Saturday, August 9, 2008

Day 52

9:30 am with Lenette

For the first time, I did not feel exhausted at any point in today's class.  I started out pretty strong, and things just got better in terms of energy and strength.  It was especially surprising because I probably got 5 hours of sleep last night.

My knee felt really good.  Standing Head to Knee was about as good as its ever been.  I didn't fall out on the right side at all.  The left side is a bit hampered by my hip, but I can still hold it with a locked knee.  I got all the way down in Fixed Firm, which is a rarity now.  But then by the end, there was enough soreness creeping back for me to avoid Japanese Kneeling on the final breathing exercise.  For the rest of the day, it has felt fine.

My hip was not as good.  After class, I talked to Lenette about it, showing her exactly where and how it hurts.  She thinks my leg is re-aligning, and that the sciatic nerve is readjusting.   She had some recommendations:  In Separate Leg Stretching, I should keep the feet parallel, and not go pigeon-toed (which is what the dialogue calls for).  In all the other forward bends, I have to make sure that I'm keeping my feet aligned, especially in the final stretch.  She agrees that a few days rest might just knock it out, because there may be some inflammation in the area along with the sciatic nerve moving around some.  This is great news:  it means what's happening is basically what is supposed to happen.

During class, Lenette talked about an idea she recently heard:  that life is the continual process of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.  She didn't go into detail about life, but you could think that we get yanked off the umbilical cord, come out screaming, and things go downhill from there.  I think that's part of the basic idea.  Anyway, she thinks that if that is true, then Bikram is a perfect microcosm for the process.  We walk into a 105 degree, 60% humidity room, start to sweat and then do poses that are basically impossible and told to act like statues.  And in the process, we need to learn to ignore the sweat dripping in our eyes, the urge to adjust our costumes, to drink, to move around.  And in the process, we are ultimately supposed to learn to meditate.

To illustrate the idea, she was going to have the entire class hold the second set of camel for as long as possible.  Lots of people dread this pose, and you could just feel the anxiety level go up some when she said what she was doing.  We got to the second set, and she put us through a long set up before even going into the pose.  For me, the set up has always been harder than the pose.  Then we went down to grab our heels.  Ordinarily the pose gets held for 20 seconds, and most people started dropping after 30 seconds.  I was doing just fine.  Then, after one minute, she called change and everyone came out.  I held it for another 10 seconds or so, but I think I could have held it for another 2 minutes at least.  I started feeling some tension in the lower back, but once my hands are down in this pose, it takes almost no effort to hold it.  If she had done the same thing in Triangle, or the second part of Awkward Pose it would have been a different story (and let's not try to think about holding Locust for a minute!!!).

Even so, I think there's merit to her idea.  Learning how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable will develop techniques for finding peace, and it should set you free in many situations.  If you don't need to complain (to yourself or others), then you can choose whether to complain or not, and how you should raise the complaint.  In a way, each pose in the series gives new opportunities for trying to become still and peaceful in a situation that should be extremely uncomfortable.  And I think this aspect is part of what makes this physical practice also a spiritual practice.

On a lighter note, it occurred to me today that I went to class the day before the challenge began.  Since the 100 day extension would be completely personal, that means that for that challenge I have now done 56 classes in 53 days.  If I can get two more doubles in before I go away to NY, I'll probably try to continue.  Maybe I'll just see how long I can go on a seven class/week pace.  I'm thinking that seven classes might be easier if I did doubles on some days and took other days off completely.  Just not having to go every day would make a major difference.

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