Saturday, May 23, 2009

Like waves in the ocean...

I think one of the things that we all come to terms with as we settle into a long-term practice is that progress in yoga is NOT linear and never will be.  This is such a basic truth, and yet somehow it always manages to take us by surprise!  Doesn't it?  It's such an easy concept to hear, to conceptualize, to say "yes, I understand that", but it doesn't necessarily make the highs and lows any less startling.

One metaphor I've heard quite a few times - I think it comes from Bikram originally - it that the yoga is like riding waves in the ocean.  At one moment, you're up high on the crest of the wave and you can see all around you for miles, and you feel like you're at the top of the world.  Then the wave comes down and the undertow gets hold of you, and you are down under the water and all you can see is water all around you, and you can't even imagine a place where there could be light or air.  But then you kick your legs, the current changes, and you get picked up by another wave and start the ascent back to the top.  Rise and fall, and then rise again.  

Or as Bikram (definitely!) says: If you feeling great and everything is perfect in your life, you'd better watch out, something bad it coming.  But if things are going terrible and you feel like shit, be happy!!  Good things are going to come soon!

It's just so funny how literally I can see this play out in my yoga practice, and how I am starting to be aware of it while it happens.  Last week I was not in such a great place in my yoga or in my body.  But then while I was in my slump, I took a look in my yoga notebook and saw that just 2 weeks prior, I had been writing things after class like "best H2K since I came to this studio", "best locust EVER", and "f-ing ROCK STAR practice today!"  (That is pretty much verbatim.)  So I said to myself, "Hmmmmm!!  Very interesting.  I guess I am on a pretty high-speed cycle right now.  Hope that means I'll be back up soon!"

And sure enough, I've totally turned a corner this week.  Got in 8 classes in the last 6 days (which almost always helps me - I do well with high frequency!) and felt awesome in both the 8am and 10am classes this morning.  It's been a while since I did the back-to-back thing, and I was actually a little bit apprehensive about it, but it couldn't have gone better.  Feeling kinda sleepy now, but my practice felt great, and the extra few pounds that were bothering me this month are already sliding off like butter.  I'm feeling moderately sore in my back and arms, which I love because it means I am actually doing something.  And I get to go practice the advanced series tomorrow - with other people! - which is always a great bonus.

Of course, based on my theory, I guess I should already be looking out for the next slump, which will surely hit eventually... but there's not really any point in anticipating things like that.  I'm just enjoying where I am!  And I hope my wave is still going up... it feels so good to climb up and up and get that awesome view of the whole horizon at the top... but whatever happens will happen, and whatever happens will be ok!

One more thing, which is not related to this topic at all.  (Well, there is some water and yoga involved.)  We did an outdoor yoga photoshoot on Thursday afternoon - me, another student, and a few of the teachers from the studio were the models and this guy who is a friend of the owner did the photography.  Well... it ended up including one of the funniest moments of my entire life.  Let's just say that there now exists a photograph of me... on a rock... in the middle of a river... in full cobra pose (i.e. backbending with feet on face, hands holding knees)... soaking wet, covered in mud... and topless.  OH yes.  None of this was my idea.  I can't believe I'm even telling you this, but it's just too funny to keep to myself.  It was for ART, people, ART!!


Duffy Pratt said...

I like the waves simile This has really been true for me. If I learn some new pointer on form, and become more precise as a result, I will almost invariably lose depth at first. And so moving forward sometimes feels like going backward. A while ago, I compared it to Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks.

thedancingj said...

Hah - I was literally just doing the Monty Python silly walks outside my apartment on the way home from Star Trek (which was EPIC) about 10 minutes ago. Love these weird synchronizations. They happen to me more and more.

hannahjustbreathe said...

Whoa... Something tells me you WON'T be posting pictures of said photo shoot... :)

thedancingj said...

Yeaaaaaaa those are NOT for the internet. I was very clear about that condition. Hah! But if I get my hands on some of the G-rated ones I will put them up. ;)

DodgerRoger said...

I like the waves analogy as well... on multiple levels.

I finally made progress in floor bow only to find my knees were too far apart. Bringing them back together basically brought me back to square one. Same with half locust - really locking the knee while lifting the leg caused a drop of several inches.

On a non-technical level I experience the waves as well, just in terms of energy level and resolve. Some days I feel ready to kick some ass, some days I just hope I make it through the class.

Don't you think it's funny that you can hear something over and over, yet not really understand it until you experience it yourself? Progress in yoga is non-linear. Yes, I know that. But until you've ridden the roller-coaster you just done UNDERSTAND how true that statement is. The dialogue is basically the same from class to class, yet I find my understanding of different parts changes the more I practice.

Your backbend avatar is very very nice, btw.

thedancingj said...

Hi DodgerRoger, thanks for the AWESOME comment! I couldn't agree more with everything that you just said. I've done the same thing in locust... "Wow, I am getting so high this week!!" "J, lock your knees." "Oh." That always seems to happen just when you think you're getting good at a posture, doesn't it?

It never ceases to amaze me how the dialogue works on SO many levels and continuously opens up to you the more you practice. I've been listening to it for years now and I am STILL getting more from it all the time. Even silly little lines that seem like throwaways can be really, really important.

And thanks, btw. ;) I took that shot in the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park, which is SUCH a great place to visit! Couldn't resist busting out a move or two...