Monday, September 14, 2009

176/256 - Posture Clinic, The Floor

Sunday 9:30 am with Sherry
11:15 Posture Clinic with Rohit and Sherry

Class was mixed this morning. First off, I tried to apply everything I learned yesterday to the standing series. The result? I was pretty much wiped out by Balancing Stick. I'm truly astonished by how much I have been leaving on the table. And I thought I was doing really well, and I end most every class pretty well drained as it is. But there was just another level that I was at during the start of class, and it really took it out of me, both physically and mentally. The most startling thing is how the clinic has opened my eyes to an even deeper level of concentration that could be available.

I also learned that treating class as a prelude to anything is not such a good idea. I was looking forward to the clinic that was coming up, and because I was already wiped out, I think I held back some in the floor series. Holding back in Bikram only leads to distraction. It makes time go more slowly, and it makes what you are doing hurt a bit more. Not a good combination. I realized this somewhere in back strengthening, and pulled myself back into just being present and doing what I'm told. And things got a bit better from there.

Before the clinic, Rohit talked a little bit about how the game "Telephone" works. To prepare for the clinic, he went back to the notes he took during his teacher training. Sometimes he found things in it that he teaches, but which other teachers find unorthodox, and which are not part of the current dialogue. And he found a bunch of things that he had simply forgotten, probably because they weren't particularly relevant to his practice (though they might be important in teaching). He thinks that every teacher develops their own gloss on what Bikram teaches, and as they share things with one another, other things start to sneak into the teaching as well.

I like this, because what's happening here are my imperfect notes and impressions of what I learned from this clinic. Those, in turn, are based on what Rohit said, which in turn comes from his notes about what Bikram taught, and through the haze of many years of memory. So to a certain extent, it really is like "telephone."

Rohit also confirmed my impression that there's much more I could be doing in the poses. He said that while demonstrating poses, and then in how he felt afterward, he realized that there was much he could be doing in his own practice, but instead he has somehow avoided doing it. We spend lots of time in the room. Add to that the driving, the showering, the cool down, the laundry time, and it really adds up. Given that, we might as well be making the most of the time we put in. It's a great thought, and would be an even better conviction, but of course, its much much easier said than done.

Onto the poses (probably again in two posts):

Tree - Tree pose prepares us for Lotus. So its mainly a hip opener. The hands in prayer, and even the balancing, are incidental. The keys are dropping the knee down, and pushing the same hip forward while keeping the two hips in a line parallel to the front wall.

Toe Stand -- The following is not Bikram and Rohit was very clear that its not. He's not a big fan of Toe Stand. In India, its considered more of a trick than a pose. Like Tree, the idea of Toe Stand is to prepare you for Lotus. But to get people into the pose, they can compromise by not raising the leg as high on the thigh. This gets people into Toe Stand, but does very little to help prepare anyone for Lotus. So the pose, for many people, doesn't accomplish its main benefit. On top of that, its high risk for anyone with knee problems.

He says that if you have any problems at all with your knees, then do Tree again. If you can keep your leg in place with hands in prayer in Tree, and your knees are good, then Toe Stand is just fine. If you can't keep your leg in place in prayer in Tree, then you aren't ready to get the main benefit from Toe Stand, but you should still try it anyways if your knees are up to it.

Libby asked about what to do in Toe Stand if you have bunions. I wonder about that too when I'm up for the pose. The answer was basically a shrug. I guess life just sucks sometimes.

Wind Removing -- I've been confused for a while about how you pull in this pose. Sometimes it sounds like you should be pulling the knee toward the shoulder. Other times I get the impression that you should be pulling down toward the floor. The answer is to pull down toward the floor.

In the two leg part of this pose, we talked about hand towels. Rohit likes to use a hand towel to help with the grip in this part of the pose. Almost every studio now forbids the use of hand towels to help with the grip in any pose. When he took teacher training, a big towel and a hand towel were provided. They were also common at the few studios that then existed. There wasn't any prohibition on using them to help with grip in some poses. Rohit thinks Bikram got rid of the hand towels to reduce the amount of laundry to be done, and from there it somehow turned into one of the Bikram rules.

