Good class. It started out really hot -- 107 and 40% humidity. But Lenette has a knack for getting things just right. The humidity blowers are not going full time now that the outside temperatures have dropped some. As a result, my favorite spot has moved from under the blowers, to anywhere under one of the moving fans.
Before class, Lenette told me that my left knee has been locking really well recently, and now I have to bring the same focus to my right knee. Then during class she showed me what she meant. I have a tendency to bend the right knee when I kick out in Standing Head to Knee, because I can't get my left lifted leg up straight. So I bend the knee some to compensate. She forced me to lock it, which makes the kicking out even harder. And in Standing Bow, I have a bit of the same problem. Lack of flexibility in the lifted leg is causing me to compromise some on the anchor.
Balancing series was average today. I made it all the way through on maybe one part in each pose. The rest of the standing series was also average, except for Triangle. I got a really good set up, and fell into the pose very naturally. There were some nice triangles within the Triangle, and I felt like I could hold it for a long time. On the down side, I didn't attempt Toe Stand. I can't say what it is that makes me try it sometimes and not others, but for now I'm trusting my instincts and staying on the safe side.
Floor series was good. Sometime in Cobra, I had a sort of revelatory change in attitude. Basically, out of nowhere, I decided that it was a privilege to be able to be in the room, and that I would do much better in class if I just came to each pose with the idea that it was an honor and a pleasure to be able to do this right now. Lately, I think I've been beating myself down some by focusing on the lack of breakthroughs, the effort and pain of the postures, and other negative things. And that's just so wrong, and ultimately could poison the whole practice. The reason I keep coming every day is not only because of the benefits I'm getting outside of class, but because at a deep level I really like doing this stuff. And since that's true at a deep level, I might as well bring that to the surface. Anyway, just being happy about doing the poses made the floor series much better.
Lenette recently came from a retreat in Minnesota where Emmy Cleaves (the amazing octagenarian yogi) and Rajahsheree (Bikram's wife and I've probably misspelled the name) taught. Emmy said that a practice will succeed if there are three elements: frequency, precision and intensity.
According to Lenette, anything from 3 times a week and up is enough to satisfy the frequency requirement. More is better, up to a point. And the more you do, the more important it is that you be precise. Because if the precision is not there, its easy to overdo things.
Precision, to my way of thinking, is probably the hardest thing to achieve and it may be the most important. It insures safety, and is the only way to guarantee progress. Also developing a habit of precision may be the quickest way of learning mental discipline and focus. Of the three elements she mentions, I think precision is the hardest, and its what can keep the 26 postures interesting for so long.
Intensity may be the easiest of these to achieve. My objection to this element is that it is so easy to be too intense. I think Emmy would probably answer that, with precision, you cannot be too intense. (Or conversely, if your practice becomes so intense that you lose control of your breath or your movements, then you have lost the necessary precision.)
Today, I was thinking about this as it relates to attitude. And I think its clear that a bad attitude infects and threatens all three of these elements. Beating myself up over lack of progress, or just focusing on unpleasant things could 1) make me come to class less often; 2) come out of poses early or tend to cheat either to relax or to give myself the illusion of going deeper than I'm able; and 3) take it easy from time to time, or push too hard to force a breakthrough for which I'm not ready. So, if possible, I'm going to try to get back to the attitude that I'm just happy to be here.