Another amazing class with Sherie. Amy really needs to everything she can to get Sherie to stay (and I know that's probably impossible since she wants to go the Phillipines). I probably laughed more in class than I ever have before in a Bikram class. I can't remember all the reasons I laughed. It was just a happy, high energy, class. And Sherie deserves alot of the credit for that.
In Half Moon, she told me to calm down my breathing. I always breathe through my nose, and I had thought that that was basically enough of a check on my effort. Apparently not. I can take really big, strained breaths through my nose, and I tend to do this both in Half Moon and Awkward. This one small warning took back the effort level in the class just a bit, and it made everything better. By not pushing quite so hard, I think I actually went deeper in some of the poses than usual. (Later on, after one of the Full Locust sets, she said "Yes, I can hear you Duffy." That served as another caution, and also cracked me up.)
She was having a hard time getting one student to follow with the dialogue. So she asked the student if she was Japanese, and then started giving the student a fairly lengthy correction in Japanese. Later to test whether we were paying attention, she would sometimes pause in the dialogue and see who would move on to the next step simply on auto-pilot. It was nice to have someone put a real premium on actually listening. ("If you don't listen, you will never learn.")
Later, in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, she gave a correction in Japanese again, and then said "I know how to say forehead to knee in eight languages, because no matter what language you try, people still don't listen." The eight languages actually shows that she's taken full advantage of the bohemian lifestyle that a younger Bikram teacher can have, especially one that is any good.
I learned some more about the set-up to Triangle today. First she had us lean back a little bit after the lunging leg hit its ninety degree angle. Then she had us look back along the arm away from the forward leg, basically getting the chin into position before moving the arms. From there, it was a matter of simply moving the arms. In first set, I had a little problem with balance using this set up. In second set, I followed the dialogue exactly, and got a great compliment on my form. So I sneaked a peek, and the line from foot through hip through the head was perfectly straight, without any little notch at the hip. It felt better, and the twist in the spine was a bit more evident. Just a few weeks ago, I would have said this was one of my best poses (and I would have been right), so I'm pretty dumbfounded at how easy it was to make a fairly radical improvement.
Today's meditation (Day 111) introduces the five afflictions, and says that he will now take up these afflictions one at a time before proceeding to the Asanas. The first time I read the book, I was really anxious to get to the Asanas (which seem like the most immediate and obvious manifestations of my yoga practice), and was thus a little bit disappointed by this "detour." This time around, I'm very curious about what he has to say. (Is my poor memory about stuff like this a good thing? because it shows that I'm living in the present?)
The afflictions are: ignorance, pride/ego, desire, aversion, and fear of death. Gates says that fear lies at the root of each of the afflictions. I'm not convinced. First off, one of the afflictions specifically invokes fear. But if fear causes all the afflictions, then why single out one sort of fear? Then, it seems to me that aversion may be a bad reaction to fear. But that doesn't mean that fear is the root of the aversion. So I wonder whether its possible to experience fear without aversion, and if so, is the fear such a bad thing? It seems to me that fear, tempered with moderation and honesty, could lead to a healthy sort of respect. Of course, its possible to say that that's not fear at all. So I'm very curious what Gates will have to say about these things.
Finally, Gates says something about asana practice that really rang true for me today. He says to check at the end of practice and see "if you do not feel more at home in your body, more at home in your life, more at home in your spirit." We've just started a remodeling project. Today, the subcontractors put in 10 new custom windows into our sunroom. Otherwise the room is a gutted wreck. My wife said she didn't like the windows and was very disappointed in what was happening. Going into class, this problem was causing me much anxiety. Changing the windows would involve a several week delay, and a pretty stiff additional cost. It would create some tension with the contractor, which is not a good idea at the outset of the project. And I had doubts about how much of a difference getting slightly bigger windows would make.
So going into practice, this was bothering me -- the options, all seemingly bad, running again and again through my head. By the first forward bend, I had completely knocked any thought of this out of my mind. And the whole problem didn't enter my head again throughout the class. That's not that big a surprise. After class, however, the answer seemed clear. The windows just didn't matter that much to me, and whatever my wife wanted to do with them -- whatever was going to make her happy -- that was just fine. I probably would have reluctantly arrived at that point anyways. The yoga class, however, snapped the priorities into place with no struggle. The problem, going into class, simply was not a problem coming out of it. And I think Gates explanation that I was simply more at home with myself is as good as any. And, for me, that's part of the true miracle of asana practice.