15 June, 2012

Hair of the dog (but *not* downward) that bit me

Today was Bikram with Jayme at Bikram Yoga Stoughton.

I went to bed last night thinking maybe I would not do the morning class. Maybe I would wait until 5pm. But I really liked the idea of having a different instructor, and getting the broadest possible experience, and I knew the morning class was a different instructor. Of course, what I am fast learning about Bikram Yoga is that, by design, the variability between instructors is, shall we say, "Not Large." When I woke up this morning, which happened to be exactly on time for the 9am class, my brain just said "Go!" even though my body, especially my low back and hamstrings were saying "I don't think so..."

I listened to my brain. But with the promise to go a little easy on myself.

Jayme is one of the owners of the studio, and she knows my cousin very well. In fact, my cousin is the one who referred me to this studio, and we're hoping to take a class together this weekend. When I arrived, I again notified the instructor of the various injuries I've got going on, and the modifications I have been taking to accommodate said injuries. Interestingly, and I do appreciate this, Jayme took a couple of minutes in the lobby to tell me about what the "Bikram modifications" are for the poses, and asked me to please try to do those. I am intrigued by the rigidity of the Bikram practice. I had only ever done it at Bikram Yoga Kona, previously, and there was a little more flexibility there (though not much), probably attributable to it being HAWAII where everything is laid back. Stoughton, Massachusetts is, in contrast, not a laid back place.

What I am fast learning about Bikram is that "Go a little easy on myself" is somewhat the antithesis of a Bikram practice. We often hear the phrases "It should hurt" or "You should be feeling pain." There's always a mitigating statement about it being "pain" but not "struggle" but that message is one that I think is hard for a new student to gauge. In my professional work, we always talk about how we should never ask a customer or user of our software to make a decision that they could not possibly have the expertise to make. And in some ways, I think that asking new yogis to know the line between "pain" and "struggle" falls solidly in that category.

Of course, another tenet of this studio was "No Complaining" and "No Excuses." And that's why I've got my blog (though, honestly, I don't think I complain much in here).

It was challenging from the very first moment today. I found Jayme to have an intensely engaging personality, and she also was much more into very specific callouts and corrections of individuals in the class. Some instructors do this more than others, I've noticed. Some are general. Some are specific. Jayme is specific. I was actually a bit surprised at some of the "corrections" I heard, such as: "Lina! What are you doing honey? Why are your arms like that? That's not a pose." I guess that's okay to say that? Though, to me, I am concerned when I hear yoga instruction start to sound just like our own inner critic.

I did learn some things today. But mostly what I learned is that it's really hard to avoid the "I am never doing this again" or the "At what point during this class can I just bail and go to Savasana" or "I think I am going to run screaming from the room."

I didn't do the the latter, but I did finally take Savasana with about 18 minutes left in the class. I knew that I wasn't doing Fixed Firm because of my knee, and I didn't want to take the modification. I know that to some extent I was letting myself off the hook, but I'd planned it for like forty minutes! I was very excited to let myself off the hook! So I did it, and stayed down through Half Tortoise, Camel, and Rabbit (sorry, Cassandra, I bailed on the "Top of the Mountain;" today I was like "Screw the view, I'm staying at Base Camp!").

During my self-granted Savasana, since my low back was hurting, I decided to do the knees bent, feet near edges of the mat, like our UYS instructors often suggest. And guess what? I got corrected in my Savasana! Jayme came over and asked me if I was okay, which was nice, and then she said "Do you think you can put your legs out straight so that you're getting the full benefit of the pose?" At this point, I started thinking to myself, "Okay, so there's got to be a Vinyasa studio somewhere around here. This is it. Sorry. I'm done. Tomorrow it's Vinyasa. I can't possibly come back here again. The carpet smells. It's too hot. My feet are sliding. Blah, blah, blah."

Here's the thing about Bikram that gets me the most: There's a proclamation that the only way to do yoga is the Bikram way, and that if you're doing a Hatha version of a pose, then you are getting no benefit. This does not, in my humble (and relatively naive) opinion hold true in a discipline where there are countless different schools of practice, developed over thousands of years. Why is Bikram suddenly the guy whose poses can cure diabetes? But Ashtanga will cause you to crumble into a pile of granite dust? C'mon. I don't buy it. Bikram yoga is about getting people to do Bikram yoga.

I am complaining. I realize that. And I also realize that the reason I am complaining is because something about this practice rubs up against walls I've got inside my own mind. What are those walls? How can I explore them? Can I explore them on the mat in a Bikram class?

We'll find out tomorrow at 8am.

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