A Letter to Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2

Dear Jane and Jane

I’m so very sorry for all that you are going through right now and over the past while and all the circumstances that have brought you to file a civil suit against you-know-who. I can’t imagine what you are going through but I’m pretty sure it’s hideous. Literally unimaginable.

Sitting in the midst of my relatively comfortable urban professional life in London I can’t even picture how things would change if I was put in your position. I’d probably lose it completely.

So, I wanted to say hi and I’m sorry and thank you and congratulations and be strong and I hope you find light somehow and please know that if I knew you personally I would do whatever was in my power to help. As it is, this may be all I can do.

Since I heard – via a twitter friend – two evenings ago about the lawsuits I have been able to think about little else. I was on day 8 of a 30 day bikram yoga challenge and I found I couldn’t go to class yesterday or today. It’s the first time I have skipped class not because of laziness, injury, making excuses, getting a better offer, being generally lame or having eaten far too much penne vodka at lunch. I skipped class because of disgust and revulsion; betrayal and its counterpart: allegiance. Allegiance with you.

Changing gear a little, I think that the purpose of our “innocent until proven guilty” policy is to civilise our basic “where there is smoke there is fire” instinct. The smoke in this case, sadly, is simply that having read anything I could get my hands on about Bikram Choudhury over the last few years, and in the absence of hundreds of his friends and colleagues rushing forward shouting “Bikram would NEVER abuse his position; Bikram would NEVER assault anyone let alone a woman let alone a TT student!” – I find it all too easy to believe he is capable of rape. And I find it all too easy to believe the culture that surrounds him would rather turn a blind eye than lose him; than tarnish the practice; than demean the transformative power of this yoga; than cut off their income; than admit they had been hoodwinked; than be shown the devastating effect of false idols. Than enquire within. Ironically, this yoga teaches us that this is the hardest thing we are asked to do in the hot room. It is the only thing we are asked to do, ultimately.

I don’t know any of these people but I will say one thing: silence is compliance; and silence, every bit as much as yoga, is a choice.

So, anyway, I guess I’m really writing to tell you that having thought about little else for 48 hours I am not planning to turn my back on bikram yoga, but I did feel I wanted to let you know why. This may well be empty rhetoric, it may well be post rationalisation but as much as I credit Bikram Choudhury with giving me this yoga, I will be damned before I let him take it away. It is tragic that he took it away from you.

Here’s what I’m still profoundly uncomfortable with:

  • This practice and his name are inextricably linked
  • In order to continue to practice this yoga I am obliged to give money – indirectly – to a probable rapist
  • Each hot room available to me has images of Bikram Choudhury in it
  • I don’t think I can become a bikram yoga teacher if he is found guilty

However, I believe I will return to my practice because he doesn’t get to take this away from me. The anger and the disillusionment and betrayal and injustice and bitterness do not get to win. Fuck them all. This is no longer bikram yoga, this is fucking badass Caz yoga from now on and I own it. If I could I would give it back to you complete, washed, reborn. Change, savasana.

I hope you can see that as your sister if I choose to continue with this yoga despite my discomforts that I am honouring the part of you that is also the part of me. I recognise the part of that of you was injured which is also my injury. I offer you my strength, my practice, my transformation.

By continuing in my path in this yoga I hope I can demonstrate to you that you weren’t wrong. You were not wrong to fall in love with this practice; the meaning it offered to your life was not a mirage; the healing and change you witnessed was not sleight-of-hand; your faith in yourself in training to become a teacher was not misplaced.

Say someone forgets that violence and coercion have no place in yoga, which is ultimately and only about choice, that doesn’t change all the other things that yoga does mean. It doesn’t mean that you are weak.

Anyway, lastly I want to say how much I hope none of this is upsetting for you, I absolutely do not mean it that way. And I want you to know that even all the way over here in London I am thinking about you – and I can’t be the only one. I mean I know I’m unique but I can’t be that special; hundreds of others must be sending you positive vibes also.

So, during these low, dark, challenging days: good luck to you. What is past is prologue.

All my love

Namaste

Caz

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Let’s Get McKinley Bikram Teacher Trained. Please.

