Tuesday, March 3, 2009

46/62 Purity

8:15 pm with Amy

My streak of totally upbeat classes ended tonight.  It was still a good class, but it was hard.  I had originally planned on taking the day off, but then something came up which makes it look like I won't be able to go tomorrow.  And I can't skip two days in a row.  Sometimes taking a class out of the blue leads to a great experience.  Today, it led to a trial.  My stamina was off for some reason, and I ended up sitting out a set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.  Then, in floor series, I got cramps in my middle back in Full Locust, and had to sit out a set of Floor Bow.   I tried to get into it, but I immediately cramped.

Then later, I came out early in Rabbit, both sets.  I've been shortchanging Rabbit recently, and I think I need to really focus on staying with it for a few classes.  I've gotten into it with good form, and I do OK while I'm in it.  And then I simply can't breathe properly, and I come out.  Rabbit does to me what other people say they experience in Camel -- dizziness, lightheadedness, white and black spots at the corner of my vision, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed.  But I can stick with it if I simply focus enough.  Tonight, the lack of concentration won out.

On the good side:  my balance was pretty good today.  I made it through a full minute of Standing Leg Head to Knee with kicking out.  I even made some sort of effort to lower my elbows.  Or I should say I tried, I didn't notice them actually going anywhere.  But the intent was there, and I was trying to find the muscles that would accomplish the task.  So that's worth something.

Then, in Standing Bow, Amy complimented my alignment.  Of course, the compliment so flabbergasted me that I immediately fell out.  And I nearly held the full duration in 3 of the 4 sides, and actually made it all the way on one of those.  As so often happens, the good first two poses led to a horrendous Balancing Stick.  It always seems to work that way for me:  I do the opposite in Balancing Stick again and again.

The first Niyama is purity.  And purity means, first and foremost, cleanliness.  In another tradition, the idea I suppose is that "cleanliness is next to godliness."  Here, I think the realization is that the way we keep our appearance and our immediate environment will have a direct effect on how we live.  This is definitely an area where I could use some work.  Anyone who has seen the water bottles on the floor of my car would know that.  (At least they are no longer Diet Coke bottles).

One interesting point that Gates makes is that asanas and pranayama are both aspects of purity.  This means, in one sense, that two full parts of the sevenfuld path could be seen as subsumed under a single Niyama.   What it really means is that the different parts of the sevenfold path are actually closely interrelated, which is why progress can occur on all parts at the same time.

In our classes, we are constantly being reminded of the detoxification that comes through the postures and the breathing exercises.  On top of that, the practice leads to balancing of internal functions -- witness my no longer having heartburn, or needing blood pressure or triglyceride meds.  So the purification aspects of the asanas is abundantly clear to me.

On the mental/spiritual side, Gates equates purity to love and compassion, and then to gratitude.  I don't quite see the connection.  I would have thought that purity did not address the nature of an idea or emotion so much as it did the quality of the ideas.  In one sense, pure means unalloyed, untempered.  In this sense, I would have thought that purity equates to something like simplicity.  Again I'm reminded of Flaubert's story A Simple Heart, where the servant woman might have been a simpleton or a saint, because she was so without guile and pure of heart. 

Gates also recommends a daily exercise that strikes me as a fantastic idea.  He says to list five things you are grateful for.  I won't do it everyday (I don't think).  But here is my shot for tonight:

1) I'm grateful for the peaceful sound of my wife's snoring at my side as I type this.
2) I'm grateful for having discovered Bikram yoga and having been able to heal myself with it
3) I'm grateful for the astonishing crimson sunset that flared through the sky this evening
4) I'm grateful for the nearly constant presence of music, and the joy that it brings, in our house
5) I'm grateful for my parents, who are still amazingly young, and who are still an inspiration to me and to most people who know them

I haven't asked questions on this blog before, partly because I'm afraid it would simply expose me as  a voice crying out in the wilderness, but this exercise does bed a question:  What are you all grateful for?


Ellen Morrison said...

1) I am grateful that I am working toward my life's purpose.
2) I am grateful for my amazing body & my incredible mind and for the opportunities I have each day to stretch both every day.
3) I am grateful for my lovely home and harmonious living situation - I am so fortunate to live in such a beautiful and inspiring place.
4) I am extremely grateful for my family and friends, each of whom mean the absolute world to me.
5) I am grateful for my silly dog, Buddha, who loves so unconditionally and reminds me each day to live in the moment.

Duffy Pratt said...

It's funny, I didn't even mention my dogs, and I dote on them. One thing that I think is interesting about this exercise is that, at first we will pick on the big things, and that's both natural and right. But by keeping it up, and trying to avoid repetition, you can start to delve into the details, the small things that you are grateful for. The you start to see how much there really is to be grateful for, and how rich your world is. In turn, your world will begin to open up, "like a flower petal blooming." (And that's likely to happen with me before my chest really opens up in Half Moon.)

Ellen Morrison said...

I had to put one of my dogs down about 6 months ago. I think that, that is the reason not a day goes by when I am not consciously grateful for the one I still have. I'm reminded by the presence of the one who remains of the love I had for the one who's gone. And I'm reminded by the absence of my older dog that my younger dog will not be with me forever.