Sunday, March 1, 2009

44/60 - Introducing the Niyamas

2:30 pm with Cisco

I haven't been to a Sunday class for a few weeks, in part because they have become so crowded, and partially because taking class means not eating until pretty late.  As I was on the way out the door for lunch, I suddenly decided that I would rather go to yoga today.  And I'm glad I did.  I haven't had a Cisco class in a long time, and they are always fun.

The room was crowded, with somewhere between 45 and 50 people.  And it started really cold, somewhere in the 80s I think.  But Cisco took control of that pretty well, and assured us that the heat was coming.  He said if we thought the room was too cold, we should just work a bit harder and build the heat from the inside.  I have thought that might pose a danger in overstretching, but I have enough faith in Cisco to try what he says.  And, indeed, it worked.

He hasn't seen me in a while, and was quite impressed with my grabbing both elbows and being so tight in the third part of wind removing pose.  This reminded me that, while I've been maybe a bit frustrated with day to day progress, in the bigger picture I have made lots and lots of progress.

After the final Savasana, he asked people not to drink until they were leaving the room  He says that refraining from drinking at the end will help detoxify the body.  And then he said: "It's not like I'm asking you not to drink through the whole class."  I had to laugh, because I had just made it through my fourth straight class with no water.  Today, I felt no need for it at all.  I didn't really work up a good sweat until about Standing Bow.  But all around, people are drinking for comfort, out of habit, simply to avoid something or other.  There's so little that you can cling to in the Bikram studio that water seems to take on extra importance for people.  And I know that, even without water, its pretty easy to invent all sorts of other attachments.
Who knows, in a few weeks or even days, I might go back to drinking regularly.  But for now, I'm really enjoying these "dry" classes.

Today, we get a cursory introduction to the Niyamas.  Like the Yamas, there are five of them:  Purity, Contentment, Zeal in Practice, Self-Study, and Devotion.  Once again, they don't come with a guidebook for their interpretation. 

There's one pretty obvious difference between the Yamas and the Niyamas.  The Yamas dealt not only with the self, but also with how we treat others.  The Niyamas are much more inward.  They deal with the self only.

Gates says that the Niyamas help sustain the changes that Yamas bring to us.  The yamas, he says, are the hardest part of the spiritual path.  They bring about change and help us to overcome fears.  The Niyamas will help make the changes last.  I like this idea.  I have had a history of becoming involved in something, getting very occupied with it, only to drop it after a year or maybe two.  I don't want that to happen with Yoga.  I'm approaching my one year anniversary, and still going strong.  But, in Yoga, a year is nothing.  I really want to be doing this in five, ten, even thirty or forty years.  And I don't want it to be just something that I come back to from time to time.  If the Niyamas can help sustain a steady practice, I'm all in favor of exploring them in depth.


Ellen Morrison said...

Your comments about using water as something to cling to in the Bikram room really resonated with me. I am pretty clear that, that's exactly what I do. It's the comfort that the little trickles of cold liquid afford me that I feel like I need and not the actual hydration. I really respect you for doing your waterless classes. I do try to limit my water to specific, strategic points in class - party time, just before we hit the floor, during set up for fixed firm, and then before & after the final savasana. Maybe one day I will start to eliminate these one by one until I don't need them as much. But for now the little bits of reprieve I have to look forward to really help me get through the class.

Duffy Pratt said...

You say the water is cold. As a first step, consider taking in a room temperature bottle. It will still be cooler than the room, at least through standing series. There are many, many people who come into the room with ice water, or just a frozen bottle. The funny thing is that it takes more energy to heat up the water before you absorb it, so drinking cold water actually saps you of a little bit of energy.

And yes, I know it feels great. But once the water is no longer so icy cool, it becomes a little bit easier to think about whether you need it, or just want it.