Wednesday, September 9, 2009

169/249 - The Attention Yo-Yo

Sunday Off.

My Friday class with Janna, or something after it, set my knee back quite a bit, so I decided to take an extra day off again. I'm feeling like quite the slacker.

The day 244 meditation describes an all too familiar process during class. For this post, I'm calling it the attention yo-yo. We might start out distracted, with the mind on all sorts of things that just happenned -- the driver that cut you off, someone who yelled at you at work, maybe just a feeling of being pressed by that inner to-do list. And then, as practice goes on, attention focuses on breath, on the feeling of the poses, on finding the edge. And then something breaks that connection, the mind starts wandering again, of maybe just starts cursing the heat. And again, with attention to the poses, we try to bring it back into control. And so our level of distraction tends to yo-yo up and down through a typical class.

Over time and with lots of focus, Gates says we gradually get more and more control over the yo-yo effect. We cultivate stillness in the poses, stillness between the poses, and that stillness gradually comes to our minds as well. I think this is an apt description, but its nothing like the linear progress a novitiate might suppose. Instead, I'm finding that there are whole weeks where my mind seems to be bouncing where ever it will, doing Walk the Dog, Loop the Loop, and maybe even Buddha's Revenge, and all sorts of other yo-yo tricks that I could never actually do. But over time, and I'm still very early in this process, I think there is genuine progress.

Gates also calls attention to savasana at the end of class as part of learning rest and peacefulness. Here's where Bikram really is different, and I think the difference really pays off. We get Savasana in the middle of class, and then a short savasana between all the floor poses. At first, these breaks were great because I was just so happy not to have to be doing another strenuous pose for a few seconds. I've come to appreciate them more, and when things are going well, the savasanas are genuinely energizing. We're told again and again in class that these short savasanas are one of things that truly sets the Bikram series apart from other styles of yoga.

The final savasana, however, gets kind of short shrift in Bikram. I've taken other classes where there's 5 minutes or more of simply lying still before class is over. And in those classes, the teacher usually emphasized that that time was the most important part of class. In Bikram, for most people, its two minutes or less and they are out of the room. Often its less.

Thinking about it, I realize I've recently been skimping on the Final Savasana. For a while, I told myself that I could not leave the room until it no longer felt like an escape. Now, I rarely feel like I have to "escape" the heat, or anything else, so that rule doesn't work well anymore. And I probably should come up with some other way to extend that time.


Bosco said...

In our studio there will always be some who pack up within a couple of minutes after the end of the final breathing, but on average people stay more than 5 minutes. The teachers here generally put a very big emphasis on the importance and benefits of the final savasana.

hannahjustbreathe said...

It shocks me that people can get up after only 2 minutes. Seriously. If I don't give myself AT LEAST 5 minutes, I usually pay for it the next day with extra lactic acid and stiffness.

As for the yo yo effect... Honestly, I think the mental determination and stamina and meditation it takes to remain even-minded throughout an entire class (i.e., no thinking this then that then this then that) takes years to cultivate. I'm heading into year three of my practice, and I'd say I have one of those even-minded classes maybe once a week...MAYBE. Even if your concentration breaks just once, it's still broken, you know?

But, all part of the journey, no?

Duffy Pratt said...

There are two showers in each locker room, and there are some people in our studio who I think are racing to be first to get to one of the showers. So there's always someone bolting as soon as the teacher leaves. For the rest, it depends a bit on the teacher's timing. If the teacher is late, savasanas will be short. Sherry usually finishes just under five minutes early, and that helps a little.

Of course, if you break concentratoin once it is still broken for that class. I still think of it if I can get through a series, or sometimes even just a couple of poses, with full concentration on what I'm doing. It comes and goes. And I don't find I get distracted so often anymore by things outside of the classroom. Instead the loss of presence tends to revolve around either what we just did, or what's coming up.

bikramyogachick said...

Duffy~ I'm oh so familiar with the attention yo-yo. Most of my classes are that way. However, the past two days I've been blessed with a pretty even focused meditation and it made the class go by fast...exertion without resistance. It was beautiful.