My posts seem to have an, "Oh Yoga, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways" theme to them. Oh well, here goes another ;-)
One thing I love about practicing Bikram yoga is its lack of artifice. There are no candles, no tranquil music, no teacher telling you to "love your body." Yet, you leave the class calm and connected, and you are able to respect your body more than you ever thought possible. Alright, well, I think Westerners always need to work on being truly OK with their bodies, but that's an entirely different post! I digress.
Occasionally, I get a little into myself. I love the technicality of the dialogue. I love being told exactly what the posture is doing for me. It's taught me to be more aware of the body as a functioning whole and less a composition of parts. It used to be, "UGH, those love-handles! The butt ain't bad, but the inner thighs? Girl, ease up on the Trader Joe's-brand Ritz Bitz!"
Now, it's more like, "YES! Standing forward bend is increasing the blood flow to my legs and calves! Hell yes for good circulation! Elongating and stretching the spine forward safely, unlike what I do the rest of my day!" I just appreciate the attention given to each part of the body, especially to the parts ignored by the media and superficial pop culture. (Imagine: we commend Beyonce for her marvellous lung capacity and lovely posture instead of her bodacious booty.)
Just often enough, though, my main teacher will throw a few philosophical tidbits in for good measure. I love that--they balance out that focus on myself and the attention to the body for a few precious seconds. One of the nuggets of wisdom she occasionally tosses to us hungry masses is that you can't do yoga only for yourself. It's not enough that you're improving your circulation, your kidney function, to trim your waistline. We do this yoga so that we can better serve others.
The first couple of times I heard this, I didn't understand. Yoga was my break from the world, my time to honor myself (albeit in an often painful way). How does one reconcile this?
Just once or twice, I heard my teacher encourage the class to dedicate our practice to someone. In moments where we struggle, we are to bring that person to mind to draw strength from. I don't think she meant it in a cheesy, "think of the dying people in Haiti!" kind of way. I think it's more like that "love your neighbor as yourself" saying." Americans obsess on the "you must love yourself" part of that expression. Yes, you must honor yourself before you can honor your neighbors, your friends. But you can't have the one without the other. Without loving others, the honor or respect we give ourselves is just... empty. Arrogant. I think. Can you tell I'm reaching here?
Sorry if that's a little out there. I felt like I wanted to talk about it, though, and to hear what folks have to say!
I continue to struggle to make it through the class without sitting out three or four sets of the postures. But today, after attempting to do two sets of Camel simply kicked my butt, I thought of my dear friend I'd dedicated my practice to and managed to slog through the rest of the class. The Self and the Other, they go hand in hand. There's no real separation.
No candles, chanting, or incense. Lots of hard work, sweat, and sweet revelations.