December 7, 2013
I have a dear friend (I’ll call her Hazel) who I admire for her quality of openness. This woman just opens her arms and embraces the world. She has a big heart, big energy and can pull you into her joy the moment she walks into the room. She is very trusting whereas I am more tentative.
She is also a huge fan of social networking. She “follows” a lot of sites. I am not so much a fan. I find these sites a huge waste of my time, but that’s just me. However, I find that Hazel picks up quotes from these sites as if they are huge bursts of intellectual food. She will often quote things about brains and muscles and nervous systems. I think in her way she thinks she is really learning something although I tend to see these quotes from those sites as nothing more than attempts to reel in the little fishes to buy stuff.
Hazel also thinks she has a weight problem and it is not my opinion that matters. She – as we all do – knows how she would like her physical appearance to be. I wonder what she thinks she “should” be but I’ve never asked.
Often, Hazel will quote something from a website that sounds like a quip from the Dr. Phil show. “I must be getting some reward for staying fat, but I don’t know what that is,” she will say. Dr. Phil says that kind of stuff a lot.
But what if it’s not about a twisted reward system at all? What if Hazel is just not feeding her body correctly for it to do its job (which I think is the crux of her issue)? How does one know how to correctly feed herself?
I think the first thing Hazel might do is come to know herself. This is often achieved by times in quiet meditation, writing, art, or contemplation (which is extremely hard in this age of constant distraction). In this way, she might learn that her weight really isn’t the issue at all but rather a struggle with being “perfect.” I think Hazel’s struggle is one familiar to most of us.
“Perfection” has nothing to do with improvement. “Perfection” is a pretty word for a dark cycle of judgement. It tells you that you are not good enough and it seduces you into thinking that if you were just more________(fill in the blank), then you would be happy and “fixed” for the rest of your life. “Perfection” ignores the flow of life itself and attempts to fit everything into neat little boxes. Until you know yourself this struggle will likely continue.
Just for five minutes, close yourself off from outside distractions and get interested in what is going on on the inside. There is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be unearthed. Best of all, you will come to know what it is that you want from a voice deep inside, rather than from a Facebook feed.
October 6, 2013
I teach private lessons which limits my income compared to instructing group classes. Certainly, I have been looked at strangely by people who ask about group classes at my studio and are surprised that I do not offer that service. No problem. I have been rather outside of the mainstream most of my life and so these looks lack the power to disturb me.
There are a few reasons why I do not teach group classes:
1). Each person deserves 100% attention.
2). Groups depress individuality – thus students are less likely to be honest with what they are feeling or to ask questions.
3). Some things should be private – movement can inspire lots of emotional disturbance and clients should have a free and safe space in which to process. They should feel free to talk, emote and discharge the power of these emotions.
As I tend to be sensitive and empathic, the whole group thing overstimulates my nervous system, too – I tend to take in everyone’s energy and need lots of downtime to recover. However, these qualities also make me a pretty good teacher as I can design a prescription right on the spot. Each of my clients gets a session unique to that day depending on their energy level, emotional place, physical needs, and plans for the day. I can change the prescript at any moment to allow for flow.
Scripted workouts do not allow room for this. Same poses, same exercises, same order, same, same, same every day. Same group of people, same outfits. Same place in the room – how many times have you been new to a class only to be told you were in someone’s else’s “place”? Sameness creates tedium and boredom.
People wake up feeling differently every day; we vary our food intake, our clothing, our entertainment choices. If we did a 50-mile bike ride one day, we may feel pretty tired the next. We are in a constant state of flow and the choices we make for our physical and mental health should reflect this state, too.
It is important that teachers maintain their own practice to stay in touch with the flow. If you are not in touch with the moment-by-moment blips that can happen in your own body/mind, how can you be sensitive to this trait in your students?
Thursday, October 3, 2013
As a teacher of classical yoga and movement for more than thirty years – and a Classical Pilates teacher for more than 23, it can be depressing to see the number of studios opening up advertising yoga of various styles and pilates hybrids and knock-offs. Yet, as an American citizen I can see that all this is is the same mindset that has affected our food supply, manufacturing of goods and the entertainment industry.
