The day 214 meditation is again about shedding the fear of death. As a practical matter, on the mat, Gates says we do this by staying both firmed and relaxed, and by noting unneeded tension. We find "cringing patterns". I take it that this means areas we tighten up through habit, and for no good reason. And in the process, we learn to relax these areas while holding the pose. As time goes on, we start releasing more subtle areas of tension, layer by layer.
Rohit is very big on this idea (even if he doesn't put it this way). At least once a class and very often more, he tells people to take their tongues off the roof of their mouths. When he started suggesting it, I was totally unaware of it. Now, I pretty much smile to myself whenever he says it, because its a layer of tension that was pretty easy for me to remove.
A while ago, I was doing Standing Bow as well as I'd ever done it. And then Libby said, "Duffy, there's nothing in the dialogue about sticking your tongue out." I was doing the Michael Jordan tongue assist before anyone knew about Jordan, and it's amazing I never bit my tongue off playing basketball. Anyway, I stuck my tongue back in and immediately fell. Sticking the tongue out for me, I would have said, helped with concentration. But its just another of these cringing patterns.
In many of the poses, shedding these layers of tension is very much the key to progress. I think that's what happens in Locust. At first, we work harder and harder trying to lift our legs up, and nothing happens. While doing this, the back gets strong enough, but still nothing happens. Then, one day for no apparent reason, something simply relaxes in the back and BOING, the legs pop up higher than you ever imagined possible.
A similar process happens in many of the poses. I think that's why breakthroughs sometimes seem so spectacular. And it's also why its possible to make a great breakthrough on one night, and then lose the progress for weeks or even months. Strength and flexibility develop over time. But the ability fully to relax in certain areas can come and go in an instant, and it takes a while to control.
Finally, Gates says that trust is the opposite of the fear of death. This is a very interesting idea, and one I will have to think about some more. There are several times when trust becomes an issue in class. The most obvious one is the first backbend. Bikram says "Don't be scared." What I think this means is that you can trust yourself in the first backbend. You might fall out of it, but you will then just step back and catch yourself. It's really hard to hurt yourself in that bend, but it's such a weird position, that most people don't trust themselves in it.