Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"The posture REALLY begins when..."

"...it becomes easy."

Huh.  That was not the answer I expected.  And it came from a post-class discussion with Juan, the mastermind of the awesome bloodbath class that I talked about in my last entry.  This is the guy who tried to make us miserable just so that we would fight.  But after all, my favorite dichotomy in Bikram yoga has always been: "Take it easy, sweetheart"/ "KILL YOUR SELF!"  So I think he is onto something here.

(First, a moment of "Boooooo!" to technology.  I just spent almost 30 minutes writing and editing a blog post when I wasn't connected to the internet, and the whole thing disappeared into thin air when I hit "publish."  LAME!  I am so bummed!!!  Ah well.  I'm so much less inspired now, but I'm just gonna try to recall what I was talking about....)

Back on track: I am not saying (now or ever) that you don't have to struggle in yoga class.  Of course you do.  You have to struggle harder.  Kill your self!  But the thing is, on the other side of the struggle, there is something else, someplace quiet.  Easy.  Like fighting through a tornado and abruptly finding yourself in the eye of the storm.  That's the whole reason why we struggle.  We're not just beating our head against a brick wall here, not for no reason.  Maybe we are hitting our heads again bricks sometimes... but it's not a wall, it's a door!

I took one surfing lesson when I first moved out to California.  I sucked at the paddling parts.  But I was really struck by the experience of standing up on the surfboard.  It's like this: you're in the water, paddling like a maniac, working like crazy, and it's really loud, the surf is in your ears, the water choppy, the water is in your ears, you set yourself up, you push up on the board... and then suddenly, stillness.  Quiet.  Suspended animation.  After all that struggle and work and noise, you are suddenly, unexpectedly, in this totally calm state of balance, standing there like you're just standing on the street, as the ocean moves under you.  It reminded me of yoga.

I think we've all had little tastes of this in our personal practice.  Third part of awkward, anyone?  It's a bitch if you've got bad knees, but otherwise, once you figure out the mechanics, it's a piece of (cheese)cake.  Emmy said at seminar that "this is a wonderful posture for meditation" because "it's the easiest one in the series."  If you haven't felt the ease in this posture, I bet you've found it in another one, in a posture that you had to struggle to achieve at first but that you do now without a second thought.  Think of that.  Now imagine being able to do the whole series that way.  What a thought...

I remember at the judge's clinic (at seminar again), there was a discussion of how long competitors need to hold their balancing postures.  One person's answer was so good that it basically ended the entire discussion.  He said, "When the judge knows you could hold it forever if you want, the posture is done."  So the posture finishes, and begins, when it is controlled.  Calm.  Easy.

I've been thinking about this for the last couple of days, especially in standing head to knee, of all postures!  That one has always been my nemesis.  The last part stresses me out.  I'm fully capable of doing it and holding it, but as I was saying on hannahjustbreathe the other day, it is the ultimate mind-fuck.  I make myself fall all the time.  But lately, I've been going into it with a mindset of "fight back, fight harder" along with "it's so easy," and wow.  Today in class, I went into the final position, somehow relaxed, took a couple breaths, and then came out step by step when I decided I was done.  Both sides.  I am knocking on wood right now, big time!!  But it was pretty cool.

One of my favorite moments in Bikram's first book is when he talks about how it can be frightening at first to freeze in a posture with no one to help you, nowhere to go except inwards.  He says, "don't fright, don't scare.  It is so peaceful in there, so good for your mind and your body to forget the outside world for this time you do Yoga.  You hear my words now, but I know you don't understand them yet.  That's okay.  You got to feel the understanding happening in yourself, like a flower unfolding, to understand."

Further up and further in...


Leaving you to ponder... said...

i love reading your posts! i stopped bikram for a little over a week because it's starting to make me more tired/sleepy than anything. going back to vinyasa for a few days then back to bikram.

hannahjustbreathe said...