It’s the same corporate assembly-line, one -size -fits -all and let’s- make- it -cheap style that has infected so much of our lives and our options. FIrst it was “Mc-Food” and “Mc-Mansions;” now it’s “Mc-Pilates” and “Mc-Yoga”.
Many of my colleagues who scratch their heads in wonder of this phenomenon believe that the corporatizing of such institutions wouldn’t be able to take root and last as long as it has if the average consumer was truly educated about this topic. So they set out to try to teach the public the difference in the hope that the result would be resistance to the coporate structure. I used to think along the same lines myself. Not so much anymore.
I live in a small town that has sold its farmland (and, in one case, got rid of a senior home) to strip malls, taken a one-hundred-year-old family-owned orchard farm and gutted it into a highway. I’ve seen a family-centered skating rink and miniature golf course turned over to Home Depot – and of course where there’s a Home Depot, there’s gotta be a Lowe’s! I’ve seen small businesses close because people can “get it cheaper” at Wal-Mart. We’ve lost another unique store but no worries because now we’ve made room for a Sam’s Club! Sadly, most of the time these are not poor people making economic choices. In fact the area I live in is considered pretty healthy economically. No; the people who are making the commercial decisions for our community include a high percentage of people who retired at 40, women who’ve married rich and “spa” all day or people who live off of the family’s money and play golf eight hours a day. It all makes no sense to me but, hey, I live in Illinois and nothing in this state makes sense to me. I used to think such people made educated choices but this is not always so. (Someone coined the phrase “Five Dollar Millionaires” which I think fits perfectly).Personally, I think that if we could get just this group of people to put as much thought into the quality of food, fitness and entertainment dollars as they do their wine purchases our community would be much better off. They don’t buy “box” wine, do they?
The public demonstrates the same “big-box” mentality when they go, for example, to facilities “specializing” in women’s fitness. They are corporate franchises, ladies! The “assistants” in those places don’t have to have any education in physical exercise at all – the only training they get is in the manual they are given when they get hired. Kinda like the manual the burger flippers get when they get hired at McDonalds.
Zumba? “Certification”? In what? Dance steps? I suspect that is much the same as when I was “certified” in Jazzercise years ago – you essentially learned their pre-packaged sets, bought their pre-packaged music and bought a franchise – which, of course, you’d pay monthly franchise fees to the coporate mother.
Now, I don’t have a problem with either one of these exercise modes. The point I would like to make is that dedicated, educated trainers have been doing latin aerobic dance mixes and ladies-only training for years and I guarantee they are doing it with a lot more heart and soul and smarts. And with absolutely no corporate involvement – which of course proceeds to strip it of its heart and soul and smarts. I don’t know if things are the same in every community but in mine that “women’s only” facility has closed and re-opened under another name several times with different owners and Zumba is barely offered anymore. The masses, it appears, are bored. Again. But no problem – no doubt there will soon be some other corporate fad they can indulge in for awhile; some “Mc-Yoga” or “Mc-Pilates” place where you can stand on a reformer and swing a kettlebell, perhaps?
It is my belief that most people do not want to be educated – about anything. They want to be told what to do and they want to turn over every part of themselves over to info on social media and media sites in general so that they don’t have to do the thinking for themselves. Most people are content to let others tell them what to wear (this year – because next year that will all change), what to think, drive, eat. Sure, they will wear the “Down With Monsanto” T-shirt to demonstrate their “punk” side but, sorry, when you follow punk because it’s on one of your social media sites, it is no longer “punk.” Following the crowd is never “punk.”
Frankly, I have grown weary trying to educate people on the difference between my Classical Pilates training and the pilates programs offered by the big manufacturers of Pilates equipment. Or how Classical Yoga differs from the corporate yoga “teacher” programs. I can try my hardest to explain but how do you do that to someone who thinks that Olive Garden is authentic Italian food? Or that a cubic zirconia is the same as a diamond – but a better economic deal? Or that Wonder Bread does indeed bodies in twelve ways and therefore a better choice than whole grain bread?
To teachers who teach yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonic, Classical Ballet or Dance, Feldenkrais, etc. as their soul’s work – don’t despair. You will reach the people that sincerely want to learn and understand that their health and wellness requires them to put in the effort and work – not just show up at the studio – toward that goal. They are fewer in numbers but they are there.
