Wednesday, January 14, 2009

10/14 The Importance of Rest

10:30 with Lenette

I pushed really hard today, and I'm feeling it a bit now.  Every once in a while I get a tender feeling in my hip which screams at me to back off or face some more sciatic pain.  So, I need to be a bit more careful about my limits tomorrow.

Lenettes classes are always fun.  Today she was talking about laughter and being silly.  She mentioned a "lecture" by an accomplished yogi from India where the yogi did nothing but tell jokes and get everyone laughing.  The jokes didn't have deep spiritual meaning.  That meaning came through the laughter itself  -- when we are genuinely laughing, we also tend to be more completely present.  Laughter involves an inherent union between mind and body, and thus its a particularly good gateway to yoga.

Having said that, if there are a few laughs in class, it definitely makes the time pass better.  It also seems to make it easier to focus when in the postures.  The laughter acts as a break, a respite, from the serious work of the poses.

And that leads to today's passage.  Gate's talks about the importance of rest on a purely practical level.  If you are having a tough time, take a knee.  Think of that rest as part of the practice.  There's nothing wrong with sitting out when you need to.

I don't think Bikram practitioners have any problem with this.  Yes, there are times when I push too hard and don't sit out a pose when I probably should.  But the rule I've been following is that I must sit out if I can't control my breath.  That rule has been working pretty well for me.

Also, Bikram builds rest into the practice itself.  At the beginning, Lenette was pretty fond of saying that the Savasanas on the floor, between each pose, were one of the things that set Bikram apart.  Unlike other forms of yoga, Bikram's series builds active rest right into the program.

Gates also talks about resting during a pose.  He says if you are pushing too hard and get overwhelmed in the pose, then simply back off some, hang out, and then push it again.  On its face, this seems contrary to Bikram practice.  In Bikram, as I understand it, you are either in or out.  There are no half measures.  Being in means pushing as hard as you can while still keeping control of your breath.  Out means taking a knee, or going into Savasana.

I'm thinking that the difference may stem from Bikram poses not being held that long.  In Sivanandra classes, we held the seated forward stretch for as long as five minutes.  In Bikram, that would be several eternities.  When the pose is held that long, perhaps it makes sense to find a way to rest in the pose, and then to increase the intensity.

Another possible difference is that Bikram does two sets of each pose.  Thus, in the series itself, there is already the idea that we will ease up on the pose, and then try to go deeper again in the second set.  In this way, what Bikram has us do looks similar to Gate's idea of resting.  Except we don't rest in the pose itself.  Instead we rinse and repeat.

The practical question I have about this is whether people in Gates' classes regularly go so deep in poses that they lose control of their breath.  So long as breath in in control, I don't understand why there would be a need to rest in the pose.  I think, on this point, I must be missing something.

And without further explanation, I'm going to stick with my teachers' advice: in or out, no compromising in the pose.  Then rest during the rest times.  Perhaps when/if I try another school of yoga, I will be able to see more clearly what Gates means here.

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