Monday, February 18, 2013

Calm the Storm

This past year, my body started over from scratch. I am a Bikram yogi.

Two weeks ago I had one of the worst sessions of yoga in a long time. On a normal day, my goal is to keep the struggle on the inside, at least hold a straight face, and perhaps even strive for the most difficult of all advanced maneuvers, pushing up the corners of my mouth. Not giving away your inner turmoil, to "calm the storm" is the path a true yogi, as I am told. I guess this means I'm handling my Facebook profile like a boss? Well…another blog post, some other time.

No, this was a crappy day and I got completely wrecked, inside and out. I was able to push through the standing poses holding a modicum of yogic form, but by the time I hit the floor for the final half-hour of spine stretching, I was a melted, gasping mess of a human puddle. Seemed like no rhyme or reason to it either, just a random (karmic?) side-swipe that left me emotional and dazed for hours after class, wondering if perhaps Bikram Yoga is just too flippin' hard. Of course, I know that it isn't, and as I tell my friend, instructor, and owner of "Bikram Yoga Aptos" Nicole Duke, I'm on the 20 year plan to take over her job. But on that day, "Nicole's Torture Chamber" as she calls it, completely lived up to it's name, and the moment class was over I was out the door to sit on the concrete, mostly naked, in the ridiculously cold (but OMG so refreshing) winter wind, savasana be damned.

I need to give myself a little more credit actually. It's been less than a year adopting Bikram Yoga as regular practice, and there is no comparing even my worst day now with how I began. Decades of bad posture, desk jobs and unattended scoliosis had all contributed to a noticable decline in my structural integrity. My initial practice reflected this damage in a big way, and I almost quit after the first week because it really was so damn hard. Months passed before I could claim predictable success of just getting through both sets of all 26 postures, and even more months on top of that before I would actually look forward to Nicole's difficult classes, as hers have a well-earned reputation for being the hardest and hottest. After all, she has invested in the most state-of-the-art heating/humidity equipment, a world-class studio, and is herself a Bikram yoga national champion. My wife and I joke about the other studios we tried while traveling, and how "vacation Bikram" was such a nice break by comparison, even if it didn't have near the impact. To be honest, a little more vacation yoga in our routine would really be awesome… hint hint, Universe.

Nicole's Torture Chamber is no vacation and she let's you know it. I would describe it as the most physically challenging 90 minutes of mental AND physical exercise any person could ever imagine. But over time I've come to accept this hard work as normal, and I feel incredibly grateful for the magic she creates in that room. Her intention is to bring us to the edge of our own personal best, and then to provide us with tools to "calm the storm" so that we might soon surpass our own limits. I appreciate that so much, now. Was it always my choice to participate in her 115 degree, squeeze-every-fiber-in-my-being-to-the-point-of-breaking routine? Oh hell no. I wanted to run anytime I heard she was teaching a class. Other instructors with a lighter touch, and more liberal use of the all so important water/fresh air breaks were definitely my preference. But as it turns out, child care is only provided during Nicole's classes, which allows my wife and I to practice together. This is a big deal. Karen has become an inspiration, and I can't imagine doing yoga without her now, in and outside of the studio. Yoga has helped us to evolve as a couple, and after nearly nine years of being together, this time feels like a both blessing and a new beginning.

Today, with all the amazing benefits received from Nicole's Torture Chamber, I feel as if I have grown a year younger verses a year older. What price can a "pushing-50" father of a 4-year old put on that?? And, I feel closer to my wife than I have in years, as we have found a common place to mindfully and vitally engage with each other in daily practice. When I say "Thank you" to Nicole Duke, as I do every time after class, I really mean it.

Some stories have a point, or a moral, and some don't. That's just life. But this story actually does. That really lousy day? The one that totally kicked my ass and sent my head and heart spinning around and bouncing all over the place? Well, it was followed by one of my best Bikram yoga sessions ever. It was a breakdown, preceding a breakthrough. And as insignificant or massive as they may be, when these minor miracles happen, I pay attention. This is the voice of Spirit, talking loud and clear.

No comments:

Post a Comment