Thursday, May 14, 2009

94/133 -- Enjoying Fruits

Wednesday 8:15 with Rohit

I've seen Rohit a couple of times in studio before.  He and his wife both teach.  They come from Jacksonville, but apparently like to visit the Houston area for extended periods and have taught here before.  Amy told me that she simply assigns time blocks to them, and it doesn't matter to her who does the teaching.

Rohit comes from Queens.  I know because he said he was a Met fan, while complaining about the Yankee logo on one girl's shorts, and then said he grew up under the shadow of Shea Stadium.  It's hard for me to guess his age.  He could be anywhere from 15 years younger than me to a few years older.   He's been doing Bikram for quite a while, and I heard that he got his teacher certification in Bikram's first teacher training.  The yoga background makes me guess that he's probably older than he looks to me, but who knows.  Finally, Rohit is a sanskrit name and he picked it up while living on an ashram. 

I always like taking classes from new teachers.  But even so, last night's class was special.  First, the dialogue was different.  He didn't follow what I've grown used to as Bikram dialogue.  Instead, I had the feeling that there was a true dialogue going on, and he was giving instructions on an "as needed" basis.  I knew I was going to have to adjust to this when, in Eagle, I was waiting for him to tell us to sit down.  He didn't, but everyone else in the class did the squat and crossed their legs.  After a while, it finally dawned on me that we had gone past those instructions, and I really needed to get into the pose.  This may sound like a bad thing, but it wasn't.  It simply meant that I had to co-operate in what was going on, and just that brought a new sort of energy to the class.  I was still following what he was saying, but going on autopilot was out of the question.

Next, he had perhaps the gentlest teaching style I've ever encountered.  From half-moon on, he stressed that we should give full effort and intensity, but that we should never struggle.  As he explained it, struggling actually decreases the ability to give full effort, because struggling almost inevitably misdirects energy.  I had never thought about it that way before, but I think he has a point.  

Another example of the gentleness were some of the new things I heard in the dialogue.  A few times, in the midst of the sort of instructions we hear all the time ("solid, concrete, lampost" or "pull on your heels") he would say something like "Turn up the corners of your mouth."  Said that way, it sounds like a posture instruction, when he's really just saying smile.  The cool thing was that this backward way of saying smile actually made me smile and chuckle a bit.

He was also a hands on instructor, even more so than Miranda.  I got hands on corrections in Balancing Stick, Wind Relieving, and Half Tortoise.  I've always liked this and wish more teachers would dare to do it.  

And I learned some things in class.  In each sit up, he would give us one new thing to concentrate on -- heels on the floor, then ankles flexed, then keeping arms glued to the ears, etc...  Doing this one step at a time gave me a clearer idea of how the sit-up should feel than I've had before.

Finally, despite his gentle approach, I think he got more out of me than I've given in class for quite awhile.  I've got that "opening" feeling in several new areas, especially in my hips, shoulders and across my upper back.  I haven't had such a pervasive, good feeling of soreness since the first couple of months when I started.  I'm not sure why.  

There must be something about Rohit's motivational style that creeps up.  In the middle of class, I would not have said that I was working especially hard.  I never felt wiped out at all.  Quite the opposite, I felt alert and energized throughout.  Only afterward did I realize how fully I had pushed myself.

The day 132 meditation is about kama, which is enjoying the fruits of your labors.   Gates identifies kama with gratitude, at least for him, and he says that it is his starting point.  Here, I'm definitely confused.  I have no quarrel with the importance of gratitude.  But enjoying the fruits of your labors is, by definition, an end.  You labor, you get your fruits, and then you enjoy them.

But it looks like that may be a false model.  Or perhaps there's something lost in the translation.  Maybe gratitude can be both the starting point, and the fruit.  When you've done something hard, and done it well, it certainly makes sense to me that you would both simultaneously enjoy the benefits of what you've done and show gratitude.  A perfect, and simple example for this, I think, is just saying grace before eating.  Gratitude enhances the meal.  

