Saturday, March 7, 2009

48/66 - Contentment

9:30 am with Amy

Class was a mixed bag.  It was hot, and I was deep in the hot side of class, all the way by the back mirrors.  And it was crowded, to the point where Amy had people hugging the walls so there could be a fourth row.

I started off pretty well, and things got better and better until about Camel.  Then I started feeling the heat and losing a bit of patience.   I tried to just soak the heat in and deal with it, sort of the "I'm lying on a nice beach on a sunny day." approach.  But it wasn't doing that much good today.  In the end, it didn't really hurt my practice:  I did a killer Camel and a pretty good Rabbit, and didn't bail out early on anything.  But I've felt better.

The root of the problem, I think, is very connected to today's meditation.  It introduces contentment as the second niyama.  Gates says that contentment is the choice to end our war with reality.  Most people I know would think that contentment or satisfaction was a state that happened to us.  So the idea that it is a practice is not easy to grasp at first.  Bikram has helped with that, being satisfied with a good effort even when there's no obvious sign of progress.  Being content to let sweat pour into my eyes, and just ignoring the slight sting, while holding still in Savasana.  As Lenette likes to put it:  getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. 

Here was my obstacle today:  standing in front of me was a guy who I've seen before but never watched at all.  In about 15 seconds, it was clear that his practice was really strong and disciplined.  He didn't move or blink between sets.  He had a perfectly calm expression on his face whenever I saw him.  And the problem came because I tried to match him.  The most obvious example was in Awkward pose, where we both went down and came up really slooooow.  My legs are still feeling it.  So, I was losing some focus by comparing myself to him.  And his practice was so disciplined that I lost some of my own contentment with my practice.  It became clear to me for the first time in a while how much further I could progress in this regard.  In the end, I think that's a good thing to know, but it was messing with me today.

Then, in Triangle, without warning and without changing that entirely stoic expression, he went down.  Twice.  I was really impressed.  His expressions did not reveal one bit of the difficulty he was in.  I would have been really impressed if he had totally rocked the class, moving from pose to pose effortlessly.  I was even more impressed that he kept up the seeming effortlessness until he couldn't do it anymore, and then without any hint of suffering, he sat out when it got too much for him.  I wanted to chat with him after class, but he bolted before I got a chance.

So, I think my obstacle today was that I let my observations of this guys excellent practice steal a bit of the contentment that I usually have.  As a result, I lost some of my focus, and I worked harder in a few poses than I ordinarily would.  Then it all caught up to me somewhere around Camel.


Ellen Morrison said...

Isn't it funny how the ego plays these little tricks? I find some days I also compare myself to others and, of course, it detracts from my practice.
But I would be impressed by the guy you describe as well. Letting go of the drama is one of the things I really need to work on

bikramyogachick said...

Even though you were distracted by him, it sounds like you learned by watching him. The competitive thing, well, it surfaces in the best of us. My friend Reggi has been practicing 6 months less than me and has absolutely gorgeous postures, she's a candidate for advanced and the teachers love pushing her. I really admire her, but then I also stop and admire myself because I know where I started....200 pounds and couldn't touch my toes or get my foot in my hand for standing bow or standing head to knee.
I love your post...because I learned something from that guy too. I don't think I've every kept my stoic yoga expression when I've been suffering. I'm pretty sure my face shows suffering! Thanks for sharing...