Tuesday, May 19, 2009

97/138 - Where Nothing Connects

Monday 8:15 pm with Rohit

Another remarkable class with Rohit.  Again, I felt like I worked harder than usual, and yet I had an easier time of it and the class basically flew by.  There were only nine people in class today, and he was asking us to talk back to him if we wanted, and to let him know before a pose if we wanted some extra help with it.  That sort of thing almost never happens in a Bikram class and it was a very nice change of pace.

I was having stomach issues, and even felt like leaving the room to throw up at one point.  I don't know for sure why, but I got over it.  It made for some especially uncomfortable moments in the forward bends, and then in the back strengthening series.

The backbends, however, felt great.  The first backbend may have been my deepest ever.  I then got a small correction in Camel, after which he said I was doing it just right.  He also said that I had a "great" Triangle.  I know that this is one of my better poses, but its really nice to hear it from time to time as well. 

One thing that I find interesting about his classes is that he seems to spend less time going through the rote of the set-ups for poses.  But, at the same time, he's very keen on emphasizing some detail that makes the pose that much harder.  For example, he really stressed making the legs as long as possible before ever trying to lift them in Locust.  This makes the pose harder, and it does an even better job at isolating the back muscles we're trying to get at.  

Similarly, he was keen on people rounding down tightly in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.  This one was kind of funny.  He had just finished explaining to people how they should keep their backs straight when going down in Balancing Stick.  Then, he starts talking about rounding down in the separate leg pose.  And I just started laughing, because I couldn't help wondering why he just didn't say:  "Just go down in this pose like you want to go down when you do balancing stick."  It's really odd, but people seem to naturally bend in the poses that demand a straight back (Half Tortoise, Final Stretch), and then go all straight in the compression poses.  I wonder why?

The Day 137 mediation talks about how asana practice integrates the mind and body.  The part that rings completely true to me is how we can go into class with a catalog of woes -- pain in the knee, stiffness in the butt, troubles with work, residual anger at the jerk who cut me off --, and then reach a point during class where all of that simply melts away and leaves a residual feeling of peace and well-being.  Gates says that that feeling of well-being comes from an enhanced sense of connectedness, which occurs as "the intelligence of our minds enters into and ancient dance with the intelligence of our bodies."  I think this is beautifully put, and its as good an explanation as any that I have seen for the seemingly special power yoga has to make people feel better.

The meditation begins with a quote from T.S. Eliot:  "Hell is the place where nothing connects."  In my early twenties, I came down with a really high fever that only lasted a short while.  It was the only time in my life where I was both delirious and have any recollection of the delirium.  And it was an extreme feeling of not being connected.  I remember having a kind of out of body experience, where I seemed to see myself from above. I remember firmly believing that I was in several different times at once (I don't even know how to explain that now, but it felt like it was true, then.)  I remember locking myself in the bathroom -- nevermind that the lock was on the inside and I could have opened it at any time.  I simply needed to lock myself in.  Why?  Because part of me was also certain that I could make the fever go away and be all better if I just stabbed myself and my parents to death.  Again, never mind that my parents were away on a trip.  In the state I was in, I was also convinced that I'd easily be able to get to them, except I had cleverly locked myself in the bathroom.  I was almost at the point where no idea or fact connected with anything else, where I had ceased to see any connection between even my mind and bod --, where nothing connects, as Eliot puts it.  And, yes, it was completely terrifying, and as close to Hell as I would ever like to encounter.



Bosco said...

Ouch! What a trip! It's a good thing you didn't go public with that experience, Duffy - we might have had you committed.

I have had only a few experiences ever where I felt completely isolated, alone, and disconnected. One was in a dream that I woke from, where I felt like I had transgressed beyond some boundary into a kind of irredeemable unforgiveable hell. I woke up feeling like there was no way back. I had no idea what I had done or anything that made any sense - I just woke up feelin absolutely scared to death. This was probably about 25 or 30 years ago.

Then back in 1989 I was at a Dead concert with a big group of Deadhead friends, at Cal Expo in Sacramento. I started to feel like I was drifting away during "Oh Mama, Can this really be the end, to be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again." Things just started getting dark and scary. At first I just allowed myself to get scared and then, finally, I told the girl next to me, Julie Imazumi, "I'm scared." I think she understood completely, and gave me a big hug. Then another in our group came over and did the same. This went on for about five minutes - everybody came and gave me a big hug. And of course that totally restored the sense of connection. Which indisputably establishes that hugs, even at a Dead concert, are better than drugs! It also made me wonder at the time: Are there people who feel that way all the time?

I love the T. S. Elliot quote and the concept that yoga is so powerful because it integrates and connects.

bikramyogachick said...

Duffy~ How scary to have had that experience. Perhaps you got a little glimpse into the suffering that truly insane people have to experience.
Like Bosco I have woken from a dream a few times before with complete and total fear. I was convinced something was true that was not and lived in fear that entire day. It was very odd, and yes, a feeling of being not-connected. Great post!

thedancingj said...

That is a scary story for sure!! I LOVE how you give these vivid descriptions of the extreme dark and light sides of the same idea. Makes me think of that line: "I myself am hell/ nobody's here." I think Lucifer says it in Paradise Lost, and it's also used in Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour", which is an awesome poem. I think maybe the most powerful experiences are always internal ones like this.

Duffy Pratt said...

Thanks all for the comments.

Never underestimate the power of a hug. I like that story very much.

Yes, I think that experience (or at least having blessed with remembering parts of it) has given me a peek into the horror of some forms of insanity.

I have never had that kind of fear dream. For a while, several years ago, I had a series of very funny dreams and sometimes literally woke up laughing. The one I best remember is the dream where I was showcased in Madonna's "White Guys Can't Dance" tour.

Finally, leave it to Milton to put the idea so succinctly.

Anonymous said...

Your title says it all. Where No-thing Connects... paradoxical.