The Dialogue Problem


As 26&2 (Bikram) hot yoga teachers, we go through a vigorous, albeit monotonous training.  We spend nine weeks sweating through two 90 minute classes (which really means two hours) everyday, attending forgetful lectures, watching Bollywood movies and most importantly, learning the Dialogue – yes…with a capital D!

For an ‘official’ Bikram teacher, the Dialogue is the equivalent of the bible.   It is a 43 page document that we memorise like our live’s depend on it, all 11’000 words.  Each day we are scrutinised on how well we remember words that tell a body exactly what to do and when.  The Dialogue tells us: how to greet, how to teach, where to place emphasis, how to get somebody in, through and out of a pose, and how to say goodbye.  This is Fordism at it’s best, the ultimate McDonaldisation of yoga teaching.

My scornful words may have you believe that I dislike the Dialogue.  Well, you are mistaken…sort of.  For certain people and certain circumstances I think it plays an important role.    If someone knows nothing of the body, little of yoga, has negligible communication skills, then it is a useful resource.  Repeating the Dialogue VERBATIM (a word you hear continuously during training)  will take a student through a standardised, extremely boring class (in my humble opinion).  And if all you want to do is get somebody through a class, then the Dialogue is your friend.  But, if you want to have your students in the class with you, then the Dialogue is your foe.

The problem I have with the Dialogue is that it leads to lazy teaching, disconnected teaching.  The teacher walks in, claps their hands, and delivers their rendition of the Bikram script.  Some may preface lines of the script with a students name, and feel like they are making ‘personal verbal corrections’.  I’m just not convinced that Mary or Mrs. Pink needs to bring her upper body to her lower body like “a Japanese ham sandwich” in the same way that Melvin, Mr. Short Shorts needs to.

So yes, new teachers use the dialogue whilst you hone your teaching and educating skills.  Then throw most of it away and find your own words.  If students wanted to hear the same thing practice after practice they can buy the CD (does anyone buy CDs these days?!?!?!).  And some will.  Some will want to hear nothing they haven’t heard before, they will want to stay stagnant and repeat the same patterns they always have.  It’s the known, it is what feels comfortable.  But most students sweat their asses off to learn and to grow.  This requires a teacher who is willing to tread their own path, to see individual bodies and teach from a place of connection.

I could really write a thesis on this, perhaps some day I will.  But my parting offering is this; to me the Dialogue it the ultimate killer of authenticity and connection, qualities I believe are vital to be a good educator.  Which is why each time I step on to the podium (the Bikram stage to deliver the Dialogue performance) I try to undo most of what I was taught to teach, all 11’00 words of it.


Interesting in experiencing how I teach the 26&2? Join me Saturday 18th April 09:30 BST for an online, explorative workshop. More information and booking HERE