Wednesday, August 19, 2009

161/230 - Polaroids

Tuesday 8:15 with Amy

Last night's class was very nice, and it was another step forward for me. I had several breakthroughs. I could do one set of Standing Separate Leg Forehead to Knee on both sides. I think this may be due to extra flexibility at night: I didn't have to bend my right knee so much to make the connection from forehead to knee, and that let me into the pose.

I also did a bit better in many other poses. My balancing poses were better, largely because I have a bit more confidence about coming down on my right leg when falling out. And I almost got my hips to the floor in Fixed Firm. For some reason, whatever is wrong with my knee doesn't seem to hit the "knee" poses very hard. Awkward and Fixed Firm are not that far off from usual. It's all the other poses...

Awkward was strange. I decided not to compromise on form at all. In the third part, I went down pretty easily. But coming up with the knees together was impossible. It was like my mind was telling my body to try, and by body was just giving my mind the finger.

Since I've started yoga, I've tended to attribute all good things to yoga. And I could possibly do the same about the speed that this knee injury is recovering. But actually, I have no idea. Over a week ago, I could barely put weight on the knee at all. Yesterday, I told some people that I thought I might be able to climb stairs one step at a time in about a week. Today, I was halfway up a flight of stairs when I realized that I was doing exactly that. Is it the rest? The yoga practice? The Chinese herbal patch my wife had me wear? I just don't know. It's possible that more yoga and less rest would serve me better, or vice versa. And I really don't have any good way of deciding.

In the day 225 meditation, Gates compares yoga practice to a Polaroid picture gradually coming into focus. I wonder how long before this sort of comparison will be a complete anachronism. I assume he's talking about the Polaroid color cameras from the 80s that would spit a picture out at you, and then you would shake it for like a minute or so, as the colors would gradually set. Those are the pictures with the big white border on the bottom, and a slightly less big white border around the sides.

When I was growing up, my mom had a Polaroid Land Camera. The film for it was black and white only. You would take a picture and get a covered piece of film out of the camera. Then you had to wait an entire two or three minutes or so before you could peel the paper covering from the print and see the picture you had taken. The main thing this had in common with the later camera was its ability to take pretty bad pictures relatively quickly.

When I was growing up, there was an older acquaintance who used to visit the same beach house where we would go during the summers. When financial matters came up among the grown-ups, he would brag about how he had the great sense to buy Polaroid at $12/share. At the time, it was trading somewhere in the very high $100s or low $200s, and just about everyone had those ridiculous cameras that would spit pictures out at you. This guy was a firm believer in buying and holding. Ultimately, I think he decided to sell out his Polaroid stock at about $6 or $7/ share. I think it may still have been worth it to him. After all, he got years of bragging rights about his financial wisdom.

Back to Gates. The coming into focus that he's talking about is the gradual shedding of fear. It's a timely point, because the knee injury has put fear back into the forefront of my practice. There's a fine line between fear and respect. Several poses can put me at risk of further injury if I do something wrong. That's definitely true of all the balancing and separate leg poses. So, when I'm coming to my new limit, I continually ask myself whether I think I'm at my edge because I'm afraid, or if I'm at my edge because it's really my edge.

The funny thing is that I should probably be asking myself that question all the time. It's not just something that an injury should bring into relief. It's basically impossible to catalogue all the areas where fear alone is holding back progress. Indeed, often I will only realize that fear was holding me back when, for some reason, I get over the fear. That's really easy to see when its a simple question of going up a step on a bad leg. It's much harder to see, for example, that perhaps I'm easing off on keeping the legs perfectly straight in Full Locust because I'm afraid of something. Afraid of what? I don't know, and probably won't until I start getting the legs as straight as they should be.

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