26 July, 2013

The pose you need the most...

Today was Power Vinyasa + Meditation with Scott Francis.

After class today, I approached Scott to ask if he had time for a question. I was a little concerned about how to ask the question in such a way that wouldn't be perceived as a criticism, because it was not. I was also concerned about whether it was a question that even needed to be asked. It was something that was in my mind off and on for chunks of the class, and I had, at some point, decided I would ask him after class. The struggle about whether or not to ask stemmed from the fact that the mere asking of a question might lie in the fact that I am not just letting things be what they are. But anyway, this is the process that was happening inside of me.

So, the question:

"I am experiencing your flow as being fast for my breath cycle. I wanted to understand if this is a case of my breath cycle just being longer than a typical cycle, or are you intentionally pushing us to a kind of edge that creates a bit of challenge to maintain?"

The experience I had in class, one that I have had in perhaps a quarter of all classes I take, is that the flow was too fast for me to keep up, without starting to feel like my breath is labored, or my form is compromised and, eventually, that my calm starts to dissolve, with thoughts creeping in, such as "What is wrong with me? Why is everyone else able to keep up, but I can't? Why is the teacher going so fast? Blah? Blah? Blah?" That is the pattern. I would say that the sequence is pretty much like that: breath, form, calm. There are less experienced teachers out there, for whom I would attribute the pace as being related to their inexperience. But this is not the case with Scott. I trust that the pace that he is calling a flow would be a pace that is appropriate. Ironically, this triggered in me the worst of those negative emotions, "What's wrong with me?!" which is actually harder for me to swallow than "What's wrong with the teacher?!" But I decided to try to explore in a curious fashion rather than just put up a wall and proclaim (to myself) that I don't like Scott's class.

Sometimes, when this happens to me in class, I would just struggle to keep up, because I didn't want to miss a pose. Because, of course, missing a pose would mean there's SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME. But today, I decided that I would simply maintain my own breath cycle, and do all the poses, and fall behind. And be okay with it. I am thinking about the teachings of some of my teachers, who would say that we should always follow the rhythm of our own breath, and maintain integrity above all else. I was able to maintain calm by doing this. But I also experienced a subtle emotion of subversion. I was not following the class. And the most tangible negative consequence of this was that I was getting in the way of my neighbors. When I was transitioning to Warrior II, they were doing something else, and my arm would hit their arm. I was out of sync, and I was disrupting the class.

So I had a quandary. Do I respect the rhythm of my breath and the integrity of my motion, at the expense of being in harmony with my surroundings? Do I sacrifice my calm, and push the pace, maintaining to the best of my ability the other variables, and keeping sync with the class? Do I sacrifice the completeness of the sequences, doing less, while maintaining relative sync and calm? Do I maintain all except the rhythm of the breath, keeping my movements in sync, but allowing my breath to occur as it needs to occur?

The latter two options were the ones that Scott suggested to me. And both triggered different kinds of feelings in me. Skipping poses triggered the "I'm not good enough" feeling. And losing sync of movement and breath triggered the "I'm not doing this right" feeling. Scott suggested that I might try just letting the class move me, rather than me trying to control everything. This was an interesting suggestion, and I am not sure how to do that yet, because I have started becoming set in a way of locking all these things together, movement, breath, cues. This is likely due to the teachings that I have gravitated towards.

He was incredibly patient with me, and we talked about it quite a bit. As the conversation continued, I realized that there's something in me, not just on the yoga mat, but in all things, that has a resistance to aligning the rhythm of my world with the external "standard." I will get caught up in comparison and blame.

So here I am. Realizing that perhaps the yoga is not a static thing, where I do the same exact thing every day, every class, regardless of what is happening around me. I could choose to only see one teacher, and this could all be avoided. But I am not sure that would prepare me for the life that's out there "off the mat." That life is not the same every day. And each day will be a different teacher. Some will be in sync with my rhythm, and some will not.

The yoga is being adaptable.

To me, this translates into "more classes with Scott."

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