Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A humbling practice

Yesterday I practiced before I taught. In the northeast, we got about two inches of RAIN yesterday. In my tiny little studio, a well insulated box with low ceilings, we have trouble controlling the humidity when there are many bodies in the room. There's a tipping point of a certain number, and after that, you just try to manage things rather than controlling them per se.

So if one had turned up the volume on my thoughts during practice yesterday one would have either heard a string of colorful and exotic expletives, or a lot of beeping (if it was a censored broadcast.) I just had a tough class. I'm trying to be more mindful of the fact that the physical reality of my practice doesn't change that much day to day, but the mental atmosphere sure does.

Yesterday it was hot and humid. For whatever reason, in the first half moon side to side warm up I went "uh-oh." I hadn't practiced since Friday (teaching Sunday rather than practicing as usual). I thought I'd be feeling very strong as resting from gym and other activities usually leaves me feeling that way. But I had some food and alcohol over the weekend that I would consider sluggish-making. Anyway, for whatever reason, I was back to yelling at myself over the dismal state of my balance in standing bow, not to mention standing head to knee.

The bonus to this practice was that in the class I taught, a half hour later, I was extremely mindful of the students in the room and their experience. I took teaching them very seriously as I knew it would make for a challenging class for just about anyone with the heat and the humidity. I did get the humidity down for the start of class but it popped up a bit. Luckily I managed it well and it didn't go above 50%.

I do consider it a good class when the students don't have time to listen to their thoughts. I even threw in one of my favorite bumpersticker phrases during the floor savasanas somewhere. You don't have to believe everything you think.

I did a lot of explanation of the savasanas, and the length of them - approx 20 seconds being the amount of time it takes the blood to circulate throughout the body (high speed oxygenated blood bringing healing and nutrition to the body). I also showed them about a pet peeve of mine that Emmy showed us. In the situp, you will see many people doing a couple of things wrong.

Firstly, there is the error of leading with the arms rather than keeping the arms with the head. You know people are keeping the arms and head together when they move a little slower than usual after they've been given the cue. No wonder - it's harder to lift yourself up that way.

The second issue with the situps is that little extra ego based "I got this" moment of reaching the hands up to the ceiling (jerking a little more into the lower back than necessary) before bending forward. The situp is meant to be one clean movement, arms and hands going STRAIGHT for the toes. Not reaching up then over and down. There is not supposed to be that moment of lower back extension at the top of the situp. Emmy said you will end up with a sore back from doing that over and over.

Because the room was hot and very gooey with humidity, I kept the class moving and light. I actually surprised myself with the pace, getting to separate leg head to knee with stretching a little faster than I planned. But with pacing, I ended the class with an extra long savasana, 3 minutes of which was technically "class time." I felt great about the class though, I felt I gave the students the perfect class for the room for that day, to give them maximum benefit. I constantly reminded them to come back to the breath, to save the fidgety energy, to extend the exhales on the floor, and to be efficient in finding and enjoying savasana. I said "stay wtih me" and "stay together" once or twice to keep things moving. My commands were light and precise but after triangle I was giving a sort of barebones dialogue, not wanting to add my words to the humidity. Light and snappy were suggestions given to me by my studio head for a sluggish class (boy Friday 6pm was that last week!) and I felt it appropriate.

I am pleased to have turned my own practice into a tool for my teaching. Bikram is so freaking amazing that way. It's never easy. Maybe some days it requires lighter effort, but they are few and far between and they're not what I associate with Bikram. Bikram challenges you every single time you enter the room to practice, to show up, to look into your own cosmic mirror.

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