Is it Hot in Here, or Is it Just Me?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It occurred to me this morning, that the world teaches you something about yourself every day. I’ve been doing Bikram Yoga for a few weeks, starting off with a “10-Classes-In-10-Days New Year’s Challenge” my studio was sponsoring (presumably to “jump start” 2010), and it was sooooo hard! SO hard. But, I did it. I only missed one day of Boot Camp (yes, I did both simultaneously. no, I have not lost my mind). One of the teachers said something during class that sounded like, “Bikram says, every day the body is new,” akin to the idea that you never step in the same river twice.

Every DAY is new. Every day, the world teaches you something about yourself. But, you have to be present. Like any classroom, you have to pay attention to learn. You can’t just chew bubblegum and let your eyes glaze over.

In Bikram yoga, the room is initially so hot, you can’t listen to mind chatter and have the presence of mind to move through every┬ápose. Some people can’t handle it. They can’t stop thinking, “itssohotitssohotitssohotimgoingtopassout…” and so, they sit down. Even I have had my moments on humid days or with teachers who really crank the thermostat up. The trick is, you have to BREATHE. It works like a charm. Antonie is my favorite teacher; she is constantly reminding us to breathe, and when a pose it over, she doesn’t say, “Change!” – she says, “RELEASE!” like a drill sergeant. BREATHE and RELEASE… could there be better advice for someone in a hot room?

When you focus on breathing, when you really pay attention to your body, Bikram becomes a journey of discovery, of listening to your muscles and your lungs and your heart, your knees and feet and ankles and shoulders. You notice your body, look at it in ways that you never get a chance to the rest of the day. This week, I got into a pose I’ve never been able to hold before… and promptly fell out of the pose after it, which I’ve rarely had trouble with. Why did I rarely have trouble with it? Because I’d never held the pose before it – by not doing that one completely, I had been inadvertently giving myself a little rest between poses! And so now, my practice (because yoga is, above all, a practice) is going to be about building the stamina to hold both poses, one after the other.

Some people don’t like Bikram because they think it is monotonous – the same poses, over and over. In fact, I think it can be a lot like life – we get up, we go to work, we come home. But, you never step into the same river twice, and your body is a different body every day. Every day, your practice becomes a new challenge, because change is the only constant. You are stepping up to the same starting line, but you are running a different race every time – a race against your last best effort.

The world will teach you something different today; pay attention.