Friday, June 27, 2008

Going to Training? Part 3: Dialogue and Study Suggestions

Learn the dialogue before you go.
Learn the dialogue before you go.
Learn the dialogue before you go.
Learn the dialogue before you go.
Learn the dialogue before you go.
Learn the dialogue before you go.
Learn the dialogue before you go.
Learn the dialogue before you go.

Did I mention....Learn the dialogue before you go?

And know that if you don't, you'll be ok. In fact, there was something (for me, the extrovert) about being a part of the minutia of the experience, staying up late, studying with people you hardly knew but there you were, rocking out postures at 1 a.m. and doing great in posture clinic the next day. There is something to be said for the 'group suffering' part of it; however, that's coming from someone who only had (roughly) up to Eagle when I got there. I'm sure those who had it done will tell you of blissful nights of sleep, regular opportunities to practice empathy, and the opportunity to help others. :)

Todd suggested I blog this topic as it was a huge part of training - as big as, and often worse than, doing the yoga itself. This was so different for different people too! The experience around the dialogue was intense all around, but it came easy for some, seemed impossible for others, and for the bulk of us, once we got a study system that worked, and frankly, just got the hang of doing it, it happened with a medium/reasonable amount of struggle.

The thing to think about is this: You need to learn the dialogue and actually remember it, and be able to recall it once you get home. So rather than cramming to get it in your head long enough to spit it out in a posture clinic, consider finding a way to study that will allow you to retain it, making life after training much easier (and life during training, for that matter). I had so much more dialogue when I got home than I thought, but the postures I crammed in irresponsibly are still the ones I struggle with the most, even now.

For me, (1) it went back to how I successfully studied in college and (2) finding a way to learn and function within the setting I was in. Plus, at no time in my life have I had to memorize 90+ minutes of words, verbatim. Unless you're an actor, it's unlikely you have either. So consider this is a different thing than studying to pass a test on geography where you can wing it to some degree. Verbatim, people, verbatim.

And, I'll say this - it was a bit like what I understand childbirth/labor to be - what works in the first few hours is shit at 9 cm. Well, true here too - it seemed everyone went through iterations of studying that worked for a while and then didn't work anymore. Once you get into a flow, it does indeed come easier. Most of us (though not everyone) came up with some semblance of this formula:

- Learn the lines on your own by reading them, and saying them aloud to yourself.
- Then, practice out loud with 1-3 other people saying each line until each paragraph was solid, continuing through the posture until each paragraph was solid, then finalizing it by saying the whole thing.
  • This is good for you in terms of getting the words to roll off your tongue out loud and you're doing "practical application learning" (good for most adult learners - the concept of actually 'doing' the task at hand rather than theoretical learning)
  • For those who are big "reading comprehension" people, like me, I'd read the words as others spoke them, so I'd re-read it 2-3 times in between speaking it without looking at the words
  • For "auditory learners" (which I'm not), you also get to hear it out loud, which for some is very helpful. It's not my primary learning tool, but it didn't hurt.
  • When you were ready, you had other people handy to start practicing with bodies in front of you, which is a whole other layer of learning - seeing someone do it and concentrating on that often required a sort of 're-learning' of the dialogue. I know I got thrown off by it in many postures! They stress it like mad, and many found the bodies "distracting" but, hello, when you teach, (hoepefully) there are bodies in front of you! :)
Honestly, this covers most adult learning styles at once, which I think is why so many people (or the ones I was around) took this approach. I say this with a giant disclaimer that many, many people did it a variety of ways - some holed up and truly only studied alone the whole time. Others studied until they had it down, and then would only meet up with others to practice with bodies and/or say the posture in its entirety. Some had just one partner, and they exclusively studied together. People who had it memorized before coming would often just support and help others, as a way to solidify their own learning (but always with the option to hit the hay, lucky devils). Others crammed like mad just before having to deliver it and hoped for the best, many doing just fine with that approach. You'll find your way, this was (somewhat) my method and the general method I saw used by most (not all) people.

