Wednesday, September 3, 2008

75/77 Stretching is Hard

8:15 pm with Libby

Another strong, good class.  Every day my left hip is getting better.   But today, I started to feel the first signs of the same problems in my right hip.  Hopefully, I have learned enough about this to nip it in the bud.

I seem to have reached a pretty steady plateau.  I'm not having either major breakthroughs or setbacks.  For the most part, I'm fine with this.  It's really nice to hit some objectively new milestone, but I think that for now I need to work on milestones having to do with focus and determination.  A while back, I joked about using Standing Head to Knee as the measure of a challenge -- to keep going until I could get my head to my knee.  Now, I'm thinking that a pretty good challenge would be to go for three days straight extending the leg and not falling out.  Now that would take some determination.

Libby said today that she thought it might be an American thing, but people here tend to think that stretching should be easy.  Which is exactly wrong -- stretching is hard.  She said this during final stretch, where I'm trying to get my heels off the ground by locking my quads.  Since this stretch puts an intense burn through the entire back of my legs, it was rather easy to agree with her.

The more I think about it, the clearer it is that there are few or no easy stretches in the Bikram series.  Even the poses that might otherwise be easy in other forms of yoga involve some pulling in this series.   In the first forward bend, we pull on our heels as hard as possible.  Other yoga schools might be content with letting gravity do most of the work.  In Eagle, we pull down on the elbows and twist like ropes.  In the Separate Leg Forward Bend, we pull on the heels again, instead of just hanging out.  In Cobra, we use our lower backs to lift up, where other yoga schools use the hands to push up and use the pose as a pure stretch instead of as a back strengthener.  In the final stretch, we are pulling as hard as we pull on our toes while locking our knees.  Again I think other schools do this a little bit differently.

So, every pose where we might be hanging out, Bikram throws in something to pull on -- another way to push the stretch.  This is one of the things that makes the same 26 postures so interesting.  So much is going on in every one of them, and I can still see little ways, and sometimes not so little ways, that I am falling short in any one of them.  Sometimes the difficulty lies just in deciding which of the many details I might focus on to improve a particular pose.  So yes, stretching -- at least in Bikram -- is hard, but physically and mentally.  But that's also what makes it fun.

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