12 January, 2012

The importance of being rested

Bikram class with Mark at Bikram Yoga Kona.

This morning, I was awake before the alarm. We didn't get a ton of sleep, though. There was no question about whether or not we were going to take the class, but getting out of bed was hard. My girlfriend already had a headache, which is never a good way to start a hot yoga class. I felt okay, but tired.

My intention, once again, was to just stay in the poses fully. Don't let my mind wander, don't think about how much of the class is left. It's hard to get moving that early, being that I am not a morning person.

The first several poses seemed to go very well. I found myself really taking Standing Bow further than I usually am able, with more stability, confidence, and control. I really felt like I was able to stay in my breath, and not get overheated, even though it was definitely very hot in the room (because it's Hawaii, the studio is typically working with 60-65% humidity, so even at lower temperatures, it can be brutal).

On the final pose of the standing series, Tree, I injured my lower back. The short version of this story is that I have an old injury that involves disc damage. About a year ago, I had a major enough episode, that it finally got examined via MRI, and was revealed that I have two herniated discs. I haven't had any problems in about 11 months, but today I aggravated it. Tree pose is done differently in Bikram class than in a Hatha class. In Hatha, one brings the foot to the inside of ankle or thigh. In Bikram, the foot is lifted way up to the top of the thigh, and held there with the hand (unless you have enough flexibility for it to stay there by itself, which I do not). In fact, my right hip is so tight, when I hold my foot with my left hand, my shoulders are uneven, with my left shoulder pulled down an inch or so from the force of the foot. Today, I decided that I should focus on form, so I tried to make an adjustment to raise my left shoulder up, square with my right. And I immediately felt a twinge in my lower back, in the same spot as the existing disc damage. I knew that I'd done something bad, but was not sure how bad.

On the floor series, I tested it a tiny bit, tried to see if I could do locust pose... no. Floor bow... no. Sit up... no. So the rest of my practice today was trying to pick and choose the things that I could do, and avoid the ones I could not do. Camel... no.  Rabbit... yes. Savasana didn't feel particularly good on back or stomach. Ended up having to do it with my knees bent, on my back. I tried to keep positive, relax, not think of it as a contest. But I still found myself needing to recognize and dismiss the thoughts: "I don't want people to think I just couldn't handle the heat..." I was very worried about what other people would think. Not so much that it made me do things I should not be doing. But the thought was still there.

Obviously, it was a less intense class, overall, than the others I took this week. That being because I did not do all the poses. It really made me think, though, about the choices I made. Was it really a good idea to do two classes, each ninety minutes long, with only twelve hours rest, on top of the kayaking and swimming that we'd done? I find myself wanting to do more, more, more, but not asking myself if doing it is better for me than not doing it.

In retrospect, one of the things I notice about Bikram, as opposed to Hatha, is that I feel the instructors really emphasize, in Bikram, the pushing of stretches to a pretty extreme range. There's specific dialog about going "beyond your flexibility." There are implicit caveats for people who have injuries, but I think that the instruction text for Bikram doesn't include reminders to be careful. I have noticed, in Hatha classes at Urban Yoga Spa, that instructors are very careful to remind people to take modifications when needed, rest when needed, and know your own body and limits. In Bikram, it's not that there's an absence of any words of caution; Mark definitely says quite frequently to avoid injury, particularly when coming out of poses, by maintaining control and stability.

I don't want to go very far with that thought, because I think that ultimately it should not matter what words are coming out of the instruction. We need to hear our own bodies. I need to hear my body, and listen to it. I need to make good choices. It would be okay to "throw away" one yoga class that we paid for, because we're just not up for it. Heck, we spent $10 to buy two coconuts from a couple of locals on the side of the road, what's the big deal about missing a class? But I had it in my head that we couldn't miss it. That missing it was bad, weak, slacking, weaseling, etc. And I had it in my head that I should push myself to my limit on every pose. Sure, my Standing Bow went further than it ever had before, but ten minutes later, I injured my back. The injury made me realize that I have been taking a few things a little to far, too fast, and the lesson is to start listening.

No comments:

Post a Comment