Thursday, February 12, 2009

31/43 Karma and De-aging

Wednesday Off
Thursday 10:30 am with Danielle

I took yesterday off in keeping with Gate's idea that sometimes we should take off when we want to go.  The other half of that I have down pretty well:  I don't have much problem forcing myself to go when I don't want to.  So for the day yesterday, I just felt good.

This morning's class was very good and strong.  I got all the way down in Fixed Firm, in both sets.  It's funny, but that pose is the one where I change the most, either for better or worse.  I've had stretches, like now, where I can go all the way down.  But if I hurt something, then I basically lose everything in that pose.  Other poses aren't like that.   For weeks, and even months at a time now, my Half Tortoise, or my Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee poses are pretty much the same, or at least they vary in a much smaller range.

Yesterday's meditation introduced the idea of karma, and connected it with the idea of moderation.  Karma is basically the idea that good and bad acts perpetuate their own rewards.  From the standpoint of moderation, this means that eating too much, or drinking too much, or giving in to an addiction, brings its own punishment.  On the flip side I suppose, being generous, kind or loving makes your world a better place and brings its own reward.  In this view, this idea is not so much a law of destiny, but more connected to a person's inner workings.

Today's meditation talks about how yoga stips away our age by giving us back a younger body.  First, Gates talks about how he recently decided to be more moderate about food, lost some weight in the process, and how this has had a big impact on his practice and made him feel younger.  It's tremendously encouraging to learn that someone as advanced as Gates can still undergo this sort of radical transformation.  In the last year, I've literally peeled off a few layers myself (over 40lbs worth).  And I've been basically in a holding pattern now for about 4-5 months.  So its great to get an assurance that its possible to break out of this holding pattern, if I start to focus a bit more.

The de-aging process, from a physical standpoint, is one of the first things that people seem to notice.  It can be something as simple as not having to push youself out of a chair with your arms, which is one of the first things that happened with me.  Or, being able to dry your feet comfortably after showering, which is something my sister noticed after her first week.  The feeling of fitting better in your own body has an almost magical effect, both on the body and mind.

There's a side to this that Gates mentions that I have not yet encountered.  He says basically that some of our physical defects are actually put in place as defense mechanisms, as a kind of armor.  I mentioned a similar idea the other day about obesity.  If you are obese, then you can take refuge in the idea that you are unloved because you are fat (which is an accident), and not because you are essentially a bad person.  Yoga, by correcting the physical defects, may make a person confront emotional issues that they buried in their bodies.  Thus, Gates says that the de-aging process of yoga can actually force people to confront some of the turmoils of their youth and adolescence.  

I see his point.  But he says that he had understood this intellectually before, but just recently got hit with the revelation on a visceral level.  I haven't experienced anything like this yet, so my understanding is at best just intellectual.  But it's a very interesting idea.  I've heard reports of all sorts of emotional breakdowns happening at teacher training.  I've had strange ideas pop into my head, especially doing backbends.  But no breakdowns so far.

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