Thursday, February 26, 2009

41/57 - Open Hands

Day off.

Today, Gates compares the clinging or hoarding that we engage in to keeping a clenched fist.  He suggests that, in our practice, we search for the fists that we are holding throughout our body and to open them up.  An open hand is ready to receive gifts.

It's easy to see the excess energy that we would waste by walking around all the time with fists clenched.  But there are people who do just that, or something similar.  My wife is constantly telling me to not "scrunch" my eyes.  It appears that I have a habit of holding tension there, and mostly, I am completely unaware of it.  I, on the other hand, tell her to stop squeezing her feet and toes.  Some people grind their teeth.

Yoga helps make us aware of all the ridiculous places we hold tension, and helps us to iron it out.  Just the first two exercises in Bikram are wonderful examples of this.  In Pranayama, gradually, over time, we learn to open up our chests and to let in the air.  On good days, I can feel my chest stretching, and get a delicious painful sensation between my ribs.  

And then in Half Moon, there is the whole issue of holding your arms straight over your heads.  So many people, myself included, have shoulders that are little more than perpetually clenched fists.  I'm really pleased with the progress I've made in the set-up in Half Moon.  And it is for me the easiest way to spot a newbie from a veteran.  For some reason, new students either can't straighten their arms, or they perhaps refuse to believe that that part of the pose is important. 

And then, the clenched fist stands as a pretty good metaphor for being bound by dogma, by prejudice, and by received ideas.  To let go of these ideas, to stop this kind of hoarding, we have to open up the ideas that we have clenched onto.  This mental tensions we cling to are probably deeper, and less obvious, than the mere physical ones.  And the real work is opening up each of these fists, perhaps one finger, or even one knuckle at a time. 

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