Monday 10:30 am with Bikram CD.
Lenette got rear-ended on her way to class this morning. She's fine. Her car may not be. So we had no teacher and got treated to the Bikram CD instead. It was fun, but I wouldn't want to make a steady diet of it. His tone was much kinder than I would have expected. I thought he would come across more like a drill sergeant. But his repetitive exhortations weren't loud -- nothing like Miranda's, for example. Instead, they were quietly insistent, and strangely musical. Also, there were a few points in the second set of things where I missed some cues. In the second set of Half Tortoise, I was the only one in class who heard the cue to exit the pose. The rest of the class stayed in the pose until he called for the Sit-Up following Savasana. Somehow, I don't think that would have happened if it had been Locust or Camel.
My postures were OK. I pulled something under my left shoulderblade in Saturday's classes, and it hampered the compression poses. But otherwise, I felt good. And there were times when I managed to pretend that Bikram (or the spirit of Bikram) was really pushing me. But overall, I think one of the main benefits of using the CD is that it shows how much interaction there really is between the teacher and the class, even when it sometimes seems like they are just following the dialogue. It turns out that they aren't, and that having a real person tell you to push harder actually helps.
Yesterday's meditation was on the power of prayer. Thankfully, Gates doesn't subscribe to the idea of prayer that Janis Joplin skewers so beautifully: "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz." I now think of that as being the Joel Osteen school. (If you are lucky enough to not know who Joel Osteen is, he is the preacher here in Houston who bought the Compaq Center, and has services with a congregation of 20,000. In his services, he basically talks about how God is gonna make you rich, and nothing else.)
Gates idea is that prayer is a form of surrender. It's a plea for help with our shortcomings. This simple act -- acknowledging where we fall short, and asking that "thy will be done", is enough to give us energy, to put us on the path toward redemption.
Gates takes a thoroughly non-denominational approach. He says it doesn't matter if you don't know who, or what, you are praying to. Because nobody else knows for sure either. Like other aspects of yoga, the proof of the power of prayer comes because it works. And he's not saying that it works in the Janis Joplin/Joel Osteen sense. It works in a more important way. By acknowledging where we are lacking, and asking sincerely for help in those areas, we put ourselves on the path toward that help. Like other spiritual aspects that Gates describes, this one is also purely practical.
In today's meditation, Gates talks about moderation as a path out of addiction. Basically, he says that addictive/intemperate behavior stems from a perceived emptiness. People turn to addictive behavior to try to make themselves whole. But the balance they are looking for can't be had from without.
On all of the above, I think he's basically right. What he doesn't acknowledge, even though I'm sure that he's aware of it, is that the addictive behavior does seem to make things better for awhile. For example, suppose someone takes to eating too much because they are dissatisfied with their love life. This has two effects: first, the excess eating feels good itself for awhile. Secondly, getting fat lets the person blame the unsatisfactory love life on something that's at least partially external: they aren't loved because of an accident (their being fat) and not because of something about themselves. The food provides temporary relief, and the fat provides an excuse. But in the end it doesn't work, and things just get worse and worse.
The second point that Gates makes is that moderation takes courage, but it is the path that works. Going back to the food problem: diets don't work because they basically substitute one form of obsession with another. Fad dieters become totally focused on their dieting. It consumes their lives. But the diet cannot be sustained long term. So when its done, the obsession with food remains (either too much, or none at all, or no fat, or no carbs).
The solution according to Gates is simple, but takes courage. If you are stuck in a hole, stop digging. With food, this means stop making food such a big deal. That's easy to say, but much less easy to do (or at least it has been for me). Here, the Bikram practice has truly helped: it put me more in touch with the sorts of things that I actually craved -- fruits for example, and who knew??? My body telling me what I want has changed my eating habits pretty radically, and my non-dieting through yoga and moderation has worked wonders that a bunch of diets could not.