I believe I blogged my exact method earlier, which was this (not that it's full-proof, good grief...but just happened to work for me for most of the postures):
  • I would learn each line, repeating and saying them out loud, alone
  • I would make a list of 1st words of each posture, and use those to jog my memory of the lines that I had learned (this saved volumes of time just trying to get the next line, and also stopped me from having to look at the dialogue to find out - hence sort of cheating, because you couldn't help but see the next couple lines, so then your practice of those became a little bogus)
  • I would practice with other people, repeating as stated above (this worked too, when I didn't have time to learn the lines ahead of time in a few cases where we really got pushed)
  • I would use bodies once I had it mostly down, ideally at least 5 times before delivering it in posture clinic
  • Sadly, I did not spend much time going back to older postures until we were done, in the last two weeks
This may all sound like gibberish at the moment, and it kinda is. The rule of thumb is to just know Half Moon, the 1st part, before you go. This is the one you do in front of Bikram. Have it down so you can relax about that, but man, we all wished we'd gotten more serious about dialogue before we started posture clinics in Week 3. You're so busy acclimating Week 1 & 2, you feel so full, overwhelmed, etc. but if I could go back, I'd have found some serious study-buddies and got crackin' sooner. Everyone told me to just know Half Moon, and for that, I cursed them, wishing I'd buckled down at home more too...though they certainly meant well, and I did survive, so they were right on some level!

Those of you who were there, feel free to add a (robust) comment on your thoughts! It will further drive home my point that this really was different for everyone!

BONUS! Todd was kind enough to write up his own perspective on this so I could include it here rather than having him just add comments (which not everyone sees...). So, here's a whole other perspective on this topic!

The study method I used, and one that others picked up in Mexico was to write the first letter of each line and then repeat the line with that prompt. If the line had a period or comma I would add the first letter right after that also. So first paragraph of Half Moon would go:


F, H

A, P

I, R, T

K, D

H, U, T

Then I would study the first paragraph until I could repeat it in full using the first letter and then go on to the second paragraph. Once I was able to repeat the second I would then combine the first and second before moving on to the third. Once I got the third down I would then combine the first, second and third and repeat, and so on till the end of the posture. After a couple of postures my ability to learn a posture sped up and I could use this method to get a posture down in my head in an hour and then another hour I would lose the cheat sheet and know it.

Also, this is just me, I found that when we got out at night from lecture I couldn't practice dialog in my room alone or I would fall asleep. I suggest that you head down to the lobby where the breeze and noises (nothing loud) from the hotel will keep you focused. The staff will encourage you to work on your postures with others and this does work as it adds another dynamic to doing the posture that is much different then just saying it to yourself. My suggestion is not to do this too early in the posture. If you don't know the posture working with another person may just be a distraction that you don't need.

Before I learned the method above in Mexico I was using a digital recorder. I would look at the paragraph and go line by line. Say the line a bunch of times using the book and then when I got it to memory move on to the next and then when I had a couple of lines I would record and listen to myself. This technique worked for me as I said earlier, but once I got to Mexico I found the structure of our time didn't allow me enough time to make this technique work. You will find that after the first three postures the crunch will come and you will have to deliver two or three postures in a day. This is why learning as much as you can before Mexico will be a big benefit. Now you never know when this day will come as staff won't tell you. They don't give you updated agendas, so it is a real guessing game as to what will happen each day from the start to the end of the day. When you add in the short periods of time you get to study, which is really your free time between midnight (provided Bikram doesn't keep you later) and 8:30 AM when the first yoga practice takes place you don't have a ton of time to study and sleep. This is why I say the recorder method, for me, didn't work. I found that by using the method above I could actually learn a posture by myself in the posture clinic while others were delivering theirs if I had to. On a couple of occasions I actually had to do two or three postures when I had walked into the posture clinic expecting to deliver one.

The posture clinics are broken up by groups. They will make equal number of groups going by the last names. We had a total of 16 groups with 15 or so people in each. Everyday your group was in the clinic with another group and this would change each day. You are in the same group from start to finish of the TT program. They also use these groups to determine what line you will practice on each day in the studio. Now some groups were just better at dialog for whatever reason then others or the teacher (visiting teachers or staff) that were grading you moved slow or fast with their feedback of the postures thereby causing some groups to be faster / slower than others. This is why you never know how many postures you might have to deliver, and saying I only know one won't cut it. You will still have to get up and deliver what you do know. This grade will still go into the book and depending on how well you do overall with the other postures you do know it could impact on your graduation.

There are many techniques to studying dialog and once you get into posture clinic and people start to struggle with dialog you will learn from staff the numerous methods. For the most part you are on your own for learning this. Posture Clinic is a very interesting place and seeing the different people reacting to this was something I found very unique. Some people lost their voices and would totally blank and others would start to cry. Then there were others (not that many) who came in knowing their dialog verbatim from start to finish.


