Wow, I think I've painted myself into a corner. After writing about death, fear, and faith in my last piece, what can I possibly say to follow up?! Let's just move along...
I'm really enjoying my return to daily practice. Today marked day nine of the 101 day Bikram yoga challenge, and I did my first "double" of the year this morning, taking the 8am and 10am classes back-to-back. Felt great! Since I'm heading to teacher training in a few months, and my semi-unemployed status leaves me with plenty of time to kill, I think I will be doing a lot of doubles in January and February. It should get my body better prepared for the training (where we do 11 classes every week), and I actually enjoy doing ridiculous amounts of yoga. Disclaimer: I'm a little bit of a freak. You don't necessarily want to try this at home.
My second class today was interesting, because my body was super flexible right from the start. This might sound terrific, especially for a 10am class, but I could tell right away that it was going to make the postures tricky. Extra bendy + little bit tired = body parts flopping all over the place! In that first half moon side bend, my whole upper body just went flop down to the side, and then I was belatedly trying to line everything back up with my body bent over at 90 degrees to the side. Oops. Being all loose and limber meant that I really had to work to keep good form! I kept imagining the voice of one of my teachers telling me, "Use your muscles!"
It's funny how many of the goals we like to set for ourselves are based on depth: straighten the leg, see the wall, touch the floor. Because in my experience, being very flexible does not make your life any easier in class! I was recently talking with a friend about early morning Bikram classes, and she was saying that she just hates practicing in the morning because she is more stiff, so her classes are "bad." But I don't believe that being a little bit stiffer makes your practice bad; it just makes it different. You get to focus on so many other things, like strength, alignment, and technique! All of these aspects are just as valuable as flexibility.
Earlier this week, I was re-reading a passage in my favorite book that talked about the "harassment of preferences." You know what I mean by preferences, don't you? We decide that we love one posture, but hate another one. We prefer a certain teacher, a certain class time, a certain temperature in the room. We love being flexible at night but hate being stiff in the morning. We love balancing but hate falling. And we get so freaking attached to these preferences! I've convinced myself of all kinds of ridiculous things. For almost my whole yoga career, I have loved the second side of standing bow but hated the first side. What is that all about?! It certainly doesn't help me at all. It's a silly example, but a true one.
The catch is that none of these preferences really serve us. When we think, "I only like this," "I really hate that," it just creates discontent.
According to my little book, one of our goals in practice is to move away from those preferences and bring some kind of equilibrium. Instead of going through class thinking, "this part rules!" and "this part sucks!", you eventually want to remain level. Whether you're flexible or stiff, a virtuoso or a beginner, your emotions shouldn't be affected. Instead constantly telling yourself "this posture is my worst one" or "this posture is so easy," you can just tell yourself "this posture is." And then do the posture!
Simple in theory, more difficult in practice. But like always, a lot of benefit comes from trying...