17 March, 2012

The physical versus the mental

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Odessa.

It might be better to say it was 5400 seconds... because it sure was a long series of moments. As per usual, I planted myself by the back door, being that it's a long class, and I am always a bit concerned about my heat tolerance in the longer classes. But this time, Kathy and Odessa both made the observation that this location by the door was becoming "my spot." This led to Kathy suggesting I come up front (under the heater) by the mirror right next to her. So... long story short, I decided to take the challenge.

It was indeed a challenge. Odessa's classes have been on the more difficult side the last few times I have attended. Today there was a series that involved going from Crescent Lunge to Airplane, and then somehow, I think, Half Moon was mixed in there too. This happened, if I remember correctly, after a fairly extended series of Chair-related poses, of noteworthy duration. My quadriceps were burning, my calves and shins were burning, everything was shaky. There came a point where I actually experienced what I feel quite certain was a "physical failure" to maintain the pose. I was fried.

And that's where my observation begins. I discovered that, after that failure, the class became harder for me. The subsequent poses were more consciously "grueling," and I was feeling a bit of frustration and growing resentment over the heat, and that, in turn, fed upon itself, making the last 30 minutes or so of class quite trying. At a certain point, I asked myself the question: "What is going on here? Am I fatigued? Am I failing?" Because, there seemed to be a distinct difference between what I was experiencing in the latter portion of the class, and what I experienced in those few moments where I couldn't keep my weight over my left leg in Half Moon. And, what I concluded is that I was experiencing "mental failure." My mind had decided to get involved, and start doing whatever it does: protecting, defending, guarding, excusing, judging. You name it. At one point, where I was feeling like I had moved into a somewhat "half-assed" effort, I managed to muster the will to say "What happens if I stop being half-assed right now, and try to just do the freaking pose right?" Sure enough, I was able to do it. But I could hear my mind fighting it.

It raises an interesting point about how I handle challenges or failure or limitations. It's like I am afraid to actually encounter a limitation or hard-and-fast barrier, so I set my own artificial limitations far below the actual thresholds. I think I do this in many aspects of my life, and it was interesting to see how it happened on the mat.

I can't say that the experience today was pleasant, but I think I understand something new, which is that the unpleasantness is amplified or possibly even created by this mental interference. We are told this every day in class. It's not new. But today, I had a glimpse of myself actually doing it.


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