Because in the end, everyone has the right to choose everything from the food they eat, to how much they eat, what they read, what they do in their leisure time and what they do for fitness. The truth is that most people will just choose to follow the crowd and media influences like lemmings.
I just wish we could take away their right to vote.
September 7, 2013
One of the first asanas that a budding yogi or yogini is introduced to is Sukhasana or more commonly known as “Easy Pose.” For almost anyone not blessed with an 180° rotation at the hips, this is known rather as “Not-so-Easy-Pose.” It is a pose that can be frustrating as well as painful as we are not as a culture often sitting in this pose. For most of us, this is the first time attempting such a position since age four.
Teachers will attempt to alleviate this pain by encouraging students to sit on blankets and/or use blocks under the knees and certainly at least for class, this may be enough. But if the student wants to attain this pose without the use of props, how should he/she go about it?
The biggest mistake I see beginners make when approaching this pose is the attitude so common in our culture – i.e. “the more I do it, the easier it will become and my knees will go down.” As if the knees getting to the floor is the goal of the pose. As if the hips will magically open if I just keep at it.
No, not so much.
First, I know that our culture has a “force it” mentality. That attitude is entirely antithetical to yoga and is “himsa” to a yoga practice. Violent. Why would you want to be violent to yourself? The pose takes time, patience and “allowing” – as all yoga poses do. Don’t be deceived by the visual simplicity of Sukhasana.
Second, it is possible your joints will never allow the knees to drop easily to the floor. Sorry; but if your hip sockets have limited range of motion, you will never achieve that. Try this: the next time you attempt Sukhasana (or any pose requiring an outward rotation of the hip – it could be Warrior 2 or Triangle), what limits your hip movement? Does it feel as if it stops and won’t go further or does it feel as if it’s tight muscles preventing it from rotating? If there is no muscle sensation, it is possible that your hip sockets have limited range.
If you do have limited range and you also have a home practice, you’re going to want a pillow, bolster or blankets to sit on. This will ensure that your hips stay happy while you sit in Sukhasana. Trying to force the pose will result in continued – and maybe even exanding – hip pain and/or back discomfort.
Third, if you find that it is indeed tight muscles that prevent you from doing
outward rotation then you will need to stretch the muscles of the inner thigh, hamstring (medial hamstrings) and buttocks to be able to reach your maximum in Sukhasana. In other words, regular practice of Sukhasana will not get you to your goal.
Some poses require hip flexibility and some will give you hip flexibility. Sukhasana is one of the ones that require it. Just practicing the pose, sitting on the floor, pushing down the knees, sacrificing the posture of the low back and pelvis often results in unnecessary pain, tightness and distress long-term.
It is not intelligent to work a pose this way and it is certainly something to meditate on: why the rush? why the force? why sacrifice the integrity of the body to reach an image?
Classical yoga is a meditation in movement. In each moment of a practice, we can be both the practitioner and the observer. We often approach life with the same attitude that we approach our asanas. If we tend to force poses or become impatient with our practice then we probably do it off the yoga mat, too.
By learning to observe and “tame the beast” on the mat, we can change how we approach life off the mat.
We can begin that approach with a renewed respect for Sukhasana.
August 31, 2013
Romana Kryzanowska, referred to by Joseph Pilates as his most “devoted disciple” died yesterday at the age of 90. Romana made it her life’s mission to carry on the work of Joseph Pilates in the most pure form: she taught the basic structure and then taught how that structure is adapted to each individual.
Much in the way one learns ballet or music, there are foundational principles that are learned, the skills honed and then one learns how to piece together the elements into a dance or song.
This teaching style is what set Romana apart from other Pilates teachers, I think. There were other teachers of her generation who are great in their own right but it has been my experience that these other teachers taught a form of Pilates as adapted to their own bodies as THE Pilates Method. Romana taught the basic alphabet, the root of the Pilates Method.
I was one of the first instructors certified by the Pilates Studio of New York in the first Pilates certification program back in 1993. I remember in one of my early meetings with Romana that one of the other students asked whether she could still do the reformer exercises – whereupon she hopped onto a nearby reformer and performed a one-legged tendon stretch to the side in perfect form with complete control.
