I love the early morning classes, enough so that I wonder why I find it hard to drag myself to them. I go in tired, with an empty head, and with extra tightness through my hamstrings, in my lower back and across my shoulder blades. And then somehow, 90 minutes later I feel alert, awake, full of energy, and the creakiness has, if not disappeared, at least been beaten back for another day.
Actually, I know full well one of the reasons I find it hard to get to these classes. I also love the feeling of stealing a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning. It's such a luxury, on days when its possible, to spend that little extra time in that area somewhere between being asleep and being awake. I've always liked anything that makes time seem to vanish -- and this nether state early in the mornings is one of the easiest and most reliable ways for me to find that feeling.
Even though I love the early morning classes, this class was a bit tough for me. Janna takes her time in the standing series. Today it took almost an hour, which is 10-15 minutes longer than most other teachers. And it doesn't take longer because she's talking alot between postures. I think the postures are just longer. And some of the set-ups.
For example, it felt like we held the lunges preparing to go into Triangle for over a minute (I don't know how long it actually was). So my thighs and arms were not happy with me, and I was too looking forward to just getting into the posture. I actually think the set-up for triangle is harder to do than the pose, and its not the first time I've gotten impatient while a teacher corrects a persons leg angle again, and again, and again.
The next part of the difficulty in Janna's class comes toward the end. To make up for the extra time spent in standing series, she seems to skimp on the savasanas. Again, I'm not sure I'm right about this, but its what it feels like. This throws off my stamina more than it should. I was having a very hard time of it in Camel, and came out of the second set early, which I don't think I've ever done before. And it was because I was having trouble breathing. And I think that came from having shorter savasanas than usual.
Now here's the thing. I already knew all this about Janna's class. So the question is: why does it still bother me? I feel really good after her classes, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on any of the poses. It's just that they present a different sort of challenge, and they defy my expectation. But even that's not right, because by now I expect them to defy my ordinary expectation. So what it comes down to, I think, is my ego. I like having the stamina to get through everything. It makes me feel good about myself. And I haven't quite gotten past saying to myself that a class was a bad class because I sat out X, or came out of Y early.
The day 154 meditation is about learning. It starts with a quote that insists that man is a learning animal. (The guy who said that didn't know some of the animals I went to school with.) Gates talks about learning through asana practice. First, it presents the truth to ourselves. I've found this to be true on so many levels. Every day is different, and the best way to make progress is to try to tune into those differences, accept them, and push to the limit that presents itself for you for that day. That process on its own, involves continual learning. Certainly, after only 14 months, I can't say that I've gotten even close to having mastered it.
Gates talks about another aspect of learning, by exploring different styles of yoga. I don't have much experience with this, and I haven't been doing Bikram for long enough that I really feel the need. I did get to try Ashtanga when I was in Shanghai last year, and I enjoyed it. I was pretty surprised at the differences. And I've tried the advanced series a couple of times. Doing that really had one of the great benefits that Gates mentioned: it made me feel like an absolute beginner all over again.
And that I think is the point. We are most receptive to learning when we can adopt the attitude of a complete novice. That means dropping expectations, and truly watching and listening with an open heart and an open mind. And that leads me to one last observation: one of things I find I'm learning in yoga is that it is essential to learn the same lessons over and over again.