29 January, 2012

Part I: Almost Bikram

This morning was (we'll call it Hatha) with Erin.

I say that jokingly because, although it was a Hatha class, this 90 minute class had as close to a Bikram feel as any class that I've ever taken at Urban Yoga Spa. There were definitely a small number of omissions from a true Bikram sequence (e.g. introductory breathing, toe-stand, final breathing), and a few additions (e.g. Pigeon), it had the cadence and vibe of a Bikram class, from start to finish.

Of course, for me, that has the negative aspect of my "expectation machine" cranking into full-swing. I felt great through the standing series, but once we hit the floor, I started to feel overheated, and was fully aware of everything that was likely coming down the pipeline, and started itching to get out of Dodge. In fact, I'd blown through all my water about 70 minutes into the class, and ended up darting out of the room during Fixed Firm to refill my water bottle. That's not something I have done in a class before, but I allowed myself that extra water (I told myself) because of the dehydration that I was experiencing from the intestinal thing I was dealing with all weekend. It may be that I was giving myself an excuse, but it seemed like a justifiable one, and I made it quick, and was back in the room before the pose was over.

At the start of class, Erin noted that this was the final class in a series she's been doing in January that went through five different steps of deepening the practice. It's funny, but my immediate thought when I heard this was this sense of missing something. "What did I miss?!" And I really wished that I'd been to all of her Sunday morning classes so that I'd have known. It turned out that these five steps included things like 1) focusing on the breath, 2) keeping the tailbone tucked, 3) extending in our poses "beyond our physical bounds" (meaning, even if our body won't go further, let our experience and mental image of the pose extend beyond), and I cannot actually remember what (4) and (5) were. But they turned out to all be things that I'd heard her teach us in previous classes, so I felt a little less like I'd missed out on special new yoga secrets.

As for my practice, a few things are coming along suddenly. Standing Bow seems to be deepening and stabilizing for me. I am finding that I am not falling out of the pose. I feel like I have more control, on both sides. I am also finding that there's a point that I go to where it feels stable, but then, if I really let it go and really kick into my back hand, I can go even deeper, and I start seeing my foot up above the back of my head. This is usually something that I only can "let go" enough to achieve on the second set, but it's surprising me that I'm finding it there for me. It's one of the poses that I recall saying "I will never be able to get my foot up above the back of my head."

Eagle is another one that seems to be solidifying. My right foot is more consistently wrapping behind my calf now, and the amount of bruising that I am inflicting on my calf by doing this has been decreasing. The last few classes, I have been avoiding the temptation to "sleep the eagle" or do any other modifications, because I have had this urge to try to focus on a more perfect Eagle. Keeping it simple, doing it right. I know there are things that are still not correct. The tightness in my right hip means that my crossed right leg is not centered under my elbows, but it's sort of twisted off to the left. Just staying put in the pose, and not wavering is task enough.

Warrior II is something that I have been allowing to be off in a variety of ways for a while now, because it is a bit difficult with the knee pain that I am usually experiencing. But it's coming time where I am finding myself wanting to get the alignments better. Tucking in the butt so it's not sticking out, keeping the arms raised and not weaseling out, making sure the bent front knee doesn't cave inward, resisting the urge to rest the forearm on the thigh unless I really need it. That pose has a lot to think about. I am sure that all poses have a lot to think about, but for me, the Warrior II is just about the most difficult to deal with all the different ways that my body wants to break the rules. Since we're talking about Warrior II, I also should note that my overall flexibility has improved to the point that doing a "Bind" in Side Angle pose is now rather easy for me to do. The first time I attempted it, maybe a couple of months ago, I nearly dislocated my shoulder. So that's got to be considered progress. I still haven't begun to imagine what a Bird Of Paradise would feel like, but I've got plenty of time to ponder it.

The pattern of expectation or anticipation presenting me with the greatest challenges is continuing. I really need to think about how that bears itself out in my day-to-day life, because I'll bet it's relevant.

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