She was seventy at the time.
Romana was the type of woman that up until that time I’d only read about in Dance Magazine and biographies of dancers I’d admired. She was old-school and full of wonderful stories of not just Joe, Clara and the old Studios but the dancers, musicians and theatre people who walked through the doors of those studios.
One year during a trip to New York, I was invited to celebrate her birthday with a group of people after closing time at Drago’s Gym, where Romana did her teaching at that time. The festivities began in Romana’s apartment and we climbed five flights of stairs I think – maybe more – but the apartment was a wonderful throwback in time. Photos and art work given as gifts to her decorated an area that looked like what one would have called a “salon” back in the 30s. We were all letting our hair down and getting to know one another on a casual basis when Romana gave me probably her greatest gift to me.
She was sitting in a chair looking like a queen and, as I bent over her to wish her happy birthday, she looked into my eyes and said “You are a very good instructor and you have a very good memory for the work.”
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t like being told I was going to be the next Beethoven or anything but it meant the world to me because I admired her so much. I didn’t even know that she’d noticed me when I was working at the studio; I was just going through the whole apprenticeship thing – working with a 6’3” soccer player from South African for ten minutes and then – BAM – switched off to work with a frail-looking eighty-year-old woman for a block of time. And so on and so on. It wasn’t unusual as this tempo was pretty much status quo for everyone at Drago’s where clients from all walks of life – and not just dancers – came in for a workout.
Yes, Romana understood dancers best of all but more importantly, she understood bodies, period. She could relate to a baseball player, a person confined to a wheelchair or an older person suffering from osteoporosis. She knew how to make their bodies sing and enjoy the movement possibilities they had. And she passed that appreciation of all types of bodies onto her students.
I am forever grateful to be one of the many Pilates instructors that she trained, mentored and imparted her wisdom to.
Today I met with a woman from a PR firm about marketing my business. It is something I have been reluctant to do but with the recent opening of a fitness studio that teaches yoga and the soon-to-be opening of some sort of hybrid pilates place, I had to face that I will have to get involved in marketing even if it’s just to make sure that my business is visible to the tech-mad masses.
One of the good things my parents taught me was that if you were going to do something, get the best education possible, work hard and gain experience. That is something I have applied to everything I teach. There is no one in our community who can compete with either the education or experience in yoga, Pilates and movement therapy that I have. That’s a fact.
Not only am I skilled in these things, I live the life. I talk the talk and I walk the walk. I never ask my students to do anything I haven’t done. Never asked my clients to face something I’ve never faced. Yessir, I am the real deal and proud of it.
So imagine the clammy, sickening feeling I got when I learned today that none of that matters to the modern-day techie consumer anymore; all that matters is how many “likes” you get on your Facebook page. “Likes” suggest how popular you are. That’s right – popular. The decision to patronize a business is now based on a popularity contest with the Facebook demographic. Doesn’t even matter if those “likes” have never patronized your business, either.
Just like high school…. It didn’t matter who you were on the inside or if you were accomplished in anything. You were either part of the popular crowd or you weren’t. I don’t know about you but to go back to high school at this point in my life seems a depressing thought.
Sometimes I feel as if the world went crazy while I was sleeping. It may sound old-school but I don’t get the constant checking of smartphones, the endless updating of social media sites. Sure, I suppose it’s great for quick messaging or to find a phone number of a great restaurant. But are people really that clueless to think you get actual knowledge from a 140 character Twitter feed? Seems to me that most of us want things quick and cheap and we don’t want to think. I find the whole idea of “yoga” and “social media” to be mutually exclusive: mind/body requires attention and thought; social media does not.
And then we wonder what the hell is going on with our minds and why we can’t sleep at night!
July 12, 2013
Earlier this month the Encinitas Union School District’s yoga-in-school program won its case against those who claim yoga is religious in nature and thus a yoga class in public school violates the separation of church and state.
This was hailed as a victory for those who support this program but I wonder if they really read what the court was saying in its decision. It was essentially saying that yoga was an exercise class. That’s it. An optional exercise class. Just like dodgeball, soccer, or track.
The proponents suggest that putting these stretch classes – oops, yoga classes – in the school teaches calmness and relaxation which are sorely needed what with our kids more under pressure than ever.
But is it yoga per se (stretch class) or the non-competitiveness of the class that offers the relaxation? Would another class based on non-competitiveness also provide levels of calmness and relaxation ?
Both Yoga Alliance and Yoga U celebrated this as a victory but I don’t really know if it is or not. I have seen the beauty of the Yoga system slowly chopped up, pureed, watered-down and dumbed-down so that the masses can easily digest it. Instead of helping people reach upward, we seem to instead lower the standards downward. When the attention span of so many yoga participants wanders, brilliant ideas emerge such as adding weights to yoga poses, identifying as “yoga rock stars”, or some other such nonsense is added to the inherent beauty of a system that has withstood the test of time and trends. It really doesn’t need the influence of the American fast-food mindset that has taken over the fitness, clothing, food, and entertainment industries. While many yogis like me still believe in the classical Yoga system, we are increasingly becoming outnumbered by those who subscribe to yoga as an exercise system and fashion fad.
The court’s decision seems to echo this idea of in yoga as it currently being taught in so many fitness centers and “studios.” I don’t know if that’s the legacy we want to pass onto our kids.
July 6, 2013
In spite of huge internal resistance to it, I have finally created a Facebook page – or shall I say I am attempting to. To create a business page, one must have a personal page first according to the Facebook rules.
However, I am not interested in publicizing any more of my personal life than I need to to get this business page done. In reviewing personal pages of others just to get an idea what one puts on personal page, I am left with one conclusion: that Facebook and the whole idea of Facebook appeal to people who confuse mundane details of their lives with vital informative subject matter.
Seriously, why do I need to see a picture of your dog in a sombrero or your husband up a tree? Who uses their time in this way? And why do they think I’d be interested in this?
Many people tell me they have no time for exercise or study or meditation or any one of many activities that are useful to their growth. Here’s an idea – how many hours are they spending on Facebook posting stupid pictures of their cats? Cut down on that and I’ll bet you find time for that walk you always say you don’t have time for.
Okay, so my friend Katie insists that as a business, I need a page on Facebook so I acquiesced. The whole process of setting up a page, how it works in advertising and how the public uses it to gather information has been as eye-opening and ugly as it has been informative.
For one, I’ve learned that the likelihood of someone finding your business on Facebook and researching that business to compare the quality of the service/product, the education of the service provider and years of experience is very small. Instead when the potential customer looks up the Facebook page, ads for similar businesses will also appear. Most customers, it turns out, will not choose the business with the highest credentials but the one that is closer and cheaper. That’s it.
Which explains a lot. It explains why teachers like me who believe in the transformational power of Classical yoga and Authentic Pilates still run up against yoga and pilates studios who hire scarcely trained ex-aerobics instructors. Apparently there is a high percentage of the public that picks their instructors by how well they can do tricks or how good they look in their Lululemons.
We know that the injury rates in yoga classes is rising. There are many people who’ve had to quit due to injuries sustained in yoga classes. We know that the baby-boomer generation is turning to yoga classes but going into those classes believing themselves to be the ultimate physical specimens they might have been in their twenties. And these poorly trained instructors (I do not use the word “teacher” purposely) don’t know what to do with them.
Instead, these instructors – and the studio owners – hide behind “certifications” that are often nothing more than a regurgitation of a manual by the “certifying” organization. The certification process for a CPA, a physical therapist, or a physician’s assistant requires a standards test and a internship period. Neither one of these is required for “certification” in yoga or most pilates programs these days. Just a credit card.
Yet the public supports these studios and their instructors because they are cheap. They see nothing wrong with “Open” Classes. And at some level, I can understand the appeal of an “open” class or other group class – they are avenues for social interaction. However, if you are attempting to “learn” yoga or pilates and transform yourself in a group class you are practicing a “one-size-fits-all” mentality often based on the instructor’s needs and not yours at all. But as long as the public supports these classes, they will continue.
Now, how do you put all of that in a small, two-sentence soundbyte for the Facebook crowd? How do those of us who are teachers reach people with such a limited attention span?