I have a hard time in the third part of this pose. If I'm really pulling on my knees, tucking my chin, and trying to get my tail to the floor, then my elbows are almost certainly going to start slipping off my knees. If the room is cool and I'm not that sweaty, then there's plenty of traction, and there's no slippage. It's much easier to find the benefit of the pose that way. But in a typical class I try desperately not to slip out of the pose. Rohit says one solution is to use a hand towel and risk the teacher's disapproval. He doesn't know of any benefit that comes from slipping out of this pose. Or, he recommends trying to dry the legs and arms as much as possible before this pose, but that's probably hopeless the way I sweat.

Back strengthening in the next pose, and maybe more...


thedancingj said...

Whee, loving your detail.

"He thinks that every teacher develops their own gloss on what Bikram teaches, and as they share things with one another, other things start to sneak into the teaching as well." I COULD NOT POSSIBLY AGREE MORE. I agree 110 PERCENT. And it's a totally natural process. Everyone teaches from their personal practice, in one way or another. Which is why... (am I an annoying broken record yet?? sorry...) it is really nice that the teachers all have identical written documents that list the most fundamental instructions for all the postures. That way everyone can refer back to their instructions now and then to make sure they are still on track and teaching from the "source."

Re: the TOWELS. Did you know that Bikram's studio in LA does still provide hand towels for class? The laundry gets done, and Bikram doesn't care. (EMMY does. She doesn't let you get away anything!)

The thing about towels - and the reason why they are so widely discouraged - is that they can so easily become crutches. As soon as someone gives you a towel for a posture, you think you NEED it, and you will NEVER let it go! I always thought I needed a towel for standing bow, cause keeping the grip in that pose is a real BITCH! I came from a studio with "rules," and I would use the hand towel whenever I went to another studio where was "allowed." Finally I had a teacher who said, "I don't CARE if you want to use a towel, and you can dry off before the posture if you want to, but if you're using your strength and the right technique, you just won't NEED the towel." I though.... "Oh." She was right. Rules are totally irrelevant. It's about TECHNIQUE. I am still working on it, but I'm pretty sold on the idea. :)

BTW - in the dialogue, there IS no "pulling" in the third part of wind removing. It just says to get your grip on the elbows and then relax the spine into the floor. You shouldn't be able to slip.

Please excuse these epic comments... I just live for the shop talk.... :)

Duffy Pratt said...

I haven't looked at the dialogue for Wind Relieving 3, but I believe you. As for the slipping, it's definitely there for me. And I don't have any problem with my hands gripping my elbows. I used to think that I was sliding out of this because I'm gaining a little weight. I don't think so anymore. I start to slide out of this as I get my tail close to the floor. And in this pose, I don't think there is any strength I could develop to hold me into it. Instead, for this one, I need some friction between the knees and forearms. My guess is that people less sweaty than I am never have this problem.

And it's interesting that you had such a hard time with the grip in standing bow. I've never had any problem with that grip. Does the problem start when you start kicking so high that you need to move the hand up the calf some, and are no longer grabbing the ankle?

thedancingj said...

Haha - my understanding of your slippage in wind removing is the same as your understanding of my slippage in standing bow. I've just never had that problem in the pose, and I promise you that I am dripping wet by that point, there is no friction involved at all. It must be skeletal. Physics. I feel like I need a free body diagram or something. When I do it, there are no lateral forces. The force from my arms goes straight down, pressing my legs into my body. My legs have nowhere to go. All I can think of is that the legs might slip out if you were too close to your knees.... otherwise, I dunno!! Never felt it!

The standing bow problem might seriously be a girl thing, cause we shave our legs!!! And I sweat buckets. My ankle is soooooo slippery sometimes. The slippage is the REASON why sometimes my grip slides away from my ankle. Ideally it would be almost on the ankle the whole time. When I do it dry, that's no problem, I only let it slide maybe an inch at the very end. When it's wet, it's harder to control, cause I basically need to kick against the grip to get my leg straight, so I need to be holding on even harder than I am kicking. So sometimes I'll be kicking into the grip, trying to straighten out my leg, and instead of my knee straightening, the hand just goes WHOOSH up the leg. Very annoying. Very common problem with flexy girls. There's a whole technique to the grip placement and hand strength that you need to use at that point.