Bikram culture and history), and discovered just how influential and revered Esak was within the international yoga community. We sat through posture clinics where he thoroughly unpacked each posture and demonstrated correct alignment. He gave us thoughtful suggestions for deepening our own practice. His knowledge and insights were invaluable. But I was honestly terrified by the words “Backbending Workshop”  on the schedule. We had read about his intensive workshops held all over the country, and knew it would be stretching (pun very much intended). We paired up in groups of two, and lined up along the wall. I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) by how methodical and focused he approached each backbending attempt. We weren’t freestyling here. Rather, we were learning from a master who challenged us to push beyond where our minds believed we could go. Yes, his flexibility was impressive and truly mind-blowing; but what left an impression on me was the way he led from a place of humble and conscious awareness rather than ego. It made total sense to me now why they call it the “Jedi Fight Club.”

Dear Dialogue…

I participated in Speech and Debate competitions throughout high school, so I’m no stranger to memorization. But there’s honestly no way around it: the Bikram Dialogue is downright daunting. Memorizing an hour and a half’s work of Dialogue is a metaphorical Mt. Kilimanjaro—and our teacher training group a small band of mountaineers huddled at the base, swapping stories around the campfire. The steep climb ahead bonded us quickly–there’s nothing quite like a seemingly insurmountable task to ignite a sense of solidarity. If you ever decide to embark on your own Hot 26 training journey, the best advice I can give is to find a study partner to help you pace out the memorization and keep you accountable. That truly became my lifeline, the “secret sauce” to getting through it. And whenever I would start to feel overwhelmed by the memorization, I would change things up: talking to myself while walking through Shelby Park with my London Fog latte in-hand became a weekly ritual. I made up my mind early on that my best bet for learning the Dialogue was to be proactive in creating a memorization plan and sticking to it as closely as possible. Brooke’s words became our group mantra: “If you keep up, you’ll be kept up.” I found this to be very true.

The First Class

March 30th, 4:30am, the morning of my teaching evaluation:

I had spent time journaling a few intentions the night before—how I wanted people to feel when they left my class, what I wanted to remember, how I wanted to inhabit my body. I set my alarm for 4:30am so I could have time to make tea and warm-up my voice before leading my first ever 6am class, the one that would determine if I passed my certification test. The butterflies started fluttering in my chest, but I also heard my soul whispering louder than my quickening pulse: You’ve worked too hard to crumble now. Trust what you know. You’ve been preparing for this moment. Now all that’s left is to show up for it. In the midst of my nerves, I leaned into that place of inner confidence– trusting my body and mind to remember all that I had been steadily feeding her throughout the past nine weeks. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, then opened the door… walking past the threshold into a new chapter of becoming myself.

Coming Into My Power

Looking back through my journal entries from the end of last year, two themes surfaced from the pages: a curiosity about cultivating a sense of inner authority, and growing into my feminine power. Reflecting on the teacher training experience, I can honestly say that I feel like I’ve uncovered a sense of empowerment that translates into every area of my life. Standing in front of a room and owning what I have to offer is a muscle I’m still building, and the training experience has been a powerful catalyst. The heart behind why I practice yoga–showing up and cultivating a sense of inner calm even in the midst of difficult situations–has become a centering mantra for how I hope to keep moving through life. There’s something about dancing along the edge of what you thought you were capable of and coming out the other side that deeply marks you. The support and camaraderie I found throughout the training experience—from the teachers, guest facilitators, other trainees, to the entire HYEN community–has helped me feel more tethered and at home when I walk into the studio. Rather than my coming and going to classes feeling transactional, solely focused on what I’m receiving–I’ve started viewing each class as a gift and exchange of energy. It’s a gift to take a class led by someone who has put in the work to offer a well-honed dialogue, thoughtful presence, and clear directions. And every time I walk into a room to bring my unique voice and person to a Dialogue that’s been handed down and refined for years, I dip my feet into a river that nourishes. I’m slowly but surely inching my way closer to my core and inner power, and I’m grateful for the ways this training has brightened my path along the way.