Meet the Teacher – Marylou McDonnell

Why did you want to start teaching Bikram Yoga?

A couple of months into discovering Bikram Yoga, I knew that I had found something that would be significant for me for a long time to come. Every time I walked through the door of BYCJ, it just felt right. As it happens, I walked through that door pretty much every day (occasionally twice!) and the studio began to feel like a home from home. As my love for the practice deepened in those first few months, I started to dream about what it would be like to teach a class. It was not just the yoga that was changing my life but also the teachers who were inspirational and helping me to access the wonders of the practice.

The transition from dreaming about being a teacher to actually wanting it was ultimately a question of confidence. Gerry said to me one day a few months in that he suspected that I would go to training one day. Michelle said the same and encouraged me to consider it. I couldn’t believe it. It gave me confidence and my dream began to look possible. I wanted to go to teacher training, to deepen my practice, to commit to it for the long-term, to share my love for Bikram yoga with others and to impact their practice in a positive way as my teachers were doing for me.

How long have you been teaching Bikram Yoga for? I have been teaching for a year now.

That is not long at all and the way you teach it feels like you have been teacher for longer. What do you think it is that has made you pick it up so quickly and so well?

Thanks, Suraj. I worked very hard to prepare for teacher training. I spent most of my free time for months before training learning as much of Bikram’s dialogue as I could. Beth was running a dialogue group and included me. It was invaluable and I’ll always be grateful. Also, my wonderful teachers corrected my practice more intensely to help me to prepare. Some of them invited me up on the podium to practice the dialogue for a particular posture while they kept an eye on the students! I was surrounded by kind, encouraging people.

Since returning from training, I continue to practice very regularly and hope to constantly evolve as both a practitioner and as a teacher. The two are intertwined for me. Being in London is a gift in this respect as there are such experienced and talented teachers here. I learn from these teachers every time I practice their classes. Also, when they practice a class that I am teaching, they give me feedback, and this, of course, helps me to grow as a teacher. I know what it’s like to struggle in the room. Like many of us who are attracted to Bikram yoga not only as a preventative therapy but also as a restorative therapy, I understand what it’s like to be working through injury and chronic pain. I have a number of problems with my spine (including scoliosis, osteoarthritis and fused vertebrae) and fibrosis in my lungs. This, I feel, gives me an empathy with students and keeps me focused on breathing and precision of alignment. Lastly, I have to say that I love Bikram yoga and its students “bones to the skin”. When I walk into the studio to teach, I always feel a sense of responsibility, excitement and love.

What did you do before you started teaching? I had a corporate career for a number of years, working between London and Paris in executive search and selection. Then, fifteen years ago, I stopped this to look after our daughter, who has special needs.

What is it about the teaching that you love? Feeling that I am doing what I was born to do. Walking into the room and every, single time becoming immediately drawn outside of myself towards the students and their experience. The intense almost meditative concentration required to direct, to motivate, to observe and to correct. The wonderful dialogue between teacher and students where the response to the words is immediate, silent and trusting. The respect I feel for the students and the trust they give me in the room. The knowledge that each class is changing students’ lives for the better. The incredible group energy that is generated. The way students approach me and open up to me outside the room. Getting to know students and their practice over time and, as a result, being able to help them more. Seeing students progress in their postures and witnessing the joy and pride they feel as this happens. The knowledge that teaching, like practising, is something that will constantly evolve if I stay focused and continue to work hard.

What is your Favourite Posture? Standing forehead to knee is my favourite posture. It has been from the very beginning before I could even lock my knee! It is the posture where I most experience how the power of my mind can really help me to compensate for my physical short-comings. The mental determination that is necessary in this posture was probably what first helped me to really meditate in the room. When I practice I always know that once we finish the warm up and go into this posture, I go deeper. My mind and body are in harmony. I am meditating.

What are your interests outside the Yoga? The Yoga is a thread that runs through and enriches my whole life. Apart from when I am practicing or teaching, however, then it’s family, friends, bridge, reading and eating well.

In three words how would you describe the teaching experience of a Bikram class?

Direction – Motivation – Respect

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