It's becoming clearer and clearer to me that Bikram wrote the dialogue for lazy people. So much of it exhorts you to push as hard as you can. Or to pull harder. An athlete, a strong person, or just someone with lots of determination, could endanger himself by following these instructions. The greatest danger probably lies in the forward bends. In two of them in the standing series we are told to pull as hard as we can with our arms to increase the stretch in the back of the legs. Done wrong, this could put the hamstrings, the lower back, or (as I learned) the sciatic nerve into some jeopardy.
I was talking to Lenette about this, and she made a great observation: the dialogue actually says to pull as "hard as possible." An even greater command in Bikram, is to come 4 times a week or more. If you pull yourself into injury, you probably will not be able to continue to come. So as "hard as possible" has to mean without injuring yourself. Go figure that I am the lawyer and she came up with this interpretation.
She also made a great observation about why I hurt myself. First off, she said I tend to overdo things anyways. Second, in Separate Leg Forward Stretching we're told to be a bit pigeon-toed. I overdid this to start with. And then, to try to grab my heels, I would actually exaggerate the pigeon-toed effect even more by pulling the toes in even more, because my stretch was not good enough to grab comfortably. Combine those two things, and voila, a perfect recipe for sciatic pain.
The great news though is that after class today, I feel almost at 100%. There is the slightest discomfort in the hip still, but it no longer feels like any nerve pain at all. So easing off a bit in the forward bends, and paying really close attention to the set-ups, is making a world of difference.
Class was pretty much back to normal. My breathing was better than its been for the last few days. The postures were fine. Nothing stood out as exceptionally good or bad. And at this point, that is really good news.
The one area where I seem to be making some real progress in the last couple of days is in the balancing series. The poses themselves aren't a whole lot better, but my focus seems to have improved. I can really concentrate on locking the knee in Standing Head to Knee, and just hold the concentration. I still fell out once, but it was towards the end of the first set, just before "change" was called. And I made it through a full second set in Standing Bow while challenging myself. This is improvement, but its more incremental than anything else, and if anything, the improvement is more mental than physical. Of course, I should be celebrating rather than belittling a mental improvement. Perhaps the reason I don't immediately think that way is that its much harder to have some sort of objective yardstick for an improvement to "focus."