Simply: you don’t and you can’t. Teachers need students who are open and willing to learn. Not everyone is a student and my advice to teachers is this: you don’t want anyone who is not a student. Non-students will just waste your time and are probably there anyway because they saw “yoga” on some goopy website . They will be onto the next trend with the next issue of Shape Magazine.
Try to fit your philosophy into as small a sentence as you can. You may need help with this and there are professionals out there who can help. Don’t worry that it won’t attract everyone – you don’t want the “want it cheap and easy” crowd anyway.
But every once in awhile a real student will come by which is, ultimately, why I agreed with my friend Katie about a Facebook presence. And that makes it all worth it.
May 10, 2013
Last week, I attended the Authentic Pilates Union Conference. This group of individuals is rather new and this was my first attendance at their conference. The APU is a group that is committed to maintain the structure and integrity of the Classical Pilates Method as taught by Joseph Pilates and passed down to his teachers: Romana Kryzanowska, Kathy Grant, Carola Trier to name a few. These teachers then passed their knowledge onto the next generation and so on as the Classical Method is an oral tradition – there are few, if any, written notes by Joseph.
The people who organized this event were efficient and seemed to process all requests in a calm and kind manner even with a lot of busyness around between sessions. I also had the opportunity to study with teachers who I’d never studied with before.
But what I found most interesting was that there were attendees at this event who were not classically trained; their Pilates training was in some hybrid of the method. Certainly it is legal now since the destruction of the trademark to make “pilates” anything you want. Pilates was never meant to be physical therapy, done with music, watered down or chopped up into pieces the way circuit weight training is but there are any number of “pilates” programs that do just this and I think it is because the classical method is just too hard both mentally and physically. Concentration, mindfulness and pushing just a little into that fear zone so that you are mentally strengthening is not something our culture likes to do. Pushing into physical edges is just as uncomfortable – most of us just want to swing around a heavier kettlebell and call it a day.
A few years ago, I even had a client visting from out of town who told me she practiced a hybrid method. When I had her working in the Classical Method, she just couldn’t do it. The second day we were together she said, “Pam, I just don’t want to work this hard.” By the way, she was all of thirty-three so this was not a matter of age.
While these hybrid methods are often touted as “evolved,” they are just brought to a level of blandness. The Classical Pilates Method, developed almost eighty years ago, is still the most effective Pilates workout.
And so, as I attended classes and met many people I was struck by the sad fact that if the Pilates community had come together pre-2000 – rather than setttle into bickering over who owned what – then perhaps we would have seen something like I experienced at the APU event years ago. Here were people who were schooled in other methods open to learning the Classical Pilates Method. And those I talked to were won over by Joseph’s work in its original form. No doubt their teaching will have been changed by this experience.
It is ironic to me that this event was a “bringing together” of minds. It brought new minds to the original Pilates work. It allowed those of differing backgrounds to appreciate that original work. It allowed an open forum of questions and people got their answers without judgement or condescension.
The Pilates Studio of New York tried to get some uniformity by insisting it owned a trademark but in the end did not have the money or power to stand up to the massive numbers of lawyers and fitness organizations eager to get their fat little fingers into the Pilates potential money pot. Those of us who were schooled in the Classical Method then stood by as countless “pilates” programs popped up – often developed by yesterday’s aerobics instructors!
But not to fear, as it turns out. It will be Joseph Pilates himself together with those of us who are determined to keep his work alive that will do what the Pilates Studio of New York could not. It is better that we come together from a place of shared belief rather than from a dictate.
I think that the APU event represented the right step in this direction.
I recently received a newsletter from Yoga Alliance regarding the issues of copyrights, trademarks and branding. It is so sad to me that this issue has to even be brought up – let alone discussed – within the yoga community. Anyway, here’s my take on this whole subject……
April 19, 2013
There have been several lawsuits recently brought by Bikram Choudhury against studios and teachers over intellectual property infringement. The yoga community watches with baited breath to see how this one plays out. My opinion is that in most legal cases the term “legal” is not synonymous with “ethical” or “moral” and we should keep that in mind while these cases get dragged through the courts.
