The third Niyama is "tapas" or zeal in practice. I think its a fitting one for today for two reasons. First, because I went to class tonight. My back still twinged a bit. The tenderness has localized to the lower right part, and its definitely muscular.
Gates talks about three pillars of his zeal in practice: gratitude, wonder, and respect. All three were in full force for me tonight. I went to class in part because I am grateful for what it has done for me over the past year. My experience has given me faith that the Bikram series is therapeutic, that the cure for slight injuries (even those caused by yoga) is more yoga.
Wonder applied tonight because I was very curious to see what sorts of limitations the back twinge would impose on me. (Forward bends with a straight back were the biggest problem. I had no trouble with the compression forward bends, or with any of the back bends. And, ironically, I had a really good back strengthening series.) Also, I wanted to find out what immediate effect the class would have. And as it turns out, I feel much, much better after class. Not quite at 100%, but close. So, again my faith in the therapeutic power of the series has paid off.
And I came to class with more of a feeling of respect than usual. I treated class as a kind of diagnostic session. I paid more attention than usual to how exactly I was feeling in every pose. And in particular, I was minding how the slight movements were registering, if at all, on the tender spot in my back. In addition, I was taking extra care with form tonight -- form above all. This respect for form comes from my faith that the poses, when done properly, will cure you, and that injuries are almost always the result of careless or bad form.
I went into class only with the goal of getting through it, and perhaps feeling better when leaving. And from that standpoint, it was a wonderful success.
Zeal in practice is particularly appropriate today because it turns out that today is the one year anniversary of my Bikram practice. I took my first class with Lenette a year ago today. I knew immediately that I had found the practice for me, so that part of it was amazingly easy. In the past year I've attended 267 classes at the Sugarland studio. On top of that, I had one class on Long Island, and seven classes during my Shanghai vacation last summer. That makes 275 classes in a year, or a batting average of .753
Emmy Cleaves says that the keys to progress are frequency, precision, and intensity. I think that's probably a pretty good definition of zeal in practice as well. At least when it comes to asana, I've got the frequency thing nailed down pretty well. I may not hit 275 classes again this year, but I'll probably end up in the ballpark. The intensity comes and goes, but if anything its an area where I go a bit too far. As for the precision, well that's still a work in progress (as I think it is for just about everyone).