And on another note, I found the same thing to be helping by expressing my thanks after the standing series.  My gratitude for what I've done helps me to enjoy the rest of the class, and it seems to help with the floor series.  Thus, this expression of gratitude is both a starting point, and an end.  Ultimately, I think what Gates may be trying to say is that the point of kama is the enjoyment of the fruits of your labor, and that joy and gratitude are intrinsically intertwined.


Bosco said...

What a great class you had! I love the idea of full intensity and effort without struggle, which misdirects energy. That intuitively sounds exactly right to me, I think because struggle is a mental battle, not a physical one, and what we are seeking is to empty our heads. I will definitely keep this concept in my playbook.

Yesterday's class (with Jessica, who is getting quite passionate about Bikram yoga) just about did me in - lots of struggle! I think it was the humidity. By Awkward I was dripping, dripping, and noticed that others near me were just beginning to perspire. I think we Pratts have inherited from our wonderful Dad a great talent for sweating. Anyway, by Triangle I had to sit out a set, and then I sat our another set in the next posture. (As we discussed a while ago, it's hard to know whether the rests were "justified" or not.) The rest of the class went well, however, with about my best Toe Stand ever and then a good energetic floor series. For whatever reason, despite the rests, the sense of joy in my body and well-being after this class was over the top. I was on Cloud Nine. So I really am learning better that I don't need to be attached to how "well" I do the practice, ie., that I don't need to be attached to results.


I also thought Gates' discussion of kama was a bit cursory and cryptic. But what I think I take from it is that to enjoy the fruits of your efforts - your dharma and artha - you must have gratitude. This makes sense to me. Gratitude is fundamentally embracing what is, which requires, I think, giving up all resistance to what is and all attachment to what is. It is the transcendent perspective that "there is nothing wrong here; all is good here; I am grateful to be here."

hannahjustbreathe said...

Ohhh, I'm so jealous, Duffy. Your class with Rohit sounds incredible.

We had visiting instructors constantly coming through the studio I practiced at in Washington, DC. I always made sure to check the schedule at the beginning of the week to see who was teaching when so I could try to mix things mix and plan my practice schedule accordingly. I totally agree with you---that working with teachers whose styles you aren't familiar with can markedly change and improve and challenge your practice. Also, you find some teachers stick more to the set dialogue while others veer away from it---and you can learn tremendous amounts by either approach. (Personally, I like the teacher who gives me about 75 percent dialogue and 25 percent interpretation.)

And yes, why don't more teachers get off that damn podium and help with corrections?! My teachers in DC roamed the studio, constantly helping people and making adjustments. My teachers in Boston seriously don't leave the podium except to open doors and check the temperature gauge.

Although I've learned to appreciate (and even adore) several teachers at my Boston studio, I miss having the opportunity to come to a random class every now and then and practice with a visiting teacher who I know I'll probably never see again. In those classes, I'm like a new Bikram student all over again---which is an oh-so-rare feeling when you practice as much as we do.

Duffy Pratt said...


Great point about struggle being mental.

Sometimes I wonder whether that feeling of well being comes despite the rests or because of them. I'm basically thinking that a well earned rest is pretty good evidence that you are pushing to an edge. And I think it may be going to the edge, of stamna, flexibility, strength, or all three, that brings the afterglow.

I will also note that not too long ago you couldn't even imagine doing toe stand, much less having a good set.

Duffy Pratt said...


The plus side of having a regular rotation of teachers is that it means your studio is probably very well established. I love having the variety we do, but I think it must be very trying on Amy (our studio owner). She's constantly juggling schedules and looking for new teachers because of the vagabond quality that seems to go together with many of the best Bikram teachers.

She does a great job of finding wonderful teachers, and I'm very grateful for it. Why don't you ask your studio owner both about having visitors from time to time, and about why so many instructors stick to the podium?

We have some teachers who move around. But almost none of them have dared to touch students with the corrections. I think that takes much more experience and confidence. I've heard that Bikram strongly discourages it -- certainly for new trainees. And it's too bad, because sometimes all the words in the world don't seem to get through my thick head, but a slight nudge can work wonders.