Bikram certainly stirs controversy. I have read interviews with him and he’s saying some pretty foul things that should not be coming from the mouth of a yoga teacher. But I do have admiration for this man who brought a new way of yoga to the U.S. I do recognize that he’s been doing this for years – since the l970s. He enjoyed success for a long time and was recognized for his unique brand.
At this point, I will seemingly venture off topic here as I disclose that I am also one of the Pilates instructors who became certified at the Pilates Studio of New York when the Pilates trademark was in place. A great benefit to the public was that the Pilates work was standardized and if a client traveled across the country, they could be assured that the quality of a Pilates lesson was intact wherever they found a Pilates instructor.
With the loss of the trademark, that is no longer the case. Within the pilates community, there are debates on even key foundational elements within the work so the quality of instruction is variable. The training programs are varied in content and depth and are often chosen on the basis of the quickest and cheapest way to get a piece of paper so that the legal counsel of a fitness facility is satisfied that lawsuit risk will be held at a minimum. The quality of instruction to a client is of minimal concern. After all, with “pilates” being a generic term now, it’s all the same, right?
Yoga Alliance’s recent newsletter on the Bikram lawsuit and its comparison to the Pilates one asserts that all it took to destroy the Pilates trademark was Current Concepts’ claim in U.S. District Court. It’s not quite that simple and tidy. It was a lot more than that. Maybe Current Concept’s claim started the ball rolling but if it just ended there, I believe that the trademark would still be valid. No, it was also the money and the numbers of people behind that lawsuit who had much to gain from the trademark’s destruction. Witness the plethora of pilates videos, supplies, pilates music and pilates clothing once that claim was settled. Witness the varied levels of training programs for pilates “certifications.” Witness the speed with which the fitness industry – which was losing people to boredom of its programs – start salivating over the possibility of putting pilates in their facilities thus grabbing that baby boomer population. Witness how many facilities have and are still popping up offering group mat, chair and reformer classes.
This was not about introducing clients to this wonderful bodywork; it was not even about teaching. It was about money. It still is.
Which brings me back to the Bikram cases. No doubt Bikram came to this country to achieve the American dream. He did everything an entrepeneur would do: create a product and sell it. He became successful. He probably thought that was the end of it and all he had to do was sit back and enjoy the harvest.
What he didn’t foresee was the American legal system of the 21st century. What I don’t think he had considered were the numbers of people in this country who have no second thought of taking another’s idea and, with a few tweaks, market it as their own. Many who wanted to teach Bikram’s style but didn’t want to get certified by him simply bought his book and went out and called their classes “hot yoga” (or “steamy yoga” or whatever). Throw in a few alternate poses – maybe a Boat Pose – so that it is not exactly like Bikram and voila! we haven’t really violated the Bikram copyright, right? Anyone with half a brain can see what’s really going on here. Legal? Probably. Violation of Bikram copyright infringement? Probably not. Ethically challenged? Hmm…..
Anyone heard of the Yamas and Niyamas?
While I don’t have any love for Bikram I have even less for those individuals who steal from others so that they can make money as quickly and effortlessly as possible. A few years ago, I taught yoga classes to a group of about eight individuals. Imagine my surprise when I met someone who was taking a yoga class at our local YMCA from one of my students. This woman began showing me her yoga “class set”. It was exactly from my class! Now, I don’t mean to sound all uppity but my classes combine many elements from dance, pilates, movement work in addition to yoga to create an “experience.” There is nothing out there like it and it is developed from HOURS of my own work, downstairs in my basement; just me, my yoga mat and notebook. Because I am a TEACHER. And that is what TEACHERS do. After I got over the intial distaste of what this student did, I moved on without bringing it up to her. It was a nasty lesson and while it left me a little cynical towards those who call themselves teachers, that was the worst of it. Certainly, I wasn’t clinging onto the creation of what was mine because I had to let it go so that I could move on; however, I also believe that if you’re creative, that talent will never leave you. There is always more.
But it’s also allowed me to feel a little of what Bikram must have felt somewhere along the way. And I am surprised that the yoga community has not stepped up to deal with both the “aparigraha” and “asteya” inherent in all of those connected with this case. It’s a big problem in the yoga “industry” right now that will take us further down the road of becoming even more cheapened.