Saturday 8am with Lara
I went to a non-affiliated Bikram class on Long Island. The owner is one of the early teacher trainees. As I understand it, their certification gives them considerably more latitude than the current teacher trainees get. There were a number of fairly startling differences.
First, the studio was not carpeted. I've been in non-carpeted studios before, and it generally is not a big deal. The only difference it makes in the series is in the separate leg portion. Except, the wood floor gets slippery. I discovered that in Standing Bow when I fell forward off the front of my mat, and nearly slid onto my butt. It was a precarious, but funny moment, and there was no harm done.
The teacher used music during class. I noticed it a little at the beginning, but quickly shut it out. Then I noticed again during the long savasana. I've been in Yoga classes with music before, but never a Bikram class. Since I didn't hear it at all during the poses, I have a hard time saying whether it made a difference or not, but probably not.
The big difference was in the noise. There were 22 people in a room that could hold maybe 23. And there was no carpeting, no fans, and a passive heating system. That all meant that breathing became very audible. Pranayama was great, very loud and very energizing. The rest of the class varied somewhere between being entertaining and annoying. There were six other guys in the class, and they grunted alot. They held their breath, and then gasped for air. Some did something like uji breathing, making an audible throaty sound with each inhale. I've never heard anything like it before, and was a bit surprised that the teacher didn't say anything about it.
Then there were the differences in the poses. Hands behind the back was an option in the first backbend. Bridge was offered as an optional substitute to Fixed Firm. In Standing Head to Knee, many people stopped with their leg lifted and thigh parallel, without bending over to grab either the knee or foot. I don't really understand the point of any of these modifications. It seems to me that they are unlikely to lead to significant progress.
As for the class itself, I discovered that I'm on the verge of being sick. I had a hard time staying with the breathing in Pranayama. I started off OK after that, but lost my stamina very quickly. I sat out a set of Triangle, then a set of Standing Seperate Leg Head to Knee. That's happened before, but then in Tree I got dizzy and had to come out early.
The floor series was about the same. Lara was running behind, and either she was cutting savasana short, or they don't do twenty second savasanas on the floor at this studio. By Camel, I decided to take my savasanas whether the class did or not. That meant missing a set of Camel and a set of Rabbit. They only did one set of Fixed Firm, and then one set of the Final Stretching. Overall, I'm happy I went to this class, but it was definitely not one of my best classes.
The day 287 meditation talks about our being "embedded in pain masked as pleasure." I can think of perhaps no better description of the ridiculous holiday eating that has gone on here for the past few days. Wednesday night: a wonderful, huge meal at a very fine French restaurant. Thursday; turkey feast. Friday: turkey feast redux. Does anyone actually feel good an hour after Thanksgiving dinner. Then, another great but enormous meal out, this time at a seafood house. Of course, I volunteered for it all. And nothing compelled me to continue to eat and eat and eat. But it surely is pain masked as pleasure, and the pleasure really does not last all that long.
According to Gates, pratyahara (turning inward) is the decision to stop hurting ourselves with this kind of pain. Maybe so, but I have to say that this is not the first time I've had this realization about Thanksgiving, but the realization and the decision not to do it again hasn't worked before. So I can't say with any confidence that I won't be back at the trough next year too. What that means, I guess, is that there are decisions and decisions.