Friday, April 24, 2009


10:30 am with Lenette

Today I had the sort of punishing class that I anticipated yesterday.  I was pretty much wiped out by Standing Bow, and from that point on I was running mostly on determination and ego.  And yes, I know that we're supposed to kill ourselves, meaning to kill our egos.  But in a class like this, I get to certain points where there is an internal war:  part of me is screaming to just sit out, that it won't make any difference in the long run; and another part of me is saying shut up, I can do this.  Except the "I" in "I can do this" should be about seven or eight times as big as it appears on the page. 

Anyway, I made it somehow.  I only sat out a set of Triangle, although I probably should have taken more rest.  In the floor series, there were a couple of poses where Lenette prodded me to push harder.  In Camel she told me to push forward more with the hips, and somehow I did.  So again,  it looks like I was doing a pretty good job of hiding my struggle.  And it also shows that there really are more resources available even when I think I'm totally drained.

Again today, I had a really good balancing series.  Today, Standing Bow was the star.  I had good form, good depth, and held it for much longer than usual in each of the four sides.  And to top it off, I was in the back row today.  Usually, in the back row, I have a hard time finding my balance.  Today, it was fine.    Then, by Tree, I was so wiped out that I fell out a couple of times, and I never fall out of tree.

I'm wondering again what causes these killer classes.  I think I was hydrated enough, and I didn't feel thirsty.  It wasn't the heat, I don't think.  It was just that everything seemed harder than usual, and my stamina just wasn't there.  Perhaps I'm fighting off an illness.  Or maybe it was just a hard day.

The day 113 meditation is about the types of spiritual ignorance.  According to the Yoga Sutras, the ignorance arises from different mistakes that we make:  mistaking  the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure, and that which is not the self for the self.  The sutra packs an awful lot into very few words.

For example, mistaking pain for pleasure.  That pretty much sums up lots of bad habits that people fall into, from overeating, to wasting away beautiful days playing video games, to all sorts of minor addictions, etc...   Its also this sort of thing that leads athletes to overtraining injuries.  When I was riding my bike, I would look forward to the pain I might feel after a long, grueling ride.  It meant I was pushing myself harder, making things better, and it was a testament to my ability to endure.  Almost inevitably, this attitude would lead to a bigger breakdown of some sort, or to illness.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg on one of these four categories.

And now that I think about it, isn't that exactly what I was doing today.  I was taking some perverse sort of pleasure in being able to continue, and fighting through the poses.  So was I simply mistaking pain for pleasure here.  (And I admit that this is a weird kind of pleasure, because it was painful.  But again, I came out with the satisfaction that I endured it.)  I need to think on this some more, because I really don't know whether I should have sat out more or not on a day like today.

Gates doesn't go into detail about these four categories.  Instead, he draws an analogy.  Imagine we are in a dark room, and each of these kinds of mistakes is a hot stove in the room.  We keep blundering around, burning ourselves on the stoves.  And then we hear a voice to turn on the light.  The light is spiritual enlightenment.   

I basically like the analogy, but think that it must be incomplete.  To complete it, the room should not only have hot stoves, but other good things in it (storage containers, maybe?).  The good things are things that are permanent, pure, true pleasure, and the self.  We blunder around in the dark, drawn to the heat, and as a result, we get burned.   After getting burned a few times, we might stop blundering around, and become more or less paralyzed, afraid to touch anything since it might be a hot stove.   And then we start to hear the call to perhaps turn on the light and stop blundering.  That's how I might complete the analogy.  And I still think that there's something not quite right about it.  But I don't know what.


bikramyogachick said...

I don't know why, but reading your analogy suddenly reminded me of something I love to quote to myself when I fall victim to bad patterns. Unfortunately where I blunder around touching hot stoves is in the relationship category. But what popped into my mind was the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
Your blog, as always is very insightful.
And I think pushing yourself was fine, because if your body truly wasn't up to it, you would've hit a wall and been forced to sit down. When you can still hear the large "I can do this" in your head, well perhaps pushing through the pain is mental at that point. Usually if I'm falling apart physically I don't even have time for the big I struggle in my mind, I just collapse. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's very hard to know when you should take a knee, or sit down, or lie down. I am often considering this at about Triangle, thinking: "I'm wiped out. Am I really wiped out or just saying this to myself? No, I am past my edge; I need to regroup, take a knee. No you don't, your just being a baby."

When I am really practicing to my edge it's easy to get to where I feel I need to rest, especially if it's unusually hot. It's totally a battle in the mind.

Gates said earlier in the book you need to know when to go easy on yourself - how do you ever know for sure if you are being appropriately kind to yourself or just being a wimp? Or does this question not really have an answer?

Bosco said...

I don't know what happened, I am not good at this: the last Anonymous post was from Bosco.

Duffy Pratt said...

That's one definition of insanity. There's a behavioral science experiment that goes something like this. Hit the button on the left, and get a reward. Hit the one on the right, and get a shock. After some time, the rewards from the left button start to become random. Sometimes a reward, sometimes nothing.

When you present this to animals, they will quickly learn to hit the left button and to keep hitting the left button. It pays off, and doesn't deliver a shock. People are different. Once the rewards start becoming more random, people start hitting the right button from time to time to see if it will start paying off, since the left one isn't. I'm not sure if that's a different kind of insanity, or the same. But I think those things are fun to think about.

I don't think there is an answer to when you know if you are taking a legitimate break or being a wimp. Certainly BYC is right, that if you really push to hard you will hit a wall and you are done. And then there's my breathing test -- if you can't breathe through your nose, you are sitting out. Those are easy. But the weariness yesterday had little to do with my breath. I thought it was my mind. Then last night, and now, it turns out my joints are aching, so it was (and is) some low grade illness, and I'm taking today off.

And then, of course, one of the big challenges in Bikram is simply getting past that battle of the mind. And some days that works pretty well, and everything seems together and meditative, and other days when it just seems impossible to stop arguing with yourself. I think that's probably just part of the process.

crisitunity said...

I think the idea of the hot stove is to be still within yourself, to stop trying to find something in the darkness, and eventually the light will come on to guide your movements.

Duffy Pratt said...

I wonder about that idea of being still. If the stillness simply came within yourself, then OK. But one could also allow themselves to be paralyzed through fear of getting burned. In terms of the hot stove, both will stop you from touching them. But that's also where the analogy implodes, I guess, because as I read it, fear is one of the hot stoves. So maybe you are onto something. (And I am definitely confused.)