Tuesday, June 23, 2009

120/173 - Learning Poses

Monday 10:30 am with Janna

I've been on a roll with classes recently. I could feed off the momentum of having one good class after another. But no. Instead, before class a part of me always wonders whether this is going to be the class that ends the streak and kicks my ass. It wasn't.

Class after class, I've heard Amy say that she's been teaching for seven years and no-one has ever broken their elbow in Locust. Well, today I came close, and I have no idea how. Coming out of first set, I felt something pop in my right elbow, but it didn't feel too bad. Then, it started getting worse and worse.

By the end of class, it was a bit stiff and it felt almost exactly like it did when I had tennis elbow the summer between high school and college. I've heard before that yoga will make you work through your old injuries. I wonder if they meant it this literally.

In the day 172 meditation, Gates beautifully describes the internal process of learning and becoming comfortable with a pose. At first, you feel lost and totally separate from everyone else. And of course, you are certain the pose is impossible and that you will never get it. Gates says that the feeling of separateness is bolstered by seeing the people around you who do the posture so well. Maybe in some classes, but in a typical Bikram class, the beginners tend to have lots of company.

For example, I can't imagine feeling inadequate by looking at the typical class in Standing Head to Knee. First off, Lenette drove it into my head from the very start that yoga is not a spectator sport. If I'm watching anyone else, then already I'm doing something wrong. (Moreover, she says that its disrespectful to watch, and I tend to agree with her.) Even so, like anyone else, I can't help but notice others from time to time. And there are a few people from time to time who I find awe inspiring. But they are the exception more than the rule.

Over time, eventually we can drop the frustration and the judgment. And then we find ourselves falling into something that looks or feels more like the image of the pose, or of what the dialogue describes. (Often, at the start, those moments come with some nice praise from the teacher to reinforce the moment.) And in that moment, we might absorb something to remember about the pose, we might learn something about how to observe progress in ourselves, and if we are really lucky, we might start the development of new habits and begin a new connection with the pose.

The only other quibble I have with Gates' description here is he makes it sound a bit too linear. In his description, one day you get it, and then its internalized. And sometimes it works that ways. Other times, you get it, and then it seems to disappear for awhile, and then it comes back again. It would be really nice if I could simply get it, and then have some assurance that I would be able to keep it. But it doesn't seem to work that way.


bikramyogachick said...

One year into my practice, my left knee was KILLING me. Working through an old injury. It acted up during my 60 day challenge and by the end of hte challenge, my knee was stronger than it ever had been and it was no longer popping when I went up stairs (something I had been living with for years).
There is something to that....uncovering old injuries.

thedancingj said...

Yes, the "old injuries" thing is literal! What, you thought we were lying to you? ;-) "Muscle memory" is literal, too. It's stored in the really deep tissue layers. (The fascia, I think.) It's very interesting. A lot of these claims that sound sort of whimsical (inside out, bones to skin...) have a real physical basis.