16 June, 2012

The Buddha inside is made of solid gold

Today was 90 minutes of Powah Vinyasa with Bill at Open Doors.

Open Doors (pronounced "Dawz") was recommended to me by my cousin (recall Vinyasa Girl from an earlier blog entry). She’s involved in a yoga non-profit (Yoga Reaches Out) that does charity events, including an upcoming Yogathon in California. I'd been telling her about my Bikram "experience" and she quickly looked through her long list of yoga contacts and identified this studio for me. I was ready for the solace of familiarity, so I decided I'd give it a shot.

As soon as I arrived, I knew I was in the right place. The storefront was in the town center in Canton, Massachusetts, and it was light and airy. The instructor, Bill, a guy about 36-years old, looked and sounded a little bit like Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, with the fantastic Boston accent that you so often hear people trying to impersonate, but not convincingly (I couldn't wait for him to say "Chayah Pose" but, to my disappointment, he actually called it "Utketasana"). I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that class was FREE since it was my first time there (I'd paid $15/class at the Bikram studio, with no freebie).

The studio itself was a smallish room, about half the size of UYS Studio B, with light-colored hardwood floors, burgundy walls, and it was heated through three ceiling heaters, mounted in the corners ("Caw-nuz") of the room. There was a humidifier ("hu-mi-di-fi-uh") and two ceiling fans that kept the air circulating very nicely. Temperature probably in the 85-90 range.

There were only about 10 students in class. From the moment we started, I knew I was "in my element." Bill walked into class, and gave each of us 2 blocks. He began by telling us that the most important thing is to be kind to ourselves. To practice kindness. To listen to our bodies and take whatever modifications we need. This was a far cry from "You should be feeling intense pain..." He then began class with an anecdote (paraphrasing, with Boston accent delivered phonetically):

I just had a root canal recently. And if any of you've evah had one, then you know what I'm talkin' about. Only aftah I got it done did I realize how much I'd been favorin' that tooth. It was changin' the way I would eat... changin' the way I would smile. Everything had been built around accomodatin' the pain in that tooth. And, just like that tooth, in ouah lives, we ah adaptin' ovah time to protect ouahselves from things. Comin' to yoga practice is an oppahtunity to staht to notice the ways in which we ah doin' this, on ah mats. So be shawah to pay attention to yaw body and listen faw these things that yaw holdin' onto, and try and let go, a little bit at a time.

I really didn't expect a guy who looked and sounded like what I would have previously called a "townie" to have those same kinds of words of wisdom and insight that I've come to expect in hoity-toity Seattle. But there's a lesson I needed to learn about judging books by their covers. 

When I heard that inspirational talk, and realized how it hits me right in the heart like a sledgehammer, it occurred to me that this is truly the reason I show up: to be inspired and moved. To feel. And then it occurred to me that yoga is really my religion. It's not just a workout. And I prefer my church over the other churches. The Power Vinyasa practice has this space built into it for the emotional or spiritual side of things. When I think about Bikram, I realize that it has removed that spirituality and turned it into a series of commands. It's a playbook. There is no space to be. It's not your practice. It is the Bikram practice. At the end of a Bikram class, I find myself really missing that "Namaste" because it seems like it should be an integral part of the practice. I want to honor the light and the divine in my teacher, and in my fellow yogis. And I feel a little robbed when that doesn't happen.

Bill's class was quite like a UYS class. We started on our backs with some abdominal work (bicycles), and then we did a little bit of stretching like Low Lunge and some kneeling side stretches. Then we began a standard series of Sun A and Sun B. After that, it got a little interesting. He had us get the two blocks, and get into High Plank with our hands on the blocks. From there, we stepped a foot forward onto the block, and did Crescent Lunge with the foot on the block!! That transitioned to a Vinyasa flow, on the blocks. We did the Twisted Chair to Twisted Crescent Lunge transition, which we only see occasionally at UYS, and it was a "killah." We also did some Wide Squat transitions up and down, with Cactus arms and a brisk breathing rhythm on each repetition. He said "This is how you catch a buzz in yoga." 

After about 65 minutes of standing series (ending with Tree, Airplane, Eagle in one continuous flow), we did a pretty standard floor series. When we did Locust, he had us alternate between "Superman Arms" and "Cactus Arms." However, being that we're in New England Patriots football territory, "Cactus Arms" were instead referred to as "Goal Posts." That was a nice local flavor.

At the end of class, beginning the final Savasana, one more story from Bill:

There's a story about a village in Tibet whayuh thayuh was this statue of a Buddha. People would come from all ovah to see it. At one point, a few yeeuhs ago, thayuh was a wicked bad drought (okay, he didn't really say wicked), and the Buddha developed a crack in it. One day, a monk was starin' at the Buddha, peerin' into that crack, and he noticed that inside the Buddha was made of solid gold. The villajuhs had covuhd ovah the statue to protect it so it wouldn't get hurt or stolen. That's sotta how all uv us ah. We have these layuhs that we fohm to protect us, but undahneath, we ah all made of solid gold. When we practice, it helps us staht to see that paht uv ouahselves. 

From the very first moment, to the very last "Namaste," this class was exactly what I needed. Not only did it resonate with my heart, but it made me feel like here is connected to there. We are all connected.

In the end, I listened to my body. My body said “No more Bikram.” I thought about it a lot. Was I letting myself off the hook? Was I moving away from the discomfort instead of breathing into the discomfort? All of those questions are ones we ask ourselves in our practice. But there’s still a basic issue of “Is this what I want to do?” For instance, if I went to a yoga studio that actually consisted of a large brick oven, and we were asked to stand in the flames, and allow ourselves to be quick-roasted, I am not sure that breathing into the discomfort would be appropriate. Of course, I am being hyperbolic here, and I don’t mean to imply that Bikram is like a brick oven pizzeria, but the point is, we can choose what is right for us. But when you have chosen, then you need to ask yourself those hard questions and listen to your body every day.

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