If you have that one remarkable friend you feel the need to ring or tweet immediately after class, whether outstanding or a total wash-out, who you know will always be pleased to hear from you and be true and supportive in response? Then chances are you already know McKinley, who tweets as @ilovesweat. He’s a hugely important part of the bikram twitter community that I have grown to love over the last year or so, in fact I might even call him President of Twitzerland. Anyway, McKinley recently launched an online campaign to fund his Bikram Teacher Training. He and I have talked about training in the past but I’m no longer sure that is my path, so – impressed and inspired by his conviction that it is his, I’m trying to get the campaign in front of as many people as possible.

Please, please, please, watch his video, wonder open mouthed at his toe stand and then reblog this or tweet this or post this to your facebook or whatever – is skywriting still a thing? – so we can get McKinley to teacher training so that he can be the exceptional teacher the world needs.

Crucially, this is an appeal for cash so please also make a donation. Thank you so much. And with that, some words from the man himself.

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Caz: You and I became friends on twitter and for me personally the online community has really supported my practice. But in terms of cash in hard times like these – what are your expectations for your indiegogo campaign target?

M: I’m not sure what to expect. Bikram has taught me to have no expectations, so I’m working from there, right? I often remind myself of a line MCA has in “Alive,” “I’ll give it my best and come what may….” I’d rather *try* then not do anything, even if it means I might fail. When I first started bikram, I would never try toe stand. then, one day, I realised, that I was cheating myself. If you don’t try, you never give yourself a chance to succeed. I’m gonna give it my all and hope for the best.

Caz: because we’re friends I know you’ve had a tough recession-related time recently; without wanting to pry, I’d like to ask whether your ambition to teach has waxed and waned at all during this time?

M: If anything, my desire to teach has only increased because of the recession. There aren’t many jobs where you can go almost anywhere in the world and have the opportunity to work right away. Becoming a bikram yoga teacher gives you access to studios around the world. @MeiNg has taught bikram yoga worldwide and it’s inspiring to know that that opportunity is there.

Caz: can you talk a little about how bikram yoga has enriched or otherwise changed you, or your life, since you began practicing? What are the top three things that come to mind?

M: Bikram yoga is physical therapy for the body, mind and soul. Before bikram, my body was a wreck. I was malnourished, sickly-skinny and had bad posture. Bikram has changed my body with better posture and alignment and even given me a little bit of tone. I’ve also changed the way I think, making better decisions for myself, craving healthy foods instead of bad, learning balance in and out of the hot room. Before bikram, I was a negative person with a low self-image of myself. Bikram taught me to open my heart and find love for me and my body, and, hopefully someday, some body else.

Caz: knowing what you do about bikram teacher training, do you anticipate any challenges being a student and a film-maker at the same time?

M: The real challenge will be to keep a balance between the two that doesn’t compromise the other. For me, as some one who loves to document everything photo-wise, I can already see myself limiting how much I document, just because I do want to enjoy the journey and get the most out of my experiences down there.

Caz: How long was it after you started practicing bikram that you started feeling you would like to be a teacher?

M: Probably after about 6 months, I was already in the midst of what would become my 2 year challenge and nothing else even seemed right in my mind, it was like, I just have to be a teacher and help people, that’s all there is to it. it still feels that way actually.

Caz: What do you feel within yourself are the strengths that will make you a good teacher?

M: Probably my patience, understanding and compassion. Which, I think, are the same things that make me a good student.

Caz: I imagine, like me, there have been teachers through the years that you have particularly responded to. Can you share with us a few things you have found particularly inspiring in your relationship with your own teachers?

M: My favourite teacher was always the hardest on me, pushing me, picking on me, but she was really just bringing out the best in me. My least favourite teacher became one of my favourites when I finally let my ego go—the pose is as long as your teacher says it is! Learning to love every teacher’s class, because each one is amazing in their own way.

Caz: So, you get qualified; describe your life five years from that point in time?

M: Teaching around the country, taking great photographs along the way and selling t-shirts and tank tops. I really believe my standing bow design could become to yoga what “tap out” is to MMA, so I harbour hope that it will eventually catch on and bring me good things.

Caz: If you had three minutes of free advertising airtime during the most watched show on TV next week, what would be the lead of your advertising pitch?

M: “My name is McKinley. Don’t hold it against me but I like cats.” and then have 2:50 of cat-stacking, cat-breading and cats with tennis ball helmets. People would like that, right?

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If anything, let’s make sure McKinley becomes a bikram yoga teacher and not an advertising executive. It’s up to you.