11:15 am Posture Clinic with Rohit and Sherry (and Libby and Connease)
Since the posture clinic was coming directly after class, I intended to take it easy on myself. Yeah, right. Every time I say I will take it easy, I then start feeling guilty about it, and then I end up working even harder than I would have. It doesn't fail, and it was always the same for my "light" days when I was riding a bike. So I should know better by now.
Class was very good. Connease said one thing that had never occurred to me before. She said the arms in Eagle are a warm-up for Standing Head to Knee. You are opening up the shoulders in Eagle and that will help in the next pose with the grip. I hadn't ever thought about it. I have noticed that the Balancing Series actually begins a pose early. But here is yet another way of showing how well designed the series is.
I skipped only one set of Triangle this class, and nothing else. And I probably could have done both sets, and might have tried if the Posture Clinic was not coming right afterward.
There were close to twenty people in the clinic, including Libby and Connease. And there was even one woman who had never done a Bikram yoga class before. Talk about information overload! But she was a very good sport about the whole thing, and in some ways the clinic was much less physically overwhelming than a real class.
Rohit started with his main theme for the two days: Aim for the benefit. The first point is that we don't do asana so we can get good at asana. This seems totally obvious, but its so easy to become obsessed with getting better at the pose. And in doing that, we often lose sight of what the pose is trying to do for us in the first place. So the idea is to take the emphasis over what looks good in the orange room. And instead, to perhaps find ways that bring about more benefit, even though they might make the pose less pretty in the short term.
After this introduction, we went through the standing series up through Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. We alternated demonstrations, questions, and some doing of the poses. Overall, it was a great experience. I learned a ton, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. So what did I learn?
Pranayama -- The big tip I got here was on how to get the throat working properly on the inhale. Rohit had us put a hand about 4-6 inches in front of our mouth and make the "HAH" sound while we pretended that our hand was a mirror that we were trying to fog. No big deal here, and I've never had a problem making the right kind of noise on the exhale anyways. For the inhale, he said to pretend that we were holding a mirror 4-6 inches behind our neck, and try to fog that one up. What that means is that on the inhale we are breathing through the back of the throat, and visualizing the breath being pushed backwards. It may not sound like it makes much sense, but it made a world of difference. The volume of noise I was making on the inhales basically doubled, and it's really coming from the throat and not the vocal chords.
Half Moon -- Not too much new here. The big tip for me here was that hip alignment is more important than shoulder alignment. So, first get the hips square. Then try to get the shoulders where they should be. But don't compromise the hips. If the shoulders won't go into the right line, ease off on the depth.
Backbending -- It's all about the arms and knees. Knees locked, butt squeezed, and bring the arms back. This one is hard for me, and I will probably need to hear it many, many more times.
First Forward Bend -- People put too much emphasis on locking the knees here, and there's tons of stuff to do before you get anywhere close to locking the knee. Rohit wanted me to really get my hands behind my feet, and I resisted. He asked what would happen if I crossed my pinkies, and I said: "Who could say?" So I crossed them, and I've never felt anything like it before in my shoulder blades. I'm still feeling it some. I've clearly resisted going this far with the grip because I need this stretch more than I would have imagined.
The other minor point here is that the knees and legs should ultimately come together. Mine tend to bow apart, and this pose is one of the worst for my knee right now.
Awkward 1 -- I thought that this pose focused on developing quad strength. Rohit says that Bikram says that the quads are incidental to the pose. It's really a standing Cobra, for the lower back and to open the hips some. (I've noticed sometimes when doing this well that my hips will POP when I come out of it, so that makes some sense to me.) The point here is to really focus on getting some kind of backbend in the pose.
Awkward 2 -- I've been doing this wrong. I go up to the balls of my feet. Rohit said to lift my heels higher, so I did. And I immediately said "That' hurts." So he smiled and said, "Congratulations, you've found the pose." I was sparing my bunyons. When I come up further, I'm putting real pressure on them, and it really does hurt some. But I can see the point. It's amazing how much avoidance is going on even in the poses that I thought I was doing well. That was another theme of the clinic: the series is bottomless, there is always more.
Awkward 3 -- Here, Rohit said the dialogue is not complete. He went back to his notes from the first teacher training. Bikram said to pigeon toe yourself before going down in this pose. It's to protect the knees. If you just bring the knees together without turning the feet at all, you are torquing them, and that has nothing to do with the pose. Turn your heels out a bit, and you can squeeze the legs together without putting the extra pressure on the knees. Given the current state of my knees, I like this tip.
Eagle -- Lots of time spent on the arms, and that's one area I don't have trouble with. The legs are another story. To get the hip flexibility, he suggested doing the leg wrap at home while lying down. It's worth a try.
Standing Head to Knee -- We spent a long time on this pose, which I guess is not surprising. Here's the big surprise: on the right side, I'm ready to go further that I've taken this pose, and I actually started dropping my elbows some in class.
Rohit stressed not bending too far forward when grabbing the foot in the set up. Lots of teachers insist that the thigh stay parallel with the floor and that the student hunch forward. Rohit doesn't know where this came from, and says it places too much stress on the back. It also leads to having the head be out ahead of the knee from the start, which makes it almost impossible to curl the head back to the knee as the final expression. He said he has watched Bikram and Rajhashree do the set up, and they both do it the way he recommends, and that's good enough for him.
In the second phase, we kick out and are supposed to then lock the kicking leg. Here, he says that its ideal to get the kicking leg completely straight. But, if you are pretty close, and kicking toward the wall with your heel as best you can, then its ok to start bending the elbows and arching the back forward, even if your leg isn't 100% perfect. That's why I can go a bit further than I thought in this pose. And to my surprise, going a bit further for some reason made the pose a little easier, and alot more fun.
That's enough for the first part. More later...