05 January, 2012

Intention set on zero panic

Kathy's Power Vinyasa class today.

On the walk over, I felt like I'd eaten lunch too late today. I felt like my stomach was full, and started thinking about the heat that was coming, and remembering the edge-of-panic feeling in my previous two classes. Top that off with the fact that today was to be Vinyasa, not Hatha, and this could have the potential to be a very challenging experience. Add to that (if we haven't already got enough added) that Kathy can teach a tough class, and I always have a bit of a psychological expectation that attending her class is going to mean pushing my limits.

At the start of the class, after a few warm-ups, we came to the moment where we pause to set our intention for our practice. Some instructors suggest that it might be a dedication. Usually, when we reach this moment, my mind freezes up. I don't know what I should intend. I don't know to whom I should dedicate this practice, or what the nature of such a dedication should be. So I stand there, imagining what everyone else is probably thinking. Remembering a lost family member... Thinking of a friend who is struggling... Giving love to their children... Whatever it is, I imagine it to be big and special and far more meaningful than the nothing that I can come up with.

But today, for some reason, it came to me: My intention is not to panic.

It seemed so simple, but it's clearly been the most significant struggle that I have had in my practice. And it may be one of the more significant things that has held me back in my life. I would say I have done a fairly good job of containing it in my life, and not being dominated by it. But when I do struggle, it tends to be a struggle in the form of "freaking out" over perceived limitations, perceived obstacles, perceived conflict that may not even be real.

So today, I was a bit pleased when I stumbled upon this intention. And I feel like it came from a place of the heart, not a thinking place. I did not want to have a bad experience in the room, and I did not want to give in to what I had been negative-fantasizing about on the walk over.

And sure enough, it was a great class. For some reason, it seemed easy. It didn't even seem hot. I was sure that the difference had to be that it was not as hot today. That had to be it. But I allowed myself a glance at the thermometer at the end of class: 105 degrees. It was no cooler than the two days before, where I had struggled so much. And it was not just a perception of being easier. I actually sweated less. The ends of my towel were not even wet, which is unheard of for me in a Vinyasa class. Furthermore, I hardly needed to drink any of my water, whereas normally I finish almost an entire liter.

So was that the difference? Could it be because I had set my intention on not panicking and, as a result, I did not panic? Fancy that!

Kathy made an amazing suggestion early in the class. She said (paraphrasing) "When you are pausing in your practice to wipe your sweat off your face, do you ever notice that immediately after you wipe it away, it comes right back again? So, instead of giving in to this distraction, just consider the idea of accepting it, and staying focused in your practice."

Calling my awareness to this made me realize that giving in to these "distractions", whether it be the dripping of sweat, or a sniffly nose, or muscles that are burning from the intensity of a pose... in any case, these distractions are contributing to that induction of panic. They take me out of my breath. They take me out of the moment. And when I tried harder not to give in to them, I found that I was apparently using less energy, and feeling less panic (none), and appreciating the practice more - even the difficult poses.

Kathy is famous for her "Dolphin Plank" series. On the last round of three sets, doing the second side of "climbing the mountain," where you alternate, one-arm-at-a-time from Dolphin to High Plank, my arms were burning, my abs were burning, my legs were burning, heart rate was probably at 160, and there was a part of my mind that was getting ready to say "I'm not gonna be able to do this set, and it's okay." But then I had just a moment's thought: "No, I am going to do this set, and it's okay." And I did it. And then I rested with everyone else.

I feel like I found a secret passageway today.

In the very last pose of the class, a 10-second Wheel pose, I found myself today on my tiptoes, with my head starting to lift off the mat. Lighter than usual. And only a month ago, I didn't attempt Wheel at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment