23 March, 2012

Way outside the comfort zone

Today was Power Vinyasa with Ginger.

Each instructor has their own variation on the Vinyasa sequence. There are subtle, sometimes moderate differences between classes. If we were to think of the relation between the styles of different instructors in terms of a genetic tree of species, most of the instructors would be as related as, say, most mammals are. I'd even go so far as to say that, if the prototypical Vinyasa class were a figurative "mouse," we might have some rats, squirrels, chipmunks; but they'd all be rodents.

Are you following me?

Well, if most of the classes come from the figurative rodent family, Ginger's class is like a ring-tailed lemur. It's got a lot (or even most) of the same parts, but it's put together completely differently, and you can't possibly have any idea what to expect! I say this, of course, in good humor. And my analogy might be a little bit lame. The main point I am making is that the sequence in this class was so unpredictable, so unfamiliar, and so challenging (while, oddly, at the same time, rather mellow, meandering, and lulling), that it had me almost completely outside my comfort zone from the start to the very finish.

During the class, I was fighting with my head:  "What's this? What are we supposed to do now? I don't even know what that is! Where am I supposed to put my foot?!" The inability to anticipate anything whatsoever forces us to get into a different mindset (or, to be a bit tormented if, as I found myself doing, one insists on continuing to expect something predictable to occur). The mindset needs to be "THE MOMENT." I thought I might be getting better at being in the moment, but I learned tonight that I'm getting better at being in the moment when the moment is what I expect it to be. But how do I handle the situation when there's chaos? Um... still got some work to do.

As you can probably imagine, about halfway through class, I was mentally cursing Ginger, thinking "Okay, so I'm not coming back here to one of her classes again!" But, at the same time, I sort of knew that this was going to dissolve within minutes or hours (turned out to be only about a half hour) into "Okay, so I've got to get back into Ginger's class again as soon as possible!" Next time, I am going to step onto my mat with the intention being clearly set on "anything or everything might happen."

The class was a fairly quiet, mellow class, and we all had a decent amount of space, probably because it was a rare, good-weather Friday evening, and people were probably outside instead of being in a hot studio. We didn't really do anything that I could call "Salutations" in any complete or formal sense. We didn't really do anything that I could call a standard "Warrior" series; the Warrior poses that we did do were landed out of other parts of other sequences. Our Standing Splits were initiated by walking hands back to feet from a Downward Dog. Chair poses transitioned into Airplanes. It was sort of like taking a video of a 60 minute class, and cutting it into sixty one-minute clips, throwing them up in the air, and then splicing them back together again.

But this is life, right? If life were like a Bikram class, with the same 23 poses, in the same order, every day, for the same duration, with the same cues and instructions, what would that be like?

Actually, there's really a benefit to both extremes of practice. In Bikram, the focus shifts entirely to quieting the internal chaos that ensues, when we are trapped in these tedious, boring, awkward poses, knowing full-well what is coming next. That is one kind of struggle. But in Vinyasa, we are forced to bear both the chaos of the external circumstance, which is wholly unpredictable, while, at the same time, keeping the wolves at bay inside our minds, which are just dying to create drama and find someone to blame for this discomfort.

Yin. Yang. Internal. External. Mind. Body. Balance. Flow. Tedium. Chaos.

The readiness is all.


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