Thursday, May 14, 2009

93/132 - Physical balance

Tuesday 8:15 with Amy

I've been on something of a roll with Amy's classes, and last night's was no exception.  It was another solid class.  My focus was good.  I didn't quite keep the same concentration on breath as I had on Monday, and as a result class was not quite as satisfying.

Balance was good again, especially Standing Bow.  And I had another really good back strengthening series.  Once again, I pushed really hard in Locust and came near the point of cramping in my upper back.  I'm just beginning to get the idea of what it might mean to really push up with the shoulders in this pose.   To date, I had been rolling forward, pushing down on my arms and arching my back, but it never really clicked for me what it meant to push with the shoulders.  I'm still not sure I've got it, but I began to get a glimmer of some new possibility for movement.  It's amazing to me how you reach a new place in these poses, and they suddenly offer up new wrinkles that you had no awareness of at all before.

The day 131 meditation is about the second goal in life, artha, or balance in the external life.  In the U.S., of course, we tend to equate prosperity with wealth.  That leads to an extraordinary emphasis on making money.  (In economics classes, for example, students are told again and again that the rational actor engages only in wealth maximization.)  Wealth is a component of artha, but only a component.  It also involves family, friends, work, etc...   

The balance to strive for is between abundance and peace.  I like this idea very much.  Too much focus on abundance is likely to corrupt a person into thinking that stuff is everything.  But complete neglect of abundance is also, for most everyone, a recipe for disaster.  Peace requires the fulfillment of some minimum needs, and perhaps a bit more.  There's a Dickens quote that I can't quite remember, but the idea is that someone who makes 10 lbs a year and spends 9 will be happy, while someone who make 10,000 lbs a year and spends 11,000 ends up a wretch.

Finally, this yoga goal seems, like some others, to have a paradoxical flavor to it.  Gates stresses that the point of artha is for your outward and inward life to fit together.  Thus, the point is to have your outward life fit comfortably with yourself.  When it fits, its not something that you should be working hard at.  It should flow naturally.  Thus the goal seems to be more of a byproduct of living correctly, instead of something specific that you work toward.


Bosco said...

As Gates has been describing the four aims of life, and is now discussing their relationship to the eight limbs of yoga, I am increasingly struck by what an elaborate system of thought is embraced in yoga.
By contrast, when I am practicing the asanas I am lucky if I can maintain just one thought (eg., "breathe") for a full 90 minutes! I don't know that this means anything in particular, but I am struck by the contrast.

By the way, yesterday was my one year anniversary of practicing Bikram yoga, and I celebrated by doing my
154th class.

Duffy Pratt said...

Imagine you are talking to someone who has never gone skiing. You simultaneously try to explain to him how to ski down a steep slope through fresh powder, and what it feels like when you are doing it well. It might strike you then what an elaborate system of thought is entailed in skiing powder.

And when you are learning, and trying to put it together, it can seem amazingly complicated. With practice, however, it becomes one of the simplest things in the world, and a pure joy. The same, I think, probably goes for yoga -- except it applies to all of life (including powder runs). That's why it's so important that we approach yoga as a practice.

Congrats on the year anniversary. It's hard to believe that its gone by so fast. 154 classes is pretty impressive. When you factor in your various trips -- Europe, Haiti, Bear Creek, etc... -- you are probably averaging close to four classes a week. Good stuff.

thedancingj said...

Random posture comment - that SAME exact thing happened to me in locust like a week ago. Those upper back muscles are SO damn elusive. I've gotten them and lost them again a few times before. But this was a REALLY good one, shoulders legitimately touching the floor. Upper back muscles worked like CRAZY, then got tired super fast cause they'd never worked like that before! Good times. I always am picturing the full expression of that pose - legs ALL the way up - that is the carrot that I am dangling in front of myself, thinking "someday, someday..." :)

Duffy Pratt said...

Almost every time I go into locust, I think of the picture of Mary Jarvis on her website (and as her facebook avatar). That's what I want to look like, and I didn't even break my back.

With my new discovery in locust, I've also found a whole new line of muscles that want to cramp up. And it's not just in class now.