Saturday, September 26, 2009

184/269 -

Wednesday 4:30 pm with Amy
Thursday Off
Friday 4:30 pm with Janna
Saturday 9:30 am with Lenette

I give up on trying to catch up. I've gotten so far behind on the classes that I can barely remember anything useful about them. I've also had this idea that I would somehow catch up on the meditations, so that I would fit the full 365 within the calendar year. But I won't worry about that any more. I may do more than one on some day, but I'm not going to give them less attention than they deserve just so I can finish "on time."

Onto the classes for the last few days:

Amy's class was the first where I paid serious attention to pausing between inhales and exhales. For some poses, the difference is almost miraculous. I felt a real difference in Half Moon for example. It may seem simple to hold still for a bit, then trying to lengthen the body on an inhale, really reaching for the wall, then staying still, and then trying for depth on the exhale. But the process really seems to clarify things. I find a greater sense of awareness at the still points, and I think its already made some difference both in depth and form.

There are other poses where the process doesn't work for me, at least not now. Locust is the prime example. And some of the forward bends have the same problem. Basically, where the breathing is cramped to begin with, and where the pose is really demanding, it becomes very, very hard to have the kind of control that this breathing demands. I don't know if its impossible, but I can't see how to do it right now.

Another interesting thing in this class. I've had allergies, and before class, I had a sinus headache that had lasted for almost a full day. It interfered with sleeping. Yoga knocked the headache out by Awkward Pose, and I thought I was in for smooth sailing after that. And so it went, until Rabbit. But then, as I curled my head and lifted my hips, I got this amazing burning sensation in my mid forehead that just got more and more intense, until I had to abandon the pose. I never have felt anything like it. It disappeared almost instantly, but it felt like if I held the pose much longer, I could pass out or burn something out of my head. Whatever it was, it worked. The headache never came back, and my sinuses were perfectly clear for the next day.

I was looking forward to more experimentation with this breathing on Friday. Instead, I got another lesson in how brutal the class can sometimes be. It started a bit cold, but just seemed to get hotter and hotter. I was doing fine in the first half of standing series, and had a really good Standing Head to Knee, and Standing Bow. But I think I pushed it too hard, because I was wiped for a set of Triangle and then also for a set of Standing Separate Leg Forehead to Knee. From there, it just seemed to get hotter and hotter.

By the middle of floor series, I was in one of those states where I was beginning to wonder whether I would taste better boiled or braised. My skin was burning. My heart raced. I was moving between poses a bit awkwardly. At one point, I thought I hurt my knee again, but it was a false alarm. (I felt the telltale pop that has recently meant a few more days of pain, but nothing came of it this time.) By Camel I thought I was done, and then, either the heat came down again, or I somehow got my control back. By the end of class, I was thoroughly wiped out, and as difficult as the class was, afterward I felt great.

The morning's class was delightful. I set up front and center, and it turned out that we had an unusual line-up in the front. To my right was Brad, who has about the most disciplined practice I've ever seen. Herb was on his right. He's a bit older than me, but in great shape, and he's been practicing at the studio basically since the day its been open. And to my left was an Indian gentleman (I don't know his name). He's also a regular, and has the best locust of anyone in our studio.

I'm not sure I've ever been in a line up of four men, and certainly not four with such strong and disciplined practices. The energy was through the roof. My knee felt great, almost 100%. And the class simply flew by.

I got a couple of compliments from Lenette. First on the first pranayama exhalation. I thought this was funny since I've been focusing so much on breath recently. And then in the final stretch, where Lenette grabbed my feet and turned them into proper alignment, guiding me through a really hard, but good, set.

The day 258 meditation adds some detail to the earlier pranayama exercise.. First there are props. Gates suggest using three pillows. Two go underneath the base of the spine. The other goes under the head. The spine pillows should be comfortable and help open up the chest. The head pillow tucks the chin slightly forward. I haven't tried this yet, so I can't report on it. Maybe tomorrow.

Then imagine your torso is a glass of water, with the base of the spine being the bottom of the glass and the shoulders being the top. When you inhale, you slowly fill the glass from bottom to top. And on the exhale, you empty the glass from top to bottom. Without this imagery, I think I've arrived at this same approach to deep breathing, but the imagery might help focus it even more.

The most interesting tip to me was the idea that the rhythm you set in pranayama should be the rhythm for your entire practice. In Bikram, we are often told that the opening pranayama "sets the tone" for the class. I always thought what was meant here was that the harder you try in pranayama, the better the class would be. Maybe I had that partially wrong. Maybe the tone that we set in pranayama is the rhythm of breathing that Gates thinks should be carried through the class. I think that's an idea worth exploring some.

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