Day 58 with Kyoko was at another level. It was like being in a posture clinic. I don’t know what got into her but I am so glad she went over posture after posture during the standing series without interrupting the flow or slowing down the class (that is the sign of a master teacher in my opinion). I’m pretty sure she said all the things that she pointed out in each and every class with the same suggestions and exhortations. Yet it seemed that today’s class was the one where I finally listened.
Very often we go into autopilot in these classes–especially if you’re in there day in, day out, hearing the same dialogue in the same order with very little variation. You find yourself doing postures ahead of time because you anticipate what’s next without really hearing anything the teacher is saying. I finally could see what Kyoko meant by sucking in my stomach. It is intense when you do it properly–when you do it like your life depends on it, squeezing every muscle in there..Today, I gave up and just listened and got so much unexpectedly from a simple evening class laced with hints of a posture clinic. Jackpot!
Day 57 with Kyoko was great not because of all that I did in class but because of a conversation that I had with a fellow student before class. We tend to get very into ourselves as we set up for class and dive into the yoga zone. I like to smile at other students when I walk into the hot room because they know, like no one else, the struggle I am about to face. Like me, they willingly put themselves up for the most challenging 90 minutes of their day. Today I walked by a student who I exchange encouraging pleasantries with on a regular basis. I remember she had a particular challenge during our first posture clinic together a few weeks back and I wondered if I could offer her something.
Now I’m not a teacher–not yet–and I don’t purport to be one. I tend to stay within myself and learn from the minuscule adjustments I make throughout class. Sometimes seeing another practitioner in a posture helps me figure out how to improve mine and just as often there are times when I want to point something out to someone that the teacher wasn’t able to reach. In this case, my fellow yogi had shared her difficulty with the last part of awkward pose in the standing series posture clinic and I thought I might have a way for her to do the posture with less trouble.
In the last part of awkward, people tend to go too high on their toes as they squeeze their knees together–kind of continuing the ballerina stance of the part before. I suggested that she squeeze her knees together and let her feet naturally lift up as she went down. We tried it a few times side by side and she said she would see how it worked for her in class.
I went through class with an added feeling that I might have made a difference for someone. In turn Kyoko relentessly put us through the paces and I pushed to see how far I could go in postures that stress my lower back. Up until that freak bedtime injury, I’d promised myself I would begin to push myself to work my hamstring by at least the 60th day. Today, as I was gingerly testing my hamstrings, my concern traveled further up into my lower right back. A day or so away from that party massage and it was not cooperating. I modified in padahastasana, the forward bend after half moon and the back bend, making sure I bent my knees and sucked in my stomach for dear life. That is supposed to support the lower back. I could not do the full posture so I hung out during both sets, pulling my body into as much of a sandwich as I could.
The back issues were noticeable until standing bow where either I love the posture so much that I just don’t care or I just don’t stress my lower back as much. It isn’t until the end of floor series during head to knee with stretcheing where I have to ease up on the pulling and spine twist where I notice something is off. Thankfully by then I’m almost done with only breathing to go.
After class, as I walk in my yoga haze, obsessing about water and Emergen-C, the student I had made the suggestion to came up to me and told me that my recommendation made a huge difference for her. She was able to get down lower in the asana and would keep practicing at home. All of a sudden, I wasn’t so exhausted. Giving back gives you far more than you put it. It gives you wings.
Day 56 with Brian was very satisfying. After my Super Saturday of working at the studio, taking posturing clinic and doing a double, then getting home at 6am from a party, I wasn’t sure how I would get through a class on Sunday. Somehow I did. There was no doubt that I would make it and showing up is more than half the battle.
I always tell people who kick themselves for not being perfect in class that this is a lifetime practice. You get to do it again another day and see if you can improve somewhere. Seriously, though, if you show up, you win. If you stay in the room, you really win. If you give it your all and do what you can, then you’re golden.