Toddo said...

The only thing I will add is that you will no doubt get very upset that staff expect you to know the dialog in full and learn it with the little free time they give you. Some people tried to fight this and well they lost.

Study time is what you can carve out during the day. Your free time is between midnight (sometimes later) and the 8:30 AM practice. Some people stayed up late (I liked to work till around 2 or 3 AM) and sleep till 7:45. Others would go to bed and get up at 6 to work on dialog. You will see dialog books in the yoga studio and people trying to get studying in right up until the teacher takes the podium. Lunch from after the morning practice to about 12:15 is another time where you can squeeze in studying. Then the afternoon is filled and while some people would try to sneak in dialog study during a lecture the staff would shut you down if they catch you and they do patrol the lecture hall. Then there is the dinner break after the second practice and the start of evening lectures at 9 PM.

Really not a lot of time and staff are aware of this (they won't give you more than "trust the process"), you will be expected to make it work. This is where I say trying to fight the system won't work. Figure out a method to learn the dialog and give up on the idea that you need 8 hours of sleep.

Concerning study buddies and doing postures with bodies. If you are shy this is something you will also have to get over. If you think staff will find you a buddy or they will ask to study with you forget it. Head down to the lobby and find a group who are on the same posture as you and work with them. Large groups are not typical. Usually two to four people are best.

Once posture clinic gets going you will be walking around talking to yourself and doing dialog. Don't worry about it. The hotel staff learned from the first group that Yogi's like to talk to themselves. They also know that from time to time we will recite dialog to them and even get them to do postures for us. Hotel guests are also warned about you when they check in. They already think we are in cult to begin with so talking out loud to no one is what they expect from you anyways.

If you come from a studio that doesn’t follow the dialog 100% and think you won’t have to learn the full dialog – forget it. If you are taking the TT program because you had the free time and money and don’t want to teach and so learning dialog is not important to you –forget it. If you think you can edit the dialog to meet your standards of grammar – forget it. You will do the dialog as written and your offer to rewrite the dialog is wasting time you could use to study.

One last tip about dialog. Take your copy and go to Kinkos or another copy store where you can shrink the size down, laminate and bind. You will live with this book and protecting it from food, sweat, and the pool is key. In our class someone did sell “bootleg” (Craig’s term) copies that were ideal, but after a couple of weeks this effort was shut down in favor for the official version that was sold at the Bikram store in the lecture hall. I would suggest if you don’t get your own made before you get to Mexico and someone is selling one act quick to buy one. The official version was not as nice and fell apart.

In conclusion you will ABIDE : )

Craig said...

Ahh, the dialog! :-)A few more tips:

When learning the dialog line by or paragraph by paragraph, lean the next few words of the next line or paragraph. In posture clinic many people pause between lines or paragraphs. Learning the following few words will really help with the flow.

Make a list of the body parts the dialog is talking about. Figure out if there's some sort of pattern. Many times the dialog goes right up the body, not always though. This does two things, getting used to looking at the body; and if your eyes move to the hips and you stare at them long enough, it may jog your memory into remembering what you're supposed to say.

For those kinetic learners, do the pose as you're learning the dialog. Feel the particular area you're talking about.

Oh, the other biggie, if you don't have a big voice or project, learn how! Otherwise you may have posture clinic proctors making you yell the dialog.

ttfn ~ Craig from Honolulu

Toddo said...

Ya, if you are quite in your delivery they will get you to step out of the suite on to the balcony and shout your dialog to the demonstrators.

Ruth said...

THANKS GUYS THIS IS AMAZING INFO - I'm very scared..very!!!:)

google said...

We're revamping Bikrams websites, and thought maybe you'd be interested in writing for us? Please contact me if you're interested ( or FaceBook.

~ John Walsh

belovely said...

Hey Jenn,
First off (as many of your commenters often begin with), lovely blog! I'm impressed by the thoroughness and honesty with which you write -- thanks for that!

Also, I'm wondering where/how I can get a hold of the Bikram you recommend, practicing before teacher training is a great way to get a head start (and it seems like it'd be a great way to improve one's personal practice too!). Anyway, I'd love your suggestions on this.


Melinda said...

Hi Jenn,

love your blog.

I have the same wondering as "belovely" (Also, I'm wondering where/how I can get a hold of the Bikram dialogue...)