For my non-yogi friends reading who don’t know what a posture clinic is, I will explain. Basically, it’s when a VERY senior Bikram teacher leads a group (usually a mix of students and other teachers) through the series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises at a much slower pace- 6 hours, versus 90 minutes for a regular class. It is conducted in a hot room, but the heat is not cranked as high as usual since most of the time you're just listening while the seminar leader answers questions and discusses every posture in detail.
A posture clinic is an appropriate forum to get individual help. It's perfectly okay to ask questions about your own specific challenges, or you can just ask the leader to observe you doing a posture so you can get some personalized feedback. Plus, the teachers authorized to lead these seminars are actually allowed to touch students when they’re giving corrections. Overall, at posture clinic you learn a lot of neat tips – “secrets” as Diane calls them – about every posture in the series, and you also get tailored-for-you, hands-on help with the trouble spots in your practice. What you learn won’t necessarily make the postures any easier, but it will help you achieve better form. And with Bikram yoga, form is key since the emphasis is all on trying the right way.
It is important to note that the format of a regular Bikram class never allows for this level of depth and personal attention. Due to the specific pacing of the Bikram dialogue there’s just not enough time. And per Bikram himself, regular teachers are supposed to refrain from touching students when giving corrections. Therefore, a posture clinic is a very useful tool for anyone who wants to take his or her practice to the next level.
My day at posture clinic started fairly early (for a Saturday, for me). I was up and on the road before 8:30, as I had to travel out to Bikram Yoga Auburn where it was being held. The sun was shining and the hour in the car flew by (belting out Lada Gaga really helps pass the time). When I got there I was a little nervous since I’ve never practiced anywhere but at Bikram Yoga Northampton. I knew some other people from BYN who would be coming, but they hadn’t arrived yet so I was on my own for the moment. I immediately liked the vibe of the Auburn studio though. It was bustling with eager yogis and it felt bright and homey. The lobby was being staged for a Shakti trunk sale, and in the hot room another class was just finishing up. There was a good energy and I could sense right away it was going to be a fun day.
On the agenda was a regular class taught by Diane from 10-11:30, then posture clinic from 12-6. Taking the regular class first was optional, but I knew it would be a good way to get warmed up. Plus, I had to get a regular class in to count for the challenge anyway (I’m a purist). Soon my friends from BYN got there and it was time to head into the hot room and claim our spots. It ended up that all 5 of us were right beside each other in the front row- I was next to the podium! There were about 60 attendees in all, and we were PACKED in there like sardines! At least, it seemed that way to me; I’m used to having a couple of feet on either side of me when I practice. However, for this event there were strict instructions upon check-in: Mats 6 inches apart! I thought I was going to hate it being so crowded, but it was actually a really cool experience. The group energy from that many people breathing and moving together was awesome! I thought my practice was pretty strong and focused. I tried really hard to maintain good form because I wanted to represent for BYN and be a shining example of the outstanding level of teaching there. :)
After class there was a 30 minute break. Everyone put on fresh practice clothes, refilled their water bottles and munched down snacks. Then, all 60 of us piled back into the hot room and the posture clinic began. Everyone chilled on their mats (well, as much as it's possible to "chill" in a hot room) while Diane shared her “secrets” and gave feedback and corrections to people who wanted her to evaluate their postures individually. This really made the teaching come to life. It's so cool to be able to see someone's form improve right in front of your eyes! I had brought a notebook so I launched into full-on school nerd mode and was scribbling away the whole time. At the end of talking about each posture, we would all get up together and do at least 1 set of that posture so we could try applying what we had just learned right then and there.
What I learned was… a ton! Way too much to reiterate here! Plus, all the notes I took relate to my own practice anyway. They range from little bad habits that I need to ditch to a few big adjustments that have entirely changed certain postures for me. I also wrote down some verbatim Diane quotes because she has a great sense of humor and isn't afraid to tell it like it is! Here is one of my favorite little gems she told all of us about Awkward Pose (Utkatasana):
“If you are tucking [your glutes] on this posture I can guarantee you will need knee surgery someday because YOU ARE FUCKING IT UP!”
Did I mention Diane likes to curse? Yep, the lady has got her F-bombs and she’s not afraid to drop them (when necessary, for emphasis). Personally, I fucking respect that.
In all seriousness though, this was an amazing day spent with an amazing group of people. And I actually got so much more out of it than just cool tips to help me with my practice. I will never forget the intoxicating hum of 60 people all doing Deep Breathing (Pranayama) in unison. I will never forget the woman in the back row wearing the bandanna and the brown tank top who absolutely LIT UP and exclaimed, “I can do it!” as Diane coached her through the full expression of Toe Stand (Padangustasana) for the first time. I will never forget the claps and the “Oohs!” and “Ahhs!” of all of us yogis who were genuinely moved as we witnessed people reach new personal bests. I will never forget the good times shared over post-clinic margaritas and guacamole with some of my BYN friends, Chris & Christine. And I will never forget the kindness and generosity showed to me by Jenn which allowed me to be a part of all this.
My fist posture clinic was an awesome experience I will always remember, and it certainly won't be my last! It's changed up my practice for the better, and it's strengthened the connection I have to this yoga and to all those who believe in it and practice it. I would highly encourage anybody who has the opportunity to take part in one to do so!