Monday 10:30 am with Janna
My knee hurts. And it's the other knee! It's not so bad this time, and it doesn't look swollen at all, but it feels a bit like I have a brace on it. Japanese sitting position was impossible at first, but that got better. And Fixed Firm was a joke. I spread my feet apart, but did not go down at all and probably ended with my butt 5 inches off the ground.
Other than that, class was really nice. I skipped one set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, and because I was a bit worried about the knee, not because of stamina issues. I did very well in the balancing poses, and really pushed in the back strengthening series. I think I might have pushed harder there because I thought that the later poses where you are on the knees might end up being a bust.
Janna gave me some gentle prodding in Half Tortoise that worked wonders. She slightly pulled/encouraged my hands forward and together. Then touched the back of my head, reminding me to get my nose to the ground, and then lightly touched my hips, which gave me a clue as to how to get them further down. These were really good corrections for me, and I think they stayed with me for the second set.
After class, I felt better and my knee seemed to have improved. I also noticed that Janna seemed to have changed her timing. In the past, I've noted that she has tended to skimp on the Savasanas. Today, the standing series seemed to go more quickly, and then she allowed us to luxuriate more on the floor. The differences can probably measured in mere seconds, but it made the class more enjoyable -- at least for me.
I think this is one of the things that is probably really hard for a teacher. Very small changes in timing can make very large differences to the students experience. I've joked before about how many "forevers" its possible to fit into a single 90 minute session. And I've found myself frustrated more than once with a teacher correcting someone on the triangle set-up while I'm trying and failing to hold the lunge with some degree of patience. All those small timing changes can make a world of difference. And to complicate the matter further, the changes have a different impact on different people. If the teacher decided to hold the first part of Awkward for an extra fifteen seconds, or Camel for however long, I might not even notice the change. But other people would start wilting.
The day 276 meditation expands on the idea raised in the last -- that we breath with intention but without taking control. And it does this in a way that makes a bit more sense to me. As my brother suggested, it seems like this is another way of saying that the goal is to arrive at a place where you lose yourself in the exercise, where "the music plays the band."
As Gates puts it: "...watching the ocean tide of my breath, I let go." And then "[f]loacting on my breath ... I want to be the channel, I want to be the witness, I want to be grateful." I love the way he starts with the image of the breath as an ocean tide, and then sees himself first as floating along, and then as simply being the channel through which the ocean flows. Not only is this a beautiful image, but I think its something I can try to imagine myself. It's something I can work with.
The last part of this meditation leaves me a bit in awe. Gates seems to be saying he can put himself into this state pretty much at will. The idea boggles my mind. I might fall into this state from time to time. But I can hardly even imagine getting there with any regularity.
One other thing about this idea of letting go and losing yourself. I think this is one of the areas where the Bikram dialogue can be a great aid. First, we're told again and again that pranayama "sets the tone" for the rest of the class. One of the ways that it sets the tone is that it gives the first opportunity to lose yourself in the dialogue itself. And then, maybe you can stay with the dialogue, maybe you can get to the point where it seems like the dialogue itself is moving you without any intermediary. As Zeb used to say, "My mind, your body." Using the dialogue in this way, I think, can lead to exactly the sort of thing that Gates has in mind. And in the Bikram class, you don't really have to think about it. Instead, you just do it, and if you are doing it right, eventually the magic will happen.