Wednesday, July 8, 2009

134/187 - Purity on the Mat

Monday 10:30 am with Rohit

I got very little sleep and was a bit anxious going into class. But it turns out there was no reason for it. Class was a very nice balance between being relaxed and intense, and as a result it was energizing throughout.

The high point in class was Camel. Not because I did it especially well, but because I got a great assist from Rohit, just like the one that Lenette gave me a while back, with the towel wrapped under the back and helping to pull up on the chest. It really opened things up in my chest.

Rohit said something today that's both interesting and funny: the job of a yoga teacher is to be a therapeutic irritant. Just a few days ago, Amy was telling me that I was going to love a new teacher because she had a great sense of humor, and was a real hardass at the same time. And thinking about it, it seems that it's the quality Rohit is talking about that I really like and admire in a teacher. First, that its always clear that they have the student's best interest at heart. And second, that they find ways to motivate you to push boundaries.

The day 186 meditation is about purity on the mat. Gates talks about this largely in terms of preparation -- diet, sleep, managing stress, etc... I've had some experience with impurity in this context. Today, going to class on very little sleep. Or going to the 4:30 class after having some nice sausage pizza. I can definitely see the point here.

But I also wonder about the whole idea of changing other parts of your life in order to perform better on the mat. To a certain extent, it seems like the tail wagging the dog. Not that I haven't been tempted. I've thought about losing some extra weight through dieting just so I could do better in the forward bends. Then I decided against it, because I somehow feel that the weight should come off naturally if it is going to come off, from a change of attitude and not from will power.

Of course, if the changes are going to be good for you anyways, then by all means make the changes. An obvious example is the water I now drink. It's clear that drinking this much water is just a good thing, but its also pretty much necessary to keep up with the practice. But Gates also talks about not reading a good book late at night because it would interfere with practice, and here I'm not sure I agree. Sometimes the book will simply be worth it, and practice can suffer for a day.

There's another, simpler, aspect of purity that Gates doesn't even mention. In Bikram, its the constant laundry. It's keeping the mat odor free with tee tree oil. It's getting the tissues ready beforehand when I know I'm going to need to blow my nose. And I'm sure I'm missing some other parts. I tend to think that the practice of stillness between poses, of limiting water intake, and the other parts of Bikram "discipline" also relate to purity, but that may just be me.


Bosco said...

I think that to maintain purity for the mat the rest of your life needs to be in balance. Bad food, not enough sleep, too much work, inattention to family, will all put your karmic balance out of whack and the practice will suffer. Of course, the practice can then help restore the purity and balance - but I don't think it serves me well to make my yoga the slave of all my bad habits.

Duffy Pratt said...

I agree with you. My main point though is that you don't drop your bad habits because they will help you with certain poses. You drop them because they are bad habits.

thedancingj said...

True. However. I do think that if yoga class motivates you to drop bad habits, the changes themselves matter more than the motivation behind them. Cause maybe you DO drop a bad habit because you want to improve your poses, but then once it's gone, you notice how much better you feel, so the end result is the same.

Like the guys who start coming to class just to look at the pretty girls... I say HEY, as long as they're not creepy about it, that's all good! Just get in the yoga room, it doesn't matter why!!

Of course, (just to muddle things further,) I'd also ask whether it even makes SENSE to draw a distinction between the yoga that you do in "yoga class" and the yoga that you do 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Yoga is not just on your mat... so how can you talk about "preparing" for yoga, as if there is some time when you're doing it and some time other when you're NOT? Aha... tricky...