What a difference a day makes.
Today's first yoga class was taught by Bikram's wife, Rajashree. She had heard of some of the nuclear fallout from the evening before, and taught the most caring, compassionate, but stong class I've ever taken. And I don't mean just in yoga, I mean period. I felt like she was my great-grandmother, and that she knew exactly everything that was wrong with us and addressed it immediately and effortlessly. She asked us, just as class began, "Are you scared?". And the entire class said "yes", immediately - me with them.
The class wasn't easy, and I sat near the doors, which were left open, but I stayed strong and found strength I didn't have yesterday. I feel this blanket of calm around me that I don't remember having before. A quick intrusion from the ill-voices said something like, "Yeah, but in two weeks when they crank it up, it'll suck...". But the positive voice, which is getting stronger, replied, "They taught the class this way today because that is what they knew we needed, and could do. And when they crank it up in two weeks, it won't be because we can't take it, but precisely because we can."
But let's make this all out to be TOO serious. Today's magnificent hyperbole included these fantastic claims:
1. Bikram INVENTED DISCO. Actually INVENTED THE WORD DISCO, and opened the "World's First Disco Club".
2. Bikram came up with Chippendales Dancing.
3. Bikram has his own, the "world's largest", private city in india, which cost 60 billion dollars to build.
There were more, but I can't remember them all. They were hilarious. But, again, it's weird - the exaggeration is SO extreme that you actually come around the bend and wonder whether or not the things he says might be somehow partially true - did he maybe inspire disco, and the way he uses language might, if translated into his mother tongue, be closer to the literal truth? The fact that I spent a non trivial amount of time today trying to figure out how Bikram might have tangentially created Disco is hilarious in and of itself. And I suppose all of this comes from the fact that, somehow, you WANT to believe Bikram. I suppose that's why we're all there, among other things. As Anika said, behind it all, the heart is there.
I'm finding - and I hope those of you who are doing Bikram who read this can understand this - that the most important sentence in all of the dialogue is, "99% correct is 100% wrong". I've had to basically start over with most of my poses, and really ask myself if I'm adhering to ALL the parts of the instruction. And I'm finding that the poses require more stength when I'm doing them correctly, even though I can't go as far into them, but they cause less fatigue, and my breathing and heartrate stay much more in control. Understanding how pointless it is to even attempt something that looks like the pose, but that you know truthfully is incorrect - is making a huge difference. I'm finding that it requires letting go of some of the pride associated with feeling like I do the pose well, whether I do or not, and MUCH more difficultly, accepting that I must have patience, and that the improvements will take a long time to manifest. (Ironically, just grasping this idea showed me improvements across the board, in small and subtle ways).
Bikram gives us philosophy lectures for 2.5-3 hours each night, after our second yoga classes. They are difficult, peppered with his fantastical claims, weaving in and out of Indian and Hindu mythology and ancient teachings that he only touches on briefly. Also, most people seem to be either discarding the teachings altogether as silly nonsense, to be made fun of on the way home, or alternatively - blindly agreeing with it, in keeping with the culty aspects of all of this. Woven throughout yesterday's and today's lecture, though, was this idea: Yoga is the union of Body, Mind and Spirit. The mental discipline (Raja Yoga) provides the ability for the mind to control the body and help it achieve greater health and beauty through physical discipline (Hatha Yoga). When the mind and body have united in this way to create a beautiful temple that the spirit will want to reside in, a harmony is reached that is the very definition of life.
My understanding of all of this is obviously incomplete, and a lengthy discussion of how these things were related to Karma Yoga was beyond my ability to distill just yet. But part of the explanation included a stern admonition from Bikram that we (his students) are confused, uncertain, unhappy, unrealized because our lack of mental discipline lets the negative voices run rampant. And I was immediately awash with reminders of how much I hate what I see when I look at myself in the mirror - how I begin almost every class thinking that I might not be able to make it - how I spend my days at work wasting so much of my time instead of achieving a purpose, staying on a track, whatever that track may be. A rapid downward spiral occurred, but then... I was reminded of something I told Clodagh when I first met her. There is one thing I am certain of, beyond even my occasional certainty at solving technical puzzles: I have a good heart. I deeply and truly want my loved ones to be happy, above all things, and I am quick to open myself to new loved ones almost all the time. I think about whether or not my abilities as a yoga teacher might help my grandfather not suffer, help my uncle find himself, help my father find strength... that sounds judgemental, I suppose. So much of my daily mind is filled not with "how do I get a better stomach", though it is most certainly there, but... will I be able to do something to make people better? And that positive feeling drowned the negative feelings out. I feel stronger because of it. Weird.
Man, where is the humor? This shit is getting pretty dry... Okay, tomorrow's post: All Ass N Titties, no airy-fairy stuff.