Saturday 9:30 a.m. with Connease
I'm not going to go into much detail about either Friday or Saturday's class. It's enough to say that they were much like other classes in the last week of the challenge. I went into both of them feeling a bit weary, and not really stoked for another yoga session. I thought I might just sit down much, if not all of the classes. I missed one set of Triangle in Rohit's class, and nothing in Connease's. My knee is feeling much better, and I might start doing Toe Stand again soon. Otherwise, the classes were pretty typical and unmemorable.
On Thursday, Lenette asked the challenge participants during class what they had learned during this challenge. I thought I might take that up a bit here. My answer then was that I had learned patience with myself. In the first challenge, I impeded some of my progress by pushing too hard. I remember the sheer terror that came with the first forward bend. I injured my left knee. I hurt my upper back once, but worked through it. And I developed sciatic pain. All of those problems came up, and I still thought it was worth it. This time, I avoided all those physical problems, and it wasn't because I tried less hard. Instead, I think I've got a much better sense of where my edge is now, and how to push to it without pushing past it. And I don't think I really need to see daily proof of improvement anymore for some kind of validation.
The next thing that I learned in this challenge was a bit of a surprise: challenges are hard. I think in some ways I had a harder time with this challenge than the last one. Last year, I was overflowing with beginner's enthusiasm and had not really settled into any sort of yoga routine. So, in some ways, the challenge I did was not a variation from my routine. It was simply what i was doing. By now, I've gotten used to going five days a week, and sometimes four. I like the luxury of taking days off and simply feeling good. So going every day was harder than I expected.
Moreover, the real difficulty with challenges is not so much going every day. Instead, it's from HAVING to go every day. That's the part that really grinds on me. But here's another thing that I really learned in this challenge: How much I want to be in the room, or want to be elsewhere, ends up being irrelevant to my practice. It just doesn't matter that much how I feel going into class. That seems to have almost no predictive value in how well I will do in class, or how much I will like the class. This is a great lesson, because it means that basically any mood is a good mood for Bikram.
In the poses themselves, I'm feeling the most difference in my shoulders and upper back. They show promise of finally opening up some. In several poses, I feel stretching for the first time in my shoulders, in the middle of my back between the shoulder blades, and across the front of my chest.
Now I have to decide what to do following this challenge. I'm going to take Sunday off. I'm pretty sure that there's a significant bump in improvement between five and seven days a week. I will probably try to go every day until August vacation, and then maybe shoot for six days a week.
The day 197 and 198 meditations are about surrender, or surrender to God, on the mat. There are two points that struck me here. First he talks about how asana practice makes people open up to a different sense of purpose in their lives. The most obvious thing I see here is how frequently, and strongly, people desire to become yoga teachers themselves. I know many older people in our studio who would simply love to go to teacher training, if they could only arrange their lives to make it possible.
There are many other ways that asana practice helps with the arranging of priorities. It helps put things in perspective. It helps to focus on what is important and to strip away the rest. In that way, I suppose it also changes people's sense of purpose.
The other point I really liked is about asana revealing otherwise hidden potential. Gates mentions how people only use 10% of their brains. He says that asana practice helps reveal how little of the potential of our bodies we actually use. It reveals this by giving us back some of that use, and by thereby giving us a hint at how much further we might be able to go. Gates says that we build up barriers to our own potential, and that the process of surrender shows us how to eliminate or bypass those barriers.