That focus on stillness is finally beginning to reflect itself in my yoga practice! I struggle so much with balance, but today, for the first time in twelve years of practicing some form of yoga on a fairly regular basis, I got into full toe stand and balanced. Completely.
I could feel it happening as I went into the posture. I stared at the discoloration in the carpet with laser beam focus as I bent forward. Both knees were pointing down. I finally figured out what the teachers mean when they say, "Butt off the heels!" Butt went off the heels, and the hands went off the ground. And not just a quick clap--I felt like I would be able to hold it for quite a while.
Stillness is the only word to describe what I was feeling in the posture. Everything around me was quieted, and the people wobbling around, the heaters blowing, it was all so distant. There was that sense of internal harmony that I usually get only occasionally in postures I feel I "excel" at.
Toe-standMy teacher often reminds the class that progress in yoga doesn't usually happen quickly. She mentions that many students come in hoping for quick-fixes for their chronic troubles. "In the West," she said, "we want the change instantly. Now. Pronto. But real change happens slowly. It's deeper, and then you appreciate it more." And what sweet moments when you actually see the results! I felt like a little kid who'd just been hugged by her favorite adult when the teacher noticed my posture and said, "Pretty good, Elisa."
On a sort-of related note, I have found bringing some of the principles I learned in Ashtanga yoga has helped me in working on stillness. I've been thinking about mula bandha, the root (perineum) lock. In Ashtanga, we were taught to aim to contract it constantly--I could never get close to that--but going back to it as much as I could remember to do was helpful there, and it's helpful now. I am sure that regular Bikram practitioners are engaging mula bandha often (especially in poses like Eagle), but consciously engaging that muscle can add a certain lift and levity to the practice, if not a tremendous shock of energy. It's one more thing that we can be conscious about!
(Also related are Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandara Bandha, the stomach and throat locks--Bikram teachers often point to sucking in the stomach and compressing the thyroid. This is definitely referring to bandhas!)