An Interview with Bikram Yoga Teacher Brooke Spencer
‘The power of intuition’
by Kay Hare
(cover photo by Jens Look)
It is not every day you quit your corporate job with all the long-term benefits and follow your intuition. However, some of us do and realise it is only fear of the unknown that stops us, but it is this fear of the unknown that we should be listening to. Imagine if we didn’t listen to our hunches or intuitions, we would all still think the world was flat. Intuition is not a wobbly phase for believing in hunches or coincidences, intuition is a solid, concrete subject that we could be tapping into more.
I met Brooke Spencer recently at the Yoga Bikram Nice studio. I was fascinated by her relaxed but confident style, always happy and smiling. Brooke was a real inspiration for my practice and I became intrigued about how she was staying for 1-month teaching yoga, exploring the city of Nice and of course practising her own yoga every day.
There are many yoga teachers and there are hundreds that successfully finish their training each year with Bikram Choudhury himself, however not many take the plunge and travel with the training. Most students complete the three-month training, return to their families and either teach, continue their practice feeling stronger and more resilient or set up new studios. Brooke however, has decided none of these is options and wants to follow the more unknown path of travelling around the world visiting studios to teach and of course continue her practice. Travelling around the world without an income is not usually straightforward, having somewhere to live is necessary and some sort of safety when travelling especially as a woman, but planning in a community like Bikram there is, as Brooke is discovering usually a place to stay and adequate funds to enjoy the experience for as long as it takes.
Each Bikram yoga studio is purposely designed to accommodate teachers to encourage travelling and to engage in an international community, all sharing the philosophy that Bikram radiates. It is a great idea as it provides a welcome break for the owners, regular teachers and the students receive a new energy. A different teacher, especially for a few weeks, can change your life or perhaps just put a different perspective on things. The Bikram dialogue is the same for each class, this is intentional as it is a way to focus on the postures and by repeating them over and over again enforces a meditative state of mind and the opportunity to improve a little more each time. Different teachers freshen the dialogue, expand the community and they always bring new ideas.
The Real Riviera welcomes inspiring stories and we intend to follow Brooke on her uncharted path around the world which hopefully will be a catalyst for others who have this spirit of adventure.
When did you start practising Bikram yoga and why?
In the Late Summer of 2012, 6 years ago I started to practice Bikram yoga. I had purchased an introductory offer on the advice of a friend and went to the class because I had heard how physically demanding it was. A little background- when I was young I was a dancer and runner. I craved intense workouts, but with a love-hate relationship since I also suffered from Anorexia Nervosa.
Many people tell me they fell in love with Bikram Yoga in the first class. For me, it wasn’t so simple. I barely remember my first class but I remember being so hot that I couldn’t stand at times without feeling dizzy. I took my t-shirt off about halfway through because the room felt like it was getting hotter by the minute and, little did I know, the work began and I started to love what I saw in the mirror. It took me at least a year of going to class, suffering in the class both physically and mentally, trying to find any excuse not to go to the class, etc. to even begin to learn how to love my reflection in the mirror. It was slow and sometimes painful, but there were also moments of pure bliss. Not just the physical breakthroughs of seeing my body transform and doing a posture correctly, but seeing my mind and emotions transform.
Years later, I reflect on what Bikram’s senior teacher Emmy Cleaves said- “Bikram Yoga gives you what you need, not what you want.” I started wanting just another workout that would take my body to its limits. What I got is love- of myself, of the yoga, of my life, of my students, and the studio owners that give me the opportunity to teach the yoga that saved my life.
Why did you decide to train as a Bikram yoga teacher?
I made the decision to train as a Bikram yoga teacher while I was on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica in January of 2016. I am a Certified Public Accountant and at the time I was working at a big firm in NYC. I was always good at my job, but over the years I realized more and more that my job wasn’t fulfilling. There were long hours and tough deadlines, both of which are acceptable if you are doing what is your passion, but I wasn’t. I went through a period of discovery where I thought about getting a PhD, and or moving to another place or office, and the result of that period was that every idea that I had, I thought “why don’t I just go to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training first” and then I can do the other thing. In Costa Rica when I turned off the constant work emails, practised yoga daily, meditated, and journaled, I realized that if I was just coming up with excuses to go to teacher training, then I must just GO. I researched when the training, saved up money to go, and one year later in February of 2017 I quit my corporate job and went to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in Acapulco in Spring 2017.
You are now a full-time teacher, was this a difficult choice to make?
It is certainly a different lifestyle than my corporate past, but for me the more I loved the yoga, the more it felt as if I didn’t have a choice but to teach my passion. I’m grateful to have had the experience of teacher training to prepare me to teach Bikram Yoga, and now when I reflect on my choice, I realize that every day I get to teach people how to improve their lives through their yoga practice.
What has it been like spending a month in the South of France teaching?
Emmanuelle Castellano of YogaBikramNice invited me to teach the month of August in Nice. A few months prior, I had made the decision to give up my apartment in NYC. So, I got rid of most of my belongings and started the journey I had dreamed of which was to teach Bikram Yoga all over the world. YogaBikramNice was my first stop and I couldn’t be more happy with that decision. I fell in love with Nice and the south of France while travelling in Europe a year earlier, fresh from teacher training. Making the decision to give up a traditional “home” to travel full time wasn’t always easy, but when I received the offer to teach on the French Riviera, all the pieces started to fall together. YogaBikramNice is a fairly new studio, open for about 6 months, which is an incredible opportunity to share the yoga that I love with students who are discovering that Bikram Yoga is truly magical. I taught between 1-2 classes a day, explored the incredibly beautiful city and its equally stunning surroundings, ate my fill of pan bagnet, gelato, and nicoise style food, and was able to fall in love with my own practice again in the course of a month. I’m grateful to have had this experience, and cannot wait to return!
Where are you going next?
I’m heading to Vienna, Austria next to teach at Bikram Yoga Wien SüD, followed by a short time in Bikram Yoga West Palm Beach. Already in the short time that I’ve been travelling and planning for the next steps, I’m blown away at my community’s acceptance, love, and accommodation. The possibilities of Bikram Yoga and this journey are endless, and I’m just at the beginning.
How far have you planned so far?
I have a rough idea until about April of 2019, with many things to still be confirmed. I also have a short list of places that I’d love to teach for, both for the locations themselves and the studio owners that I will learn from along the way.
Can you see yourself setting up your own studio in the future?
Right now, I do not have an interest in setting up my own studio. I feel like I have so much to learn from the amazing studio owners that I will visit, and from the students along the way. In the Bikram Yoga dialogue we say “eventually, or in the future” and that is the perfect response to this question 🙂