I didn’t break on Sunday. I’m happy about that. I managed to convince on of the party guests to massage my lower back–I can be quite persuasive especially when I’m not drinking and you are! Ha! That massage made a huge difference for class on Sunday. I feel myself getting stronger. I sure need it!
As of today, I have completed 55 days of 101-day yoga challenge. I have taken 58 Bikram yoga classes. It’s funny how, 55 days and 58 classes in, I have no inclination to stop. I’m more than halfway done and I’m gunning for the end. Between you and me, I may go longer than 101 days–at least until I absolutely have travel.
Today was another ambitious day. I worked at the studio, took 11am class with Stephanie, signed in folks for the posture clinic, took the posture clinic from 1-4pm, then took class again at 4:30pm and headed out to my friend’s BBQ. It was a packed and fulfilling day. I got everything I targeted accomplished and I’m so grateful for the folks who helped make that happen.
Class with Stephanie at 11am was a warm up for the posture clinic after. My body really needed it.
The posture that followed was a true gift. We focused on the floor series this time. If you’re a Bikram yoga practitioner and you’ve never done a posture clinic before, run don’t walk to your nearest one! You rarely get an opportunity to walk through each part of every posture with experts who break down the medical benefits of each postures and teachers who provide precise, individualized corrections and observations for you.
In this posture clinic, we went over the floor series. It’s deceptively easier because it’s usually only 30 minutes but it’s a pretty complicated, intricate set of asanas. In the end, I realized that I don’t really listen and that most of what you need is in the teacher’s dialogue. I also had the experience of my whole world opening up at the slightest adjustment from one of the teachers. That is an opportunity I would jump at again and again whenever it is offered.
The class after was great too since I was thoroughly warmed up from class and clinic beforehand. I had a breakthrough in that I did not drink water until savasana between standing and floor series. That’s a big deal considering how I sometimes feel desperate for water. I’m happy that I did it and I’m not sure I would attempt to do an entire class without water. We shall see! I’ll debate the merits of water or no water at some other time. In the meantime, 55 days down, 46 more to go! Woohoo!
Day 54 with Angela rewarded me with opening up beyond what I expected. I came into class after battling dust bunnies (I won this time!) and my wiggy lower right back to contend with. All the cleaning activity actually served as a warm up for class–a good thing.
The highlight of class was getting into fixed firm completely. I have never been able to stand the intense stretching of that posture and while it was overwhelming today, I stayed in it. It felt great in spite of feeling like too much. It stretches ankles, knees, hips, lower back, upper back, shoulders, neck, arms–way too much going on at one time in my opinion but exactly what the doctor ordered.
I have another ambitious day in front of me tomorrow. I’m participating in Bikram Yoga East Harlem’s 3 hour posture clinic from 1-4pm. I’ll work for 3 hours, take class before the clinic to warm up, then go over the floor series for 3 hours in a warm room, and take class after to apply what I learned.
There may be room left in the clinic. If you’re in New York City, check it out. Read about it here. The last posture clinic was such a gift. There is nothing like going over each part of each asana and getting individualized corrections to take your practice to another level. I’m really looking forward to it!
Day 53 with Kyoko brought up the age old question that dogs us all in our Bikram practice: Am I doing this right?
The answer, more often than not, is a resounding no. As I ways say to people, you get it right when you’re dead and you don’t have to try anymore. The practice isn’t really about “right”, it’s about endurance and discipline. You can wing your way through class grunting impressively or you can listen to the teacher’s dialogue and follow as closely as possible. There is no “right”. There is awareness and presence. That is all.
Day 52 with Angela was a wake-up call. I’m dealing with a wiggy lower back after sleeping on it the wrong way. Now that my hams are better I have my lower back to contend with. The wake-up here is if I cannot do the posture slowly and strongly then I need to stop.
My back is getting better incrementally and should be fine by tomorrow. It’s a matter–a reminder–to do whatever it take from getting injured and derailing my challenge. Once injured, I will have to stop. I do not want that happening so my awareness of my body in class has tro be that much higher. This is crucial.