Monday, September 13, 2010

Comfort and Complacency

Comfort and Complacency. They're our enemies. Destroy them.

I'd taken classes with this dude before. Typically, I'd describe him as a laid-back surfer who teaches mellow classes in a 72 degree room. You know, the classes where you hold "easy" stretching poses for so long that you forget your name, where you were born, and what the heck you're doing in asanas with cute-sounding names like Baby Pose. Child's pose. Pyramid pose. 

I went into the class, sleep-deprived and sunburnt from a fabulous long day on a boat, thinking, "This'll be a cakewalk. 90 minutes of light stretching and a long savasana and the bf and I will be off eating delicious vegetarian Mexican food."

As often happens in this life on the mat and off, I got so humbled. No wait--I didn't just get humbled, I got served.

This guy just quietly, politely worked us to death. I kept looking over at my boyfriend mouthing to him, "What the heck? Are you ok??" Because it was that tough. No, I wasn't pouring sweat. I wasn't trying to kill myself. But I came face-to-face with some monster in there.

The other students in class didn't seem to be missing a beat, but I was suffering. Man, they hold those poses a long time. And some of those poses take you deeply into muscle groups I didn't even know I was related to. It was somewhere in Twisted Triangle that I had a revelation.

"Jeez, man. This shit hurts," I thought, as I slid into a pose I vaguely remember from my Ashtanga days. (OK, no, that's not the revelation.) Twisted Triangle is a tough pose. It's like the Bikram triangle--the master pose--with serious pain. To do it properly you need hamstrings like butter and a ribcage that can spiral upward like tree branches. If you don't get into the posture fully, you struggle gracelessly trying to balance. I wrenched myself into the position and took the standard Ashtanga 5 breaths, thinking it would all be over shortly. But it wasn't. We kept holding it. And holding it! Let me tell you, I sent serious daggers of "OMG I HATE THIS. LET US GO." to the teacher with my eyes.

I realized that I've been hanging out on the edge of comfort and complacency. My cozy early morning classes are ones that I can power through. I can look good, not skip postures, and feel energetic throughout the classes. But it's like I'm in the middle of this little bubble of flexibility. I'm just hanging out, not pushing the edges at all.

The Bikram class I took this afternoon (San Diego studio, with Jim Kallett and a great, great friend) took this a little further. Jim has this very steady quality about him. Initially, you think you are doing fine, that it won't really be such a bad class after all, no matter what you remember or have heard about him. Halfway through it, however, you're on the floor, wanting mommy and a cold hand towel.

(An aside: please don't use the phrase "pouring sweat" loosely. When it really happens--when the sweat comes off your body in streams instead of drops and you feel you are generating enough heat to power a small town--it's an entirely different, almost frightening game.)
Jim said something that drove this idea home, though. In Half-Moon pose, he stated the "beyond your flexibility" idea in a different way. "Your flexibility is what it is," he said. "Find your strength. Use your strength in this pose instead of the flexibility."

I see a connection here with the complacency idea. Many of us are relatively flexible physically, emotionally, or spiritually. But that can almost make things worse. It's so easy to stay there. Someone who may be at point A can struggle and get more out of the experience than someone at point Q.

Why is it so hard to remember that we need to stay at the edge of discomfort, all the time, no matter what we do?

Speaking of discomfort, there's a pile of papers that aren't gonna grade themselves :-)


feral chick said...

Beautiful, girlfriend. This is what students in *any* discipline need to remember: if you aren't uncomfortable, you're not going anywhere.

Catherine said...

Hitting. Home. I, too, have been served.

marti21 said...

I’m still not sure which is more painful: physically getting my butt kicked or mentally having my soul wrecked. And it’s not just about having the confidence in myself, I struggle having trust in the teacher. “He is brilliant, listen, he will not let me die” was my mantra and it was so hard.

Lady J said...

Oh, boy, have I been having these thoughts lately. I need to PUSH myself further. But sometimes it is just too hard! LOL. But it is why we do this, isn't it?

Lush said...

I hear ya~ Comfort and complacency is familiar and make us feel safe. Those are underpinning feelings that we crave and gravitate to. And that's why we have to leap out of that in order to become better and greater. It's definitely tough at times. Ok, a lot of times. Yoga definitely gets us out of our comfort zones, and at the end of the day, we come out learning something new. Pushing the boundary is what [bikram] yoga does, even on days when we don't feel like it. But it's probably those days when we need it the most.

Yolk E said...

Lush, I think sometimes we truly are pushing ourselves, even if it doesn't look like we're in the posture as deep as we normally are. Y'know, on those days where our minds are extra out-of-control, or we're depressed or anxious and all we can do is get into the room. That's pushing yourself, a lot.

Marti, that is such a good point! I hadn't thought of it that way. I tend to always prize my own instincts about what I can do in the class over what the instructor tells me, but maybe there are times where I just need to trust the teacher. Damn, girl you should start a blog :-)

And <3 as always, Feral and Catherine

hannahjustbreathe said...

Quite simply? YES.

I think we are a bit in each other's heads these days... :)

bikramyogachick said...

Oh, I just love this post! I love that you got your ass handed to you! Left to my own devices I will become complacent. That's why my favorite teachers are the ones that don't put up with my crap. That remind me not to "hang out" in the posture, but to go to my edge.

thedancingj said...

Ain't it great? I used to periodically go to Vinyasa classes in California just because I KNEW that I would have NO idea what was going on and I would get absolutely served. I want to remember that I don't know everything and there's a lot that I can't do! And in Bikram, when you practice a lot, it is totally easy to fall into a comfortable groove where you just kinda do the same thing every day. It's a tricky line to walk. To keep moving forward you need a lot of determination, a great teacher, or both!

Anonymous said...

"if you aren't uncomfortable, you're not going anywhere."

Wow - I love that!

My favorite yoga teacher said something very similar in class on Thursday. She said "most of you hot yogis typically only do hot classes. I find hot yogis are quite Type A that way. I encourage you to branch out and at least do a Yin class". And I thought - she's totally right!

Kind of in line with your post...I'm afraid to go, but I must!

Ladiladida said...

It's great to toe the line and live out on the edge but it's also really good to know exactly where your comfort zone is and if you never go there you won't know. Vice versa for the edge. Balance in all things.

Charlane said...

great post!

Yolk E said...

Thanks for dropping by, Charlane :-) Glad you liked it!