I have been ROCKING it lately. Cooler weather and no humidity makes for a happy kerryalina. I was even more excited once I heard that Juan Manuel Martin Busutil (the current world asana champion) was coming to my studio for a Master Class! I’ve done master classes half a dozen times – they’re generally the usual beginners’ class but with short breaks for demonstrations, corrections, explanations and tips interspersed throughout. Afterwards there’s a Q&A session followed by a demonstration of the visiting champion’s competition routine. I LOVE master classes – they’re always packed, the energy is amazing and I’ve learnt so much from them about extending and fine-tuning my practice. I couldn’t wait! It was going to be great! But then I arrived at the studio and was reminded once again that the number one rule in Bikram? Is NO EXPECTATIONS.
First problem: One of my teachers pulled me aside when I arrived and asked if I’d be willing to demonstrate some poses for the class. My first shocked reaction was “But I suck!” I quickly realised from his reaction that he probably interpreted this as fishing for compliments, so I panicked and immediately followed up with “…but okay, I’d be happy to!” I smiled, walked away (glowing with the unexpected ego-boost)… and immediately started freaking out. I mean, it’s one thing to continually fall out of Standing Bow in class; it’s another thing entirely to do it in front of approximately five million yogis. What if he wanted me to do Standing Head to Knee? I can’t even kick out properly! And it would be not only in front of all my fellow students, but also every single teacher! I was already feeling stiff and uncoordinated today; there was no chance I was going to cover myself in glory. And that’s when I realised:
Second problem: Juan’s definition of a Master Class was substantially different to everyone else’s. Instead of giving us the benefit of his years of experience and in-depth knowledge of yoga… he stuck to the dialogue, cranked the heat, maxed out the humidity and worked our asses off. Which is great and all… but I can get my ass kicked by pretty much any Bikram teacher. I don’t need to pay $35 for the privilege. His Q&A session consisted of a few life stories (every question about yoga or postures was met with a lacklustre “Well, it depends.”) and in the end, he didn’t even do his demonstration. I can honestly say that I didn’t learn a single thing yesterday, which left me feeling frustrated and resentful.
Third problem: When we were already struggling with the overwhelming heat (half the class had dropped to their mats by Party Time), what does he throw at us? THIRD SETS. Of Half Moon (“Lol, okay.”), Standing Head to Knee (“…srsly?”), and then Standing Bow (“You have GOT to be kidding me.”). By that stage I was so overwhelmed, exhausted and frustrated that I wildly kicked up and up and UP… and suddenly crumpled to my mat in pain as I felt my inner thigh muscle strain and my leg give out from under me. You guys. It felt like I had been STABBED IN THE THIGH. I honestly thought I had torn my muscle in half. And as I’m curled up on the ground, clutching my leg and sobbing in pain, Juan looks straight at me and says “We’re not moving into Standing Bow until everyone joins in. It’s a team exercise! So stand up, miss.”
Which brings me to my fourth problem. It’s one that is completely down to personal opinion, and I’ll admit that I obviously haven’t had enough time to have in-depth conversations or really get to know him. But as far as I can see?
Juan’s kind of a dick.
Here’s a tip for teachers everywhere: if your student limps from the room in tears to get ice for her battered muscles, don’t mock her. If somebody else runs out and loud vomiting sounds can be heard from the bathroom shortly thereafter, don’t laugh that he just can’t handle your class. And if you come across both these wayward wannabe yogis sitting together after class and feeling sorry for themselves, try to show at least a little compassion rather than berating them for leaving the room. Because once you’ve done all these things (and more!), the only impression you’ve left is that of arrogance and an overwhelming lack of understanding.