"But lately, I've been going into it with a mindset of "fight back, fight harder" along with "it's so easy," and wow."

I read this and think one thing: Balance, my friend. Balance. That's what it all comes back to. Finding that still, happy medium between the fight and the peace, the struggle and the release. It's there; we just have to dig and dig and dig for it.

Mei said...

Oh wow, this post struck a chord with me. I've struggled SO HARD with head to knee [still can't get my head to the knee, who cares, I love staying in 2nd or 3rd part!] but one day, just ONE day, I got my head to the knee. [pause for raucous applause. Ahem].

But it was at THAT precise point, where I felt myself going "inwards", I started to get scared. "Holy karateninja, what the eff?" and fell out. It was such a mix of emotions, fear, loathing, joy, happiness, pride...

Now I know. Thanks for sharing, as always! :)

thedancingj said...

leaving... - glad you like these posts!! hope you get your bikram mojo back soon. energy levels can get weird sometimes.

hannah - totally. newest post is written with you in mind. :) (sorry it is kinda poorly written, i had trouble saying what I meant...)

mei - OH yes, i know what you are talking about! I got totally spooked the first few times I got all the way into standing head to knee. the internal monologue goes something like - "ok, here goes, let's give it a try, ok so far so good, keep going, keep going, OMG, OMG I'M DOING IT OH THIS IS REALLY WEIRD, wait, what am i doing??, *FALL* " no worries. you'll get the hang of it. it can actually be kinda fun. :)

ActionJoJo said...

For someone who has had chronic knee pain for 18 years, all of awkward pose especially the third part is a frakkin' biatch! Ugh. I've been putting my hands to the floor in this pose since I started this practice. And now that my knee is healing, I am doing it less and less. I go into this pose most of the time asking myself, "What is the knee going to say today?" After 6 months of practicing, I finally finally am able to get down in the third part of awkward with my hands still up but I still feel incredible stretching in my knee as if they are tearing apart. I have learned to back off when I wince after feeling a sharp pain and my even breathe is no longer even to put my hands in the floor.

That being said, part of it is mental as much physical. Recently, I have been encouraging myself to be open to the possibility of anything happening with no judgments as I am about to go into this pose. When I think this way and breathe and relax can I get down with little pain or resistance. Isn't it amazing?

I am happy to read Mei's comment because I too struggle with any posture that requires forehead to knee. I am working on it every day and I've come a long way. These days, I've progressed to bridge of my nose to knee. When I first started, it was nose to knee. One day, one day! I am happy to learn that there are people out there who struggle with this too!!!

thedancingj said...

JoJo - ABSOLUTELY, for knee problems, awkward pose is gonna be the biggest BITCH. Hehe. Sounds like your knees have recovered soooo much already, though! Maybe one day you will actually experience ease in that posture. That'd be so cool.

It is such a generalization, but it's true - you guys have the classic "Asian girl spine"! - difficulty with forehead-to-knee forward compressions, and probably nice natural backbends. A friend of mine who I used to practice with, who is originally for Malaysia, was the same way... she could basically touch the floor in her half-moon backward bend, but couldn't touch her forehead to her knees in rabbit to save her life!

In fact, I think MOST of the really crazy backward-bendy folks have a lot of trouble with forward bends at first. That's why, for championships, you have to show floor bow AND rabbit pose - because it's the HARDEST thing in the world to have that balance of great forward AND backward bending!

ActionJoJo said...

Thanks! I did hear from a teacher that Asians have trouble with forward bends/compressions and no problem with backward bends. Yep, I fit that description. Even though there's an explanation, it doesn't make it less frustrating!!!

p.s. Surfing is very much like yoga! The similarities are uncanny. The set up is important in both and once you're in the pose or riding the wave, it then becomes a delicate balance of thinking but not overthikining/shutting your mind off to the chatter. I took surfing lessons in Costa Rica and the school I went to, we surfed twice a day with yoga in between. So fun!