10:30 am with Lenette
I didn't sleep well at all, and had sort of a scare: there was some tightness in my chest. It turns out that I've got muscles that I wasn't aware of, and somehow I managed to strain them yesterday. And, as usual, the cure for yoga soreness was more yoga. But going into class, I figured that if I was wrong, I could just go straight from class to the hospital. Anyway, I could feel the source of the tightness in some of the poses, and Lenette confirmed after class that I could get the feeling I have from overstretching and intercostal muscle. So that's what I've done, but I didn't even know that I had intercostal muscles that close to my breastbone. Go figure.
Class was surprisingly good. The best part was Lenette's reminder about what to do if you are working through an injury. Basically, the idea is to push to the edge, where the pose starts to hurt, and then back off from there. But then it occurred to me: it seems to me that in Bikram's mind, all beginning Westerners are just walking piles of accumulated injuries. The yoga, as he sees it, is a comprehensive cure. If so, then shouldn't this approach to the poses apply to them all? This idea might confirm my idea that the exhortations to "Push, push..." are meant for veterans who can safely do it, or for beginners who have never really pushed in their lives. But for people with sports backgrounds, the same instructions might be a little much. Or the ex-athlete should interpret them as meaning to push to your edge, but not through it.
I kept the knee locked through a full minute in Standing Head to Knee. And I had maybe my best Standing Bow yet. Even better, Lenette told me I was advanced enough in Balancing Stick to start focusing on getting my hips parallel to the floor -- lowering the hip on the lifted leg. The criticisms that come with advancing to a new stage always make me feel better, much better than a straight compliment for some perverse reason.
Now back to my ongoing review of posture progress, continuing with the floor series:
13. Savasana: It's hard to say whether there is any steady progress in this pose. I would like to think that I don't fidget as much, but I have no idea how much I did fidget to begin with. I'd also like to say that I can calm my mind some, but I can't. My mind flies all over the place. Think of the jumpiest, quickest, busiest flying bug you've ever seen, and that's my mind in Savasana. I've tried counting my breath, repeating meaningless phrases, focusing on one point. And sometimes, very briefly, things get a bit still. But mostly...
14. Wind Removing: I've always been pretty good at the single leg version of this. But to begin with, when bringing both legs up to the chest, I could not get anywhere near to grabbing my elbows. I couldn't even grab my forearms. My belly was too big, and I ended up clasping my fingers together an holding on for dear life. Now, I can grab my elbows pretty comfortably, tuck my head a little bit, and even relax my shoulders some. Beyond that, its fairly hard for me to judge progress in this pose.
15. Sit-up: This isn't really a pose, but it is an action specific to the Bikram series, and we do quite a few of them. I started by kind of throwing my body up. My knees would bend, and my feet would leave the floor. The pulling on the feet during the exhales was more an intention than anything that I actually did. Now, I have no trouble coming up smoothly with my back fairly straight, keeping my legs and heels on the floor. I pull on my feet, but my elbows don't come close to touching the floor, nor does my head get near my knees.
Back Strengthening Series:
16. Cobra: This pose has always been pretty good. I could always get up pretty well, so its mostly been a matter on working on keeping my arms close to the chest, arching the back some more, pressing the pelvis to the floor, and keeping the legs together. I've probably gotten better at this, but its difficult for me to judge.
17. Half Locust: Getting the arms underneath my chest was horrible. My elbows hurt. In the one leg lifts, I could probably get each leg about 8-12 inches off the floor, and that was while rolling off the opposite hip. Lifting two legs? Maybe 3 inches to begin with, using all my strength. My issues with spitting up in this pose started at the very beginning. Now, this pose comes and goes. My legs go up fairly well in the one leg lifts. My elbows don't bother me, and I can almost get them together underneath me. The two legged lift is a matter of breathing and attitude. Some days the legs go up fairly high, and I can hold it easily. Other days it feels like I've got no strength in my arms and back, and that there is no way to breathe in the pose. My guess is that I get my legs up somewhere around 18 inches to 2 feet, but its only a guess. It could be more, it could be less.
18. Full Locust: This is another pose where its hard for me to judge progress. For one thing, because Half Locust beats me up so much, I'm not sure that I often give this pose a really good effort. The biggest change I've noticed came from Lenette's tip about lifting the arms up first and then bringing them back.
19. Floor Bow: To begin with, my legs were uneven, and very wide outside my hips. My legs would come up some, and I would arch my back, but I don't think I resembled anything like a bow. I think I'm much better now. My knees are about hip width, and I can keep my feet together. Sometime I feel what it means to "kick up." And when that happens, I know that I'm getting it. But even when I can't really feel the kick, I still think I'm much more arched and symmetrical than I was. And it's also pretty clear that this pose has helped some